San Marino is one of the smallest states on Earth (after Monaco and the Vatican) and the oldest state in Europe, surrounded on all sides by the territory of Italy.
It borders the Emilia-Romagna region to the northeast and the Marche region to the southwest.
The territory of San Marino consists of 9 ancient fortresses (or towns-communities), including the capital itself with the same name, that emerged on the site of the first settlements: Acquaviva, Borgo Maggiore, Domagnano, Chiesano, Montegiardino, Serravalle, Faetano, Fiorentino.
The inhabitants of San Marino are proud of their history, they respect traditions and do everything to spread the glory of this small proud republic to the whole world.
That is why the guests are welcomed here hospitably, they are fed with delicious food and entertained excellently: they organize noisy festivals and fairs, organize museums with interesting expositions, equip observation platforms with incredible views, open outlet stores with record discounts.
And most importantly, they preserve the richest ancestral heritage: the sights of San Marino – the majestic fortresses, churches and palazzos – a living illustration to the sages about the heroic past of the old Europe.
San Marino is a favorite destination for travelers, annually visited by millions of tourists from all over the world.
Regions and resorts of San Marino
The capital of the republic is the commune-city (or, as they are called here, castelli) of San Marino.
The government, all sorts of public institutions and local newspaper offices are based here.
But once here a tourist is unlikely to be interested in the attributes of modernity: ancient San Marino – the real open-air museum, stretched on top of the mountain of Monte Titano.
Stone houses under tiled roofs, crowding the narrow winding streets, smart squares and legendary sights (for example, three medieval towers depicted on the coat of arms) – this is the portrait of one of the most compact and picturesque capitals of the world.
To the north is Castelli Serravalle, the most populous municipality in the country.
The “heart” of sports beats here: the Olympic and baseball stadiums hold thousands of spectators and host major international competitions. For those who are not into sports, visit the medieval fortress, walk through the parks and shop in the famous throughout Europe outlet.
The second most populous settlement in San Marino is Borgo Maggiore, formerly called Mercatale – “market”. Trade is boiling here to this day: the Piazza Grande is famous for silk, crystal and other high-quality goods.
In Castelli Domagnano the Torrachia watchtower is remarkable, in Fiorentino the ruins of once impregnable castles. Acquaviva supplies the country with drinking water and Montegiardino with valuable human resources: it is home to San Marino’s only university.
Temperate, Mediterranean. The average temperature rises to +24°C in summer and falls to +4°C in winter.
The sun shines almost all year round, precipitation falls mainly in autumn.
The best time to travel is during the summer months and September: the weather is perfect and even when it is scorching hot in neighboring Italy, there is a pleasant coolness on the heights of San Marino.
Visa and customs
San Marino is in the visa area of Italy, to enter the country you must have a passport, Schengen and medical insurance. Read more about visa to Italy here.
Customs rules are the same as in Italy. The amount of alcohol and tobacco allowed into the country is within the limits established by the EU, foreign currency is acceptable without limitations (amounts over 10 000 EUR should be declared).
Historical heritage objects, precious stones and works of art must be accompanied by official permits.
Weapons, drugs, explosives, pornography and dairy products are strictly prohibited. Pets only with documented rabies vaccinations. Prices on the page are as of October 2018.
Shopping in San Marino can become 10-20% more profitable if you take advantage of the Tax free system.
They are also borrowed from our Italian neighbors: the minimum amount of purchases in one check – 155 EUR, in stores with appropriate signs issue special forms fattura with a list of purchased goods and tax rates.
They must be stamped at customs and then exchanged for cash (or bank transfer) at the Tax Refund or Global Blue office at any European airport.
There is no internal transport in San Marino, and it is not needed here: the main points of excursion routes are concentrated in walking distance, the center of the capital is given to pedestrians.
It is especially pleasant to admire the beauty of the ancient republic from the window of a charming blue-and-white train.
The trip around with an audioguide lasts 40 minutes and costs 7€ for adults and 5€ for children.
The best way to get to Borgo Maggiore is by cable car: 2 minute ride above the picturesque countryside, round trip ticket costs 4,50 EUR.
