14 Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in San Marino
Only 61 square kilometers in size, the little Republic of San Marino is independent, with its own government and laws, even though it is completely surrounded by Italy. The world's oldest sovereign state, it dates from the fourth century AD. Atop the center of this hilly area's highest point, Mount Titano, is the capital city of San Marino.
Medieval stone walls enclose the original settlement, built entirely of stone and closed to traffic. A single street leading up to Piazza della Libertà is lined with cafés, restaurants, and shops selling ceramics and duty-free items. Duty-free shopping in San Marino is one of its attractions to visiting Italian tourists.
The three fortresses at the top of the mountain give San Marino its best-known image and are linked by a path that runs along the entire ridge of the mountain.
Discover other rewarding things to do here with our list of the top attractions in San Marino.
1. Rocca Guaita (Guaita Fortress)
Three fortresses crown the long ridge of Mount Titano, with the city of San Marino clustered at the foot of their walls. The first and earliest of the fortresses is Rocca Guaita, constructed in the 11th century. It served for a time as a prison and was rebuilt several times for different uses until it reached the form we see today, during the 15th-century war between San Marino and the House of Malatesta.
It takes a bit of climbing to get here, but the tower is well worth a visit for the panoramic views of the surrounding countryside from its lofty perch.
Address: Via Salita alla Rocca, San Marino
Accommodation: Where to Stay in San Marino
2. Monte Titano
The highest point for miles, 739-meter-high Mount Titano commands spectacular views from any of its three towers. The views stretch northwest to the Apennines and east to the coast, Rimini, and on a clear day across the Adriatic to the Dalmatian coast in Croatia.
Three castles punctuate its long ridge, rising to the highest of them, Rocca Cesta. These are linked by a paved path, the Passo delle Streghe or Witches' Passage. The lower part of this is lined with kiosks selling snacks, drinks, and souvenirs, giving the mountain top the air of a carnival. Rocca Cesta contains a museum of ancient arms with thousands of weapons: swords, knives, and crossbows, as well as early firearms and some unusual experiments, such as a 1730 dagger-gun.
The iconic three towers are shown on both the San Marino flag and coat of arms and are part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which includes the old town below.
Address: Via Salita alla Rocca, San Marino
3. Palazzo Pubblico and Piazza della Liberta
The neo-Gothic-style Government House (Palazzo Pubblico) with its square crenelated tower was designed by the architect Francesco Azzurri in the late 1800s and built of stone quarried on Mount Titano. The facade is decorated with coats-of-arms of the Republic and its four municipalities, and inside, a staircase leads to the Council Hall on the top floor.
Piazza della Liberta is one of the most popular places to visit in San Marino because frequently throughout the day, the Guardie di Rocca change guard in a colorful ceremony. Their uniforms - a dark green double-breasted jacket with white braid, red trousers with a green stripe, hats with red pompoms, and white gaiters - assure that everyone scores great photos of the event.
Address: Piazza della Liberta, San Marino Città
4. Basilica di San Marino
This Neo-classical basilica was built in the early 19th century on the foundations of a fourth-century Romanesque church, also dedicated to San Marino (St. Marinus), which had been abandoned. The interior is classic basilica style, with a long nave and two side aisles lined with altars.
The seven altars are worth seeing for their statuary and paintings, and the high altar has a statue of St. Marinus sculptured by Tadolini. An urn at the high altar contains the relics of St. Marinus.
Address: Piazza Domus Plebis, San Marino Città
5. Museo di Stato (National Museum)
This excellent museum in the historic Palazzo Pergami Belluzzi shows archaeological collections beginning with Neolithic Age artifacts and later Etruscan and Roman finds. The collections of ancient arts are not confined to the Italian peninsula and include Egyptian antiquities, Byzantine icons, 17th-century paintings, and antique San Marino coins.
Many of the nearly 5,000 items in the museum were donated in the 19th century from private collections of Italian intellectuals and political figures who wanted to show their admiration for the little republic.
Address: Piazzetta del Titano 1, San Marino Città
6. Museum of Curiosities
Certainly one of the quirkiest and most entertaining things to do in San Marino is this collection of strange objects and peculiar inventions and their stories.
In the collection of about 100 objects are 60-centimeter-tall wooden clogs designed to wear during Venice's high waters, the world's longest fingernails, a 1700s German mousetrap, a trap for fleas, a 17th-century hand-pumped shower, a "nose watch" that works by creating smoke of different scents each hour, and silver covers to protect the long fingernails of Chinese Mandarins. The exhibits are well labeled to provide fascinating glimpses into history.
There are displays about unusual people, too: the world's tallest recorded man and its shortest woman. Even the free transport offered to take you from the municipal parking to the museum is interesting - a 1913 Ford motor-coach.
Address: Via Salita della Rocca 26, San Marino Città
7. Ride the Cable Car for Views
Although designed for the very utilitarian purpose of moving people from the lower Borgo to the upper Citta quickly and conveniently, San Marino's Funavia is a scenic experience of its own. On the trip up the slopes of Mount Titano to San Marino's historical center, you'll get sweeping views to 200 kilometers of Adriatic coastline, bird's-eye views of tiled rooftops, and vast panoramas of rolling green hills and farmland.
Of course, you'll save a lot of steps and time, too. Cars leave either station at 15-minute intervals beginning at 7:50 in the morning.
