Sunday, 17 May 2015

Serene Beauty of San Marino - Oldest Republic of the World

San Marino, also known as Most Serene Republic of San Marino, is an enclaved sovereign microstate surrounded by Italy from all sides, is situated on the Italian Peninsula (Central Italy) on the north-eastern side of the Apennine Mountains.
Before I go on why and how to reach this beautiful country here are a few facts about it:
Why one should visit San Marino:
So, let’s talk about why to visit this country. If you are planning to visit any location in central Italy like Rimini, Ancona, Bologna, Forli or even Florence I would suggest you to spend at least a day to visit this beautiful country. How I will tell you later but first let’s see why:

1)  Breath Taking views: The steep slopes, cliffs and castles of San Marino are very impressive, but the best part is the breath taking view from the town. On a clear day the view is even better.  When you reach the top you get the skyline view of the city down and lush green land dotted with tiny houses. You can also have the stunning view of Monte Titano as well as the Adriatic coast from various points of the city
Skyline view of the city down and lush green land dotted with tiny houses

Apennine Mountains as seen from the top of San Marino  
2)   No Border: There are no border checks between Italy and San Marino, so no is time wasted in immigration nor any visa is required to visit this beautiful country. If you are in Italy you can visit San Marino without any additional documents. You don’t even have to carry your passports to come to San Marino from Italy. Since San Marino is so small most visitors won't feel the need to spend more than a day in the country. So, you can cover an entire country in just a few hours. Isn’t that great?

3)  Shopping: The historic part of town is full of shops selling duty-free products (both branded and unbranded) like handbags, sunglasses, souvenirs, shoes, jewelry, etc. If compared to Italy the prices of the products are cheaper here and a lot of tourists prefer to shop here than in Italy. Bargains can help your get extra discounts and in some cases it can be as high as 50%.

4)   Passport Stamp: For all those who love to get their passport stamped in a new country San Marino can be a treat. If you are interested to get your passport stamped with a San Marino stamp do carry your passport along. Stamping is done at Tourism Board office which is open every day from 9.00 to 18.00, Saturday and Sunday 9.00/13.30 - 14.00/18.00. Visa stamp costs € 5,00 and it takes few minutes to get it. The tourism office is located right next to the cable car landing in the upper portion of the castle. They also have free maps and information on the changing of the guard and other important sites in San Marino
Visa stamp of San Marino taken from Tourist Office as souvenir 
5)  Coins and Stamps: For all those who collects stamps and coins San Marino is a paradise. Tourists can stroll down the main streets of San Marino City’s old town district to find rows of shops selling stamps and coins that are world-renowned. There are numerous souvenir stores that sell coins, coin sets, stamps and other collectible items.

Since I am numismatist myself, I would like to give you a brief about the coins of San Marino. San Marino has issued around 500 coins till date. The Lira (plural Lire) was the currency of San Marino from the 1860s until the introduction of the euro in 2002. The total of 15 – 20 coins were issued between 1864 to 1938 out of which few were gold or silver coins and the rest were bronze or copper coins. These are a bit rare and may be charged a higher premium.

From 1972 onwards San Marino issued a lot of coins including one coin set for each year having 8-10 coins from 1972 to 2001. Some of the coin set also have a silver coin. Out of these 30 coin set some are rare and come at a lot of premium pricing anywhere between Euro 100 - 200 but most other are available between Euro 15 – 50 (set with silver coin are priced higher). Some of these coin sets may be available in the San Marino post office at the official price.

Over the years, the attractive designs of San Marino’s stamps have been extremely popular with philatelists around the world. It is estimated that 10% of the republic’s revenue is generated by the sale of its postage stamps to international collectors. One can buy the latest collection of San Marino stamps at the Post Office. Official site of San Marino is But make sure if you want to visit the post office visit San Marino on a weekday as the post office is closed on Saturdays and Sundays.

Coin sets issued by San Marino (1974). It is one of the 30 coin sets issued between 1972-2001
How to reach there:

Now let me tell you how you can reach there. The nearest and most convenient railway station for San Marino is Rimini. There is no direct train from Florence to Rimini. But there are easy connection available from Bologna.

So, if your staying is Florence leave as early as 7 am so that you can reach early and spend quality time in San Marino. First you will have to take a train for Bologna from Firenze Santa Maria Novella Railway Station (Florence railway station). Please check the exact timing of the train online and reach at least 15 minutes in advance. Better if you take your railway tickets in advance as tickets are expensive at the last moment and sometimes tickets are not even available. It will take around 40 minutes to reach Bologna where you will have to change your train. The connection time is generally half an hour which is good enough for you to catch the next train for Rimini from Bologna station. It will take around 70 minutes to reach Rimini. So, if you leave by 7 am from Florence you can reach Rimini by 9.15 am. Buses are available every hour from outside the Rimini station for San Marino. You should rush to the ticket counter outside the railway station and get your bus tickets which cost around Euro 10 per person. Buses are parked just across the road which takes around 1 hour to reach San Marino. So if everything falls in place correctly you will reach San Marino by 10 am.

You can follow the same route to return back. I will advise that unless you are planning to stay overnight in San Marino leave by 5 p.m. so that you can reach back to Florence by 9 p.m. Please check the return timing for the bus when you reach so that you don’t miss the bus just by few minutes.

Eating options:

The city is filled with numerous food joints, restaurants and gelato stores. There are quite a few garden restaurants located at the mountain top around Guita tower giving you breathtaking views as you enjoy your meal. Most of the restaurant serve Italian food and looking for any other cuisine could be a bit difficult. Given the serene view from these restaurants its often gets very crowded resulting in over an hour long wait for your table. Hence plan your lunch time accordingly

Things to see:

Since San Marino is small you can visit the entire country by foot hiking on the narrow roads, exploring the beauty of the city situated in the middle of the castle (as seen in movies), do people watching, exploring the stores on both sides of the road, do some shopping and buy souvenirs for friends and family. Here is a list of things you can see in San Marino. Prioritise the things you want to see as you can’t cover all in a day.
  • The Three Towers of San Marino (First the Guita Tower, Second the Cesta Tower, and Third the Montale Tower). Only the first two towers are open for public for a small fees but the third one is not open to the public
  • The Cathedral of San Marino
  • The Palazzo Pubblico (town hall cum parliament cum official Government Building)
  • Piazza della LibertĂ 
  • Museo di stato di San Marino
  • Changing of the guards, San Marino
  • Mount Titan
  • Museo San Francesco
  • Tourist Train for city tour
  • There are few are museums, churches, basilicas, etc which you can see while roaming around the city
Cesta Tower located on the highest of Monte Titano's summits
Just to conclude if you’re an energetic traveler than probably you can cover most of the places in day even if you coming from Florence but it will involve a lot of travelling (around 6 hours coming and going) and a lot of walking as that’s the only mean to discover the city and most importantly getting up early.
But if you are more on a relaxed trip then probably you can spend a night or two in historic San Marino town or in the nearby villages where you can find a few good but rather expensive hotels.

My wife and I are more of energetic travelers and hence covered most of the places in a day coming from Florence. As we said good bye to this serene country far away from the hustle and bustle of busy city life we didn’t repent a single moment spent and realized the trip was worth it.
Time to say Good Bye to San Marino after a memorable day tour