Cableway is located near parking lots nos. 11, 12 and 13.
Cableway operating schedule:
- 7:50 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. January and February;
- 7:50 – 19:00 March;
- 7:50 – 7:30 p.m. April;
- 7:50 – 8 p.m. May-June;
- 7:50 – 1:00 July 1 through September 5;
- 7:50 – 8:00 p.m. September 6-30;
- 7:50 – 7 p.m. October;
- 7:50 – 6:30 p.m. November and December.
When the funicular is closed, Borgo Maggiore can be reached by following the old Costa dell’Arnella road.
If you want, you can move between towns-communities by cab: the country has a state taxi fleet with a dozen cars and several private companies, services are also offered by Italian carriers.
The central cab rank is in the square Lo Stradone, you can also call for a car by phone.
The standard fare is 1,60 EUR for a pick up plus 1,70 EUR per km.
Rimini airport transfers cost from 85 EUR.
Communications and Wi-Fi
The key mobile operators in San Marino are Telecom Italia Mobile and Vodafone. SIM-cards are sold in the brand offices of the providers, newsstands and tobacconist’s kiosks.
Telecom Italia Mobile has a special offer for tourists: the TIM for visitors package for 30€ with 4GB of high-speed Internet traffic and 100 minutes of free calls to Italy and abroad.
Vodafone offers a similar cost tariff Holiday with 300 minutes of calls to Italy and home and 2GB of mobile internet.
Those who do not plan to stay in touch all the time, it is better to use pay phones, of which there are many in San Marino.
Most pay phones accept plastic cards sold at tobacconists and newsstands, but you can also find machines that work on coins and tokens.
Calling between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. is cheapest, and there are special cards for international calls with discounts for calls to a certain country.
In the post offices and some bars there is a system of “scatti”: the ability to reach anywhere in the world by phone, paying for the call after the conversation.
Free Wi-Fi is available in hotels, some cafes, restaurants and public institutions.
In the capital there are Internet cafes: from 1 EUR for 20 minutes, from 5 EUR for a daily package.
Hotels in San Marino
Most hotels in San Marino (there are about 30 in total) are cozy, compact and have a nice view from the windows. Almost all of them belong to categories 3-4* (clean rooms, equipment and service – at the appropriate level) and boast their own gardens, swimming pools and restaurants.
Popular among tourists and small family hotels with well-kept rooms and welcoming hosts.
Apartments are rarely rented, but the selection of villas for family accommodation is not bad. The luxurious Grand Hotel San Marino sits on Monte Titano, a short walk from the historic center.
More economical accommodation is offered by the San Marino Vacation Center, located in a quiet green area not far from the historic part of the capital and occupying a large area with lodges and furnished bungalows.
The center is open year-round. Hostels are few and prices in them bite: from 65 EUR per day for a single double room. It’s cheaper to stay in hostels: from 50 EUR per day.
Rooms in 3* hotels start from 60 EUR, in 4* hotels – from 80-90 EUR per night. You can experience the atmosphere of the European countryside in a farmhouse: accommodation for two people starts at 90 EUR per day.
For a comfortable villa you have to shell out 2000 EUR per month. During the high season – from May to October – it is better to book accommodation in advance: there may simply be no vacancies.
San Marino’s mains voltage is 230 V and sockets type F and L do not require an adapter.
In San Marino there are also camping sites which offer free parking:
Camping Service Serravalle, located near the parking lot of the Olympic Stadium.
- Service area in Borgo Maggiore – next to the Baldasserona parking lot and within walking distance of the cable car.
- Service area in Ca Martino – near the parking area on the road in Gualdicciolo.
The monetary unit of the country is the Euro (EUR). 1 EUR equals 100 eurocents. Current exchange rate: 1 EUR = 88.71 RUB.
Currency can be exchanged at banks, post offices and exchange offices in the capital. On arrival it is not worth doing: the rate at Italian airports is less favorable than in the bank branches.
