The Republic on the Hill
As visitors enter San Marino they are met with a view of Monte Titano that will fill your senses and take your breath away. This view upon approach is reason alone to visit San Marino, but I can assure you, there are many other reasons to visit this independent city-state.
San Marino dates back to its founding by a stone mason named Marino in the 3rd century AD. Having fled the Christian persecutions of Emperor Diocletian, Marino took refuge on Monte Titano in San Marino and gave the city its name. When Marino died in 301 he granted the city its independence, setting a precedent that would extend to modern times. San Marino is now a UNESCO Heritage site, celebrating officially being an independent republic since the 13th century.
The city withstood being occupied by Cesare Borgia in 1503, and by Cardinal Giulio Alberoni in 1739. In 1797 Napoleon paid homage to the city and offered to extend the landlocked republic to the sea, but the offer was refused. San Marino managed to retain its independence beyond the unification of Italy in the 19th century, and in 1861 Abraham Lincoln (an honorary citizen) praised their independent history.
Government in San Marino consists of the highest office of the Captains Regent, or heads of state, of which there are two men who remain in office for only 6 month terms. The Great and General Counsil (or Parliament) consists of 60 members who serve for 5 year terms and represent the legislative branch. The executive branch is the Congress of State which is made up of 9 Secretaries of State selected from the members of the Great and General Council.
Mount Titano is the old historic center of San Marino and rises 750 meters above sea level. The three towers at the top are the most recognizable landscape of San Marino and strike awe into everyone who visits. From the top of Mount Titano, the views are spectacular and around every corner. Visitors can walk the streets and even hike the trails between the castle towers.
What To Do In San Marino
When you visit San Marino, you can either stay in the city in the valley or in the historical center on Mount Titano. I would recommend staying in the historical center for the best experience. You can take the funicular from the valley or drive a car or take a bus up the sinding cliffside to the top. Once at the gates, traffic is restricted and you will walk around this enchanting city.
You can put on your hiking shoes for the tower to tower trails and take photos of the epic cliffside views, or you can spend your day shopping and stopping for coffee and lunch breaks while stopping to get views of the gorgeous valley below. The most popular trail for hikers of all levels is the Passo delle Streghe, or Path of the Witches. Since San Marino is an independent republic, you can even get a stamp in your passport! The tourist office next to the entrance to the funicular at the top of Mount Titano offers a passport stamp for only 5 Euro. This is something every traveler will love.
How To Get To San Marino
I recommend renting a car and driving to San Marino from Rome. This allows you the freedom to stop at your leisure and check out other places and make a road trip out of it. The drive from Rome is about 4 hours. The alternative would be to take a train to Rimini and the bus to San Marino. This can be a long and exhausting trip and may make you wish you had opted for the car rental, but it can be done for those who don’t wish to drive in a foreign country. I will say, while the Italian drivers can be a bit crazy, the highways and country roads are lovely and very enjoyable with a confident driver behind the wheel.
I suggest booking accommodation in the historic center at the top of Mount Titano, I stayed in the Grand Hotel San Marino on my visit and it was incredible. Comfortable bed and extremely clean and spacious rooms, there is a patio with a hot tub and while parking is additional, they make it extremely easy for guests. From the hotel, it’s about a 5 minute walk until you are through the gates and in the center. There’s a lovely coffee bar on the way to the gate and it becomes a lively spot for a drink at night as well.