You have probably heard of San Marino before and might have even asked yourself the question ‘is San Marino part of Italy’? Contrary to popular belief, it is not. San Marino is an independent state from Italy and it’s also the world’s oldest surviving republic. So why should one visit this old republic that’s independent in Italy? We hope to prove that with the 10 best things to do in San Marino Italy.
San Marino is really special, next to Vatican City and Lesotho, this is the third country that is enclosed by another country. But that’s just one of the reasons why San Marino is worth visiting. Here you’ll get to familiarize yourself with its history, picturesque medieval streets, castles that has stunning views, and an overall friendly atmosphere. Speaking of castles, in the 1800s San Marino took in many people who were about to be persecuted for supporting the unification of Italy, therefore they agreed to be completely independent of the Italian state.
10 Best Things to do in San Marino
While visiting the museums in the City of San Marino, you’ll soon discover its long history dating back to the 4th century. It was named after St. Marinus, a Christian who was escaping religious persecution. Thankfully, today the country stands proudly in Italy, yet not part of Italy and it seems to be the same way in the foreseeable future. If you’re having a debate between Italy vs San Marino then you should visit both of them.
You don’t necessarily have to spend many days in San Marino, although there are plenty of things to do San Marino. But you can do a day trip from Bologna or Florence. Rimini is also just an hour away, hence why we even included a day trip from San Marino to the beautiful beaches of Italy. Let’s get into our list of San Marino things to do!
1. Rocca Guaita (Guaita Fortress)
San Marino has three towers that overlook the city and are situated on Monte Titano. One of them is called Guaita Fortress and it’s the most famous out of all the three towers. It dates back to the 11th century and people were using it as a prison for a short period of time. The tower still stands strong now, despite its age, although it has been strengthened a few times already.
Another reason why the tower was useful for its people is to save them from the sieges. It was rebuilt again in the late 15th century and then in the 16th century, the tower received a roof. The walls are strong and quite indestructible. People can visit the tower, it’s usually open between 9 to 5 pm in spring and autumn, then during the summer period it’s open from 9.30 am to 18.30 pm.
The admission fee is also very small, only €3 and in case you want to visit the second tower, then you can pay €4.50. In case you love history and you wish to learn more, the best things to do in San Marino Italy is to visit Rocca Guaita. In the courtyard, you can still see two mortars and two guns. The mortars and the guns were a gift of Vittorio Emanuele II.
2. Basilica di San Marino
San Marino Italy is a great place to visit for those who love architecture, museums, churches, or anything that has to do with culture. The Basilica di San Marino is a Catholic church. In the 4th century, there was another church located on the same spot, however, there are a few documents that date the church either to 530 to 885.
The official story is that the Basilica was designed by a bolognese architect named Antonio Serra in 1826. It took 12 years to finish the church and finally open to the public eye. To go up to the church you need to walk some stairs and on the facade, it states: “Divo Marino Patrono Et Libertatis Auctori Sen PQ” which translates to “The Senate and the People to the Sain Marino patron and founder of freedom”.
The interior of the Basilica is even more breathtaking. It’s made in Corinthian style, you’ll find arches with pillars and the altars all have beautiful paintings. The bell on the other hand was renovated in the 16th century and it’s made in Romanesque style. It has 7 bells for all the different purposes it has to ring, such as holidays, funerals, or sentences of the condemned. It’s free to visit the stunning Basilica of the Saint!
3. Palazzo Pubblico and Piazza della Liberta
Palazzo Pubblico or otherwise known as San Marino’s town hall is also their official Government Building. This is where all the ceremonies take place and where a few important people meet. For example, the Grand and General Council, the Congress of State, or Captains Regent. The building was built between 1884 and 1894 by architect Francesco Azzurri.
Inside you’ll see the entrance hall which has a huge stone staircase that leads to the Mezzanine Floor. Then you can check out the Hall of the council of the XII where stunning photos of Saint Marino are visible to the public. Then there’s the Hall of the great and general council, the scrutiny room with important paintings. And lastly, the Vestibule, which is on the very top of the staircase.
To visit the museum inside the Plazzo Pubblico you’re better off buying a ticket that allows you to visit two of them for the cost of €6.00. Although if you pay an extra €2 then you have admission to all of the museums. The Palazzo Pubblico is situated on the Piazza della Liberta which is San Marino’s main square. The Statua della Liberta is also visible here. This is just one of the San Marino things to do during your visit!
4. Monte Titano
The best things to do in San Marino Italy is to visit Monte Titano, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that was marked in 2008 under “San Marino Historic Center and Mount Titano”. The mountain belongs to the Apennines and it’s the highest peak of San Marino. It is 739 meters above sea level, which means it’s not difficult to climb either. This is also where San Marino has its three peaks, otherwise known as the Three Towers of San Marino.
It’s needless to say that the views from the mountains and the three towers are breathtaking. So how can you get up here? Well, there’s the possibility of hiking, it’s roughly 3 hours. Although in this case, we recommend you to hike in organized groups as the track is not the easiest. Before you start going up to the highest peak, which is the Cesta tower, you can park your car in the street.
There are cobblestone streets, but also elevators and sidewalks. If you wish to buy a few souvenirs then definitely take the streets. Once you’ve gone up to the top, you’ll notice the tower and can walk up to it to go inside the museum. Besides the museums, it’s interesting to see the views from the three different towers. For example, from the Cesta, you get to see Guaina Fortress.