Before you buy euros it is better to specify the amount of commission: it is not limited by law, and therefore it can reach 10%. Most banks require a passport for exchange transactions.
In catering establishments it is customary to tip the staff about 10-15% of the check, sometimes it is included in the bill. The maximum reward for a maid – 10 EUR, for a doorman – 1 EUR per suitcase.
Cash machines are everywhere, credit cards Visa, Diner’s Club, MasterCard and American Express are accepted almost in all hotels, restaurants and stores (you have to pay in cash except at the gas stations).
Banks are open from 8:30 a.m. to 16:00 p.m. on weekdays and break 13:30-15:00. Exchange offices open at 9:00 a.m., close for lunch from 13:00 to 14:00 and close at 17:00.
- Banca Agricola Commerciale at Via Contrada del Collegio, 19.
- Banca di San Marino at Via Contrada del Collegio, 22.
- Cassa di Risparmio di San Marino, Via Piazza Marino Tini, 9 (ATM exchange is also available).
- Credito Industriale Sammarinese at 103 Viale Onofri St.
- Istituto Bancario Sammarinese in Via Piana, 5.
San Marino is a fertile ground: security here is one of the highest in Europe, crimes are rare. Of course, as in all tourist regions, without pickpocketing does not do: keeping documents, large sums of money and valuables in the hotel safe (even if it is paid) – universal advice for any traveler.
There are virtually no health risks: there are no predatory animals in San Marino, and dangerous epidemics are not rampant.
Care should be exercised only on mountain roads: the steep climbs, descents and turns on Mount Titano leaves no room for relaxation for drivers or pedestrians.
The locals are very friendly and happy to help visitors find their way or cope with minor problems.
The only way to communicate is in Italian – English is understood only by tourism industry workers.
The people of Sanmarin are offended if they are called Italians: they respect their neighbors, but they are too proud of their independence.
The inhabitants of the “Most Serene Republic” are much less expressive: it is not customary to hug on meeting, a simple handshake is enough. Criticism of the system of government, not to mention insulting the feelings of believers (about 95% of the population is Catholic), is also not approved.
Smoking in the vast majority of public places and when driving a car is strictly prohibited, fines – from 100 EUR. Drunk drivers are at risk of having their license revoked.
Cuisine and restaurants in San Marino
San Marino is strongly influenced by Italian cuisine. It is worth trying the Italian flatbread “piadina”, as well as “polenta”, which is made with corn mashed potatoes and served with sausages, tomato sauce and grated Pecorino cheese.
The most popular pasta dish is Strozzapreti with mint sauce and grated cheese. The recipe for this pasta, as well as ravioli, tagliatelle and dumplings, has remained unchanged since ancient times.
During the winter months, a dish of beans with pork roast is considered traditional. The national San Marino sweets are La Pagnotta, sweet bread with raisins and anise vodka made during Easter, and Il Bustrengo with croutons or cornflakes.
San Marino has an incredible variety of eateries for all budgets and tastes, from democratic cafes, coffee shops, and pizzerias to panoramic restaurants with gorgeous views of the surrounding countryside.
Almost everywhere serves Italian cuisine, except for a few Asian eateries and American-style food courts in shopping malls. Many places have special “tourist menu”: a salad, a hot dish, a dessert and a drink and they charge about 10-15 EUR for all this splendor. A snack at a fast food restaurant costs 5-10 EUR, dinner at a good restaurant – from 40 EUR per person.
On the fertile soil of Monte Titano, olives are grown, from which oil is pressed and then bottled. And a community of beekeepers produces a wide range of acacia and chestnut honey.
Other local products include Titano and Tre Monti cakes and local liqueurs like Tilus with its bitter truffle flavor or Duca di Guelfo.
San Marino attractions and attractions
The most recognizable landmark of San Marino is the complex of towers crowning Mount Titano. The oldest of them, Guaita, has served as a prison since the 10th century.
The Cesta Tower, built a century later, once housed a military garrison and today is a museum with a rich collection of weapons from different eras.
The miniature Montale, surrounded by cliffs, is closed to the public.