Address: Piazzale Campo della Fiera, Borgo Maggiore, San Marino
8. Wax Museum
The 100 wax figures in the museum represent significant historical characters, each dressed in the clothing of their day and arranged in scenes, often with other contemporaries. Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler are shown meeting, Jacqueline Kennedy is shown in audience with Pope John XXIII, and Giuseppe Garibaldi is at the bedside of his dying wife, Anita.
Others are shown with their inventions or tools: Marconi with his telegraph, Galileo with telescope in hand, Da Vinci holding a paintbrush - or at historic moments, such as President Abraham Lincoln's assassination in Ford's Theater. You'll learn a little about San Marino's history here, too.
Address: Via Lapicidi Marini 17, San Marino Città
Official site: www.museodellecerersm.com
9. Maranello Rosso Ferrari Museum
The Vintage Car Museum at the foot of Mount Titano houses a collection of automobiles relating to the history, life, and cars of Enzo Ferrari and Carlo Abarth. You'll find sports cars, Formula 1, and cars belonging to famous people, including the first Ferrari Spyder designed by Pininfarina and owned by Marilyn Monroe.
Among the 25 Ferrari cars dating from 1951 to the present is the most famous of all, the 250 GTO Red that won three World Championships. There are unpublished photos and mementoes from the history of competitions, races, and the sport successes and life of Carlo Abarth.
Address: Strada dei Censiti 21, Falciano, San Marino
10. Convent and Art Gallery San Francisco
The San Francisco Convent, completed in 1400, is worth visiting for its beautiful cloister, as well as for the art displayed here. The church is now home to an art museum. In the sacred art part of the museum are works from several former Franciscan churches, including paintings on canvas and wood, furnishings, and other items illustrating the long history and influence of the order in San Marino.
The Art Gallery section is known for its collections of 16th-century paintings, which include works by Raphael, Guercino, and Gerolamo. The city's main entrance, a massive gate known as the Porta di San Francesco, is built into the walls of the church.
Address: Via Basilicius, San Marino
11. Castle Towns
Surrounding the capital in the Republic of San Marino are a number of small villages set on peaks and spurs surmounted by castles of their own; most offer excellent views of the countryside and of Mount Titano, and several have interesting histories. Domagnano's fortress of Montelupo was constructed in 1463 and played a part in San Marino's war against the Malatesta of Rimini.
In the same year, Faetano, once territory of the Malatesta, was taken over by San Marino, and they also acquired the Malatesta castle in Fiorentino. One of the most beautiful castles is in Montegiardino, a town that dates back at least to the Roman era. Both Borgo Maggiore and Serravalle have grown from villages to become important residential centers of San Marino.
12. Museum of Agricultural Culture and Traditions
It may seem odd to find a fully restored and furnished farmhouse museum in a tiny principality that clings to a cliff-top, but San Marino is very proud of its long agricultural heritage. The House of Fabrica in Montecchio is one of the oldest patronal houses, dating from the mid-1700s at least.
Restored to its original state and furnished to recreate the daily lives of farm families in the villages around Mount Titano, the museum seeks to preserve something of the traditions and customs of rural life. Along with farm tools such as sickles and hoes, there are domestic tools, copper pots, coal-heated flat-irons, a loom, cradle, and other historic furnishings.
Address: Strada di Montecchio 11, San Marino Città
13. Coin and Stamp Museum
For stamp collectors worldwide, San Marino means beautiful postage stamps, and philatelists can admire a complete collection in this museum housed in the church at Borgo Maggiore. The republic has for many years issued regular commemorative series, which are sought after by collectors and are a not-inconsequential source of income for San Marino's treasury.
Along with the stamps issued by the republic since the mid-19th century are coins, which San Marino began minting in 1862. Since adopting the Euro, San Marino has continued to mint limited editions of gold coins for collectors. These are accepted as currency inside San Marino only.
Address: Piazza Grande 24, Borgo Maggiore, San Marino
14. Day Trip to Riviera Romagnola Beaches
Miles of beautiful white sands lapped by the Adriatic line Italy's east coast in a holiday region known as the Riviera Romagnola. At the center of these is Rimini, only 22 kilometers from San Marino. All these towns have the usual Italian-style beach resorts, with rows of lounge chairs and umbrellas for rent, but many also have free beaches, most also equipped with changing rooms and lifeguards.
Heading south from Rimini there are excellent beaches at Rivabella, Riccione, and Cattolica, especially popular places for families, with gentle waves and safe Blue Flag beaches. North of Rimini are Viserba; Visebella; Bellaria; and the beautiful port of Cesenatico, with its little harbor full of vintage boats. The free beach of Tamerici at Cesenatico is planted with trees whose lush foliage provides natural beach umbrellas.
Where to Stay in San Marino for Sightseeing
The most convenient hotels for tourists are those in the old hilltop town, where most of the attractions are. But the cable car makes travel between the lower Borgo and the upper town easy, and you'll find places to eat in both.
- Deluxe rooms at the Grand Hotel San Marino have balconies overlooking beautiful views of the countryside. The panoramic terrace features a Jacuzzi and sun beds. The location is convenient, only a few steps from tourist attractions in the historic center.
- Right in the center, in a historic home that has been in the owner's family since medieval times, Antica Bifora has some connecting rooms that are good for families. The generous breakfast is included, and rooms have bathrobes and tea/coffee making supplies.
- Recently restored and located right beneath the castle walls, Rosa Hotel is on a quiet street in the historic center, perfectly situated for sightseeing. Breakfast and Wi-Fi are both included.
- Another good place to stay for families is Hotel La Grotta, with comfortable family-sized rooms. Wi-Fi is free and breakfast included; it's in the town center near museums and other places to visit.
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