5. Museo di Stato
For anyone with an interest in archaeological, artistic, and numismatic collections, the Museo di Stato or otherwise known State Museum is a must-visit in San Marino Italy. At the museum, there are 4 floors to distinguish and visit. The ground floor holds all of the archaeological finds from the San Marino area. According to the findings, the history of San Marino goes back to the Stone Age when they would host small Villanovan and Roman settlements.
The first floor is all about works of art that are directly linked to the Republic’s history and legend. There are paintings and objects from the Monastery of Saint Chiara, masterpieces from Guercino, and so on. Then we go onto the first floor underground where people donate archeological finds and numismatics. Among these visitors can see Egyptian objects, Greek collections, or Etruscan and Italiote vases.
Lastly, the ground floor is all about donations, including paintings, ceramics, and artistic objections which were given to the museum from 1865 until today. You can see Medieval objects, a collection of Byzantine icons, or even paintings from the 18th century. You can visit the museum the same way as the rest of them. Simply buy a ticket that allows you to visit multiple museums at once and you’ll be spending less money. Is this one of the things to do San Marino on your list?
6. Borgo Maggiore
The number 6 on our list of San Marino things to do is to visit the small commune of Borgo Maggiore. This is one of the 9 castle towns and it is exactly at the foot of Monte Titano. Its population is just under 10,000 so that makes it the second largest town in San Marino. Why should you visit the town?
Well, if you’ve heard about San Marino Italy then you know the cable cars are a great way to take you up top and see the towns. This option is only available in Borgo Maggiore. But besides enjoying some stunning views, visitors can also visit the local market at Piazza Grande. It is held every Tuesday.
Furthermore, on Piazza Grande travelers can enjoy the beautiful 17th-century palace with its clock tower that rises above Borgo Maggiore roofs. The tower was designed by Francesco Azzurri in 1896 and it’s called ”Torre dell’ Orologio”. In case you’re not tired of museums yet, visit the Natural History Museum and Philately Museum in San Marino.
7. Castle Towns
The best things to do in San Marino Italy isn’t just to visit the city of San Marino. The Republic of San Marino has a total of 9 Municipalities or 9 Castelli as they call it. Out of these 9 we can count the following in order of which has the biggest population based on 2019 data: Serravalle, Borgo Maggiore, City of San Marino, Domagnano, Fiorentino, Acquaviva, Faetano, Chiesanuova, Montegiardino.
We have also mentioned that Borgo Maggiore is a must-visit, but among these small towns, we have to bring at least two to your attention. Dogana is not an autonomous Castello, it belongs to Serravalle. The name translates to ”Customs House”. If you go around San Marino by car you must check out all of these little towns.
8. Museum of Agricultural Culture and Traditions
This is really the last museum we’re going to suggest you visit in San Marino Italy. It’s the Museum of Agricultural Culture, the House of Fabrica in Montecchio. It is also “one of the oldest patronal houses of the territory of San Marino”. The first documents were found in 1770 in a register of landed property. Throughout the years many restorations happened to the building and now it’s in its perfect state.
So what can you see inside the museum? Well, there are a number of different things, such as treasures dating back to the early rural life of San Marino. Think of it as a small Agriturismo with a kitchen, bedroom, old loom inside the house as well as a barn. It’s a great way to remember how the people of San Marino used to live hundreds of years ago. The museum is free for its citizens and for the rest of the public it’s €3.
9. Cava dei Balestrieri
Once you have come down from the cable cars, just a few meters away you’ll find the historical landmark of Cava dei Balestrieri. It’s more of a quarry that was created in the last part of the 19th century. The architect’s name was Gino Zani who extracted some of the material that’s used for the Palazzo Pubblico. On this landmark, they were supposed to build Palazzo degli Uffici, however, because of the 1940 war, only the remains are visible today.
You might have recognized the Cava dei Balestrieri as a spot for the crossbow tournaments, that is the main purpose of this quarry now. During winters San Marino citizens can even ice skate here as it’s the perfect spot to set it up. Although you cannot spend too much time here, it’s still on your way from the cable cars and a convenient spot to check out. We’re at the end of our list of things to do San Marino!
10. Day Trip to Riviera Romagnola Beaches
We couldn’t leave out the option of visiting a beach as one of the best things to do in San Marino Italy. Riviera Romagnola beach is only about 40 minutes drive from San Marino and it’s the perfect spot to relax at. The beach is not far away from Rimini, therefore on your way you can also visit Rimini. It’s just an easy one-day trip for anyone that wants to enjoy the sea and sun. Or, if you want to stay overnight, make sure you check the best hotels in Rimini too!
The reason why Riviera Romagnola is so beautiful is due to its straight coastline, the water is turquoise and clear while the sand is golden. It is a great place for families as the sand is comfortable to walk in and the tide isn’t too bad either. One thing is for sure, this beach is popular and crowded. So if you don’t like crowds, then it might not be the best option. But just to experience this stunning Italian beach it’s worth the drive from San Marino!
Conclusion – Italy vs San Marino – Is San Marino part of Italy?
In the beginning, we answered the most important question ‘is San Marino part of Italy?’. Once again, it is not, San Marino is a completely independent state from Italy, although enclosed by Italy. You can check out all of the things to do San Marino, such as visiting castles, seeing the views by getting to the top of the hill with cable cars, or even just walking the medieval towns. The people of San Marino are friendly and the food is just as amazing as in the rest of Italy!