Exploring San Marino

Tower of Guaita in San Marino | Photo by Marina Datsenko
Tower of Guaita in San Marino | Photo by Marina Datsenko

Exploring San Marino

by Jessica Zen
Stripes Europe

Did you know that in northern Italy, there is a land-locked microstate that is amongst the world’s oldest republics? It’s the world’s fifth smallest country and has been surviving as a sovereign state since 301. Measuring at only 23 square miles, the entire country has a population of just over 33,000. It was founded by Saint Marinus, a stonemason who built a church to escape the Diocletianic Persecution. Hop on a bus from Remini, Italy and get ready to explore San Marino!

This tiny country is home to three towers on the peaks of Mount Titano. Rocca Guaita, the first tower, was built in the 10th century directly into the mountain. It makes all your medieval fairy tale dreams come true and was once a place of refuge against sieges. Up until 1970, it even had tower prisons! 

Cesta Castle, the second tower, has been perched on the highest pinnacle since the 11th century and was once home to the Fortification Guards Division. Today it is home to the Museum of Archaic Arms, with various items from the Middle Ages to the end of the 1800s. 

Tower or Montale in San Marino | Photo by Ivano De Santis 

The smallest tower, Montale, was used as a lookout post. Here you’ll find a prison 26 feet below the surface, called “the bottom of the tower.” This tower is surrounded by a primitive wall structure, which is part of the walls that once fortified the City of San Marino. 

After you’ve learned about the country’s history, take advantage of their tax-free shopping. Think about buying souvenirs like hand-painted ceramics, embroidery, prints or rare stamps. The historical center of San Marino is a great place to find these items. You can also shop at an outlet, shopping center or at the small local markets.  

Just because San Marino isn’t technically Italy doesn’t mean there isn’t some fabulous food there as well. Sample some Sammarinese cuisine like gelato, "piadina" and "bustrengo." Since the country is so small, they tend to use local, high-quality food cooked using traditional methods. Don’t forget to try some local wine with the food! 

If you want to check another country off your list, don’t forget to include San Marino! Visit the towers, shop until you drop and enjoy some wonderful food. This short trip to a moderately under traveled country is sure to surprise you in a pleasant way!

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