No less popular with tourists is the Palazzo Poglico, which is beautiful on Freedom Square. Important state ceremonies are held in the ornate neo-Gothic building; on other days, anyone can admire its sumptuous interiors.
The main temple in San Marino is the snow-white neoclassical Basilica del Santo. The central altar is decorated with a statue of the city’s patron saint, whose relics are also resting here.
History-loving tourists do not ignore the State Museum with archaeological finds and art objects. Fans of modern art will love the Gallery of Modern Art of San Marino.
In the Castelli Borgo Maggiore it is worth visiting the fairgrounds of Piazza Grande, the elegant Clock Tower, the Church of St. Antimo and the majestic monastery.
This is also where the Car Museum is located: charming vintage cars are juxtaposed with superfast Formula 1 race cars.
The architectural dominant feature of Castelli Domagnano is the fortress of Torrachia, which for centuries played a key role in the defense of San Marino.
Montegardino is notable for its monumental ruins, the only university in the country and the church of St. Lorenzo with medieval frescoes.
Fiorentino is a land of castles: once there were as many as three, but now only silent stones remind us of their former splendor.
8 things to do in San Marino
- Climb up to the Three Towers and enjoy the breathtaking view of the Adriatic.
- See all 9 castellas, finding something special in each one.
- Compare the image of a neoclassical basilica on a dime coin with the original.
- Learn the ancient recipe for pasta “strozzapretti”.
- Visit the Museum of Torture Instruments and rejoice that this is not the Middle Ages.
- Check out the Statue of Liberty, which differs sharply from its New York namesake.
- Go shopping in famous outlet stores for a ridiculous amount of money by European standards.
- And enjoy the daily changing of the Guard at the Palazzo Poglio from May to September.
Holidays and events
The heads of state in San Marino are elected collective captains-regents who rule the country for 6 months and take office on April 1 and October 1. On the occasion of their election there are inaugurations, accompanied by a solemn procession in national costume. Following an ancient rite, the parade starts at the Palazzo Poglico and proceeds on towards the basilica.
Every year on September 3, the Day of the Founding of the Republic of San Marino ceremonies take place.
For 5 days in the second half of July San Marino becomes like a real medieval town. In the taverns you can taste the dishes of that era, and the inhabitants of the city dress up in national medieval costumes. The streets are filled with artisans from Montejardino, fortune tellers, actors, courtesans from Serravalle, crossbowmen and musicians.
Every year since 1988, the San Marino Festival of Ethnic Music has been held for a week in July. Numerous musical groups meet on the stage of the Cava of the Balestrieri, in the heart of the historic part of the city. At the end of August and the beginning of September the annual World Championship of Motorcycling – Cinzano Grand Prix is held on the Misano Adriatico racetrack. At the same time, on Monte Titano mountain there are sports events united by the common theme of motorcycle racing.
September 3 is considered a national holiday that can be equated to the New Year. There are crossbow shooting competitions, military band concerts, traditional bingo games, and a magnificent fireworks display to finish the holiday. From December 1 to January 6, the historic center of San Marino hosts the Christmas Fair.
The traditional celebration of the Italian Summer New Year, La Notte Rosa (La Notte Rosa, website), is a non-stop festival in pink. Advancing from the coast inland, the “Pink Night” from dusk to dawn with its concerts, shows and fireworks will consume 110 km of the Adriatic coast, which includes about 700 beaches of the Romagna Riviera!
One reason San Marino has mostly stayed independent over the centuries is because of its hilly location. In the 1800s, the country took in many people who were persecuted for supporting the unification of Italy, and in 1862 a friendship treaty guaranteed its continuing independence from the Italian state.
San Marino is said to be the world’s oldest surviving republic. Tourism dominates the economy of the 61 square kilometre (23.6 square miles) republic, which plays host to more than three million visitors every year. Postage stamps and coins – keenly sought by collectors – are important sources of revenue.
San Marino’s national team is sometimes considered the worst national side in the history of the sport, as they have only ever won a single match and concede an average of 4.2 goals per game, although as a member of UEFA they face stronger competition than many other low-ranked sides.