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San Marino

San Marino

The Most Serene Republic of San Marino might be its official name, but serene it ain’t. In summer in particular, the medieval heart of the capital city, also called San Marino, is overrun with tourists and hawkers trying to cash in on the country’s status as Europe’s third-smallest state and, so they say, the world’s oldest republic. Even the border guards are at it – for €5, they’ll grace your passport with an official stamp.

Tacky souvenirs aside, the pedestrianised streets of the capital, with their picturesque arches and ramparts, are fun to explore and because the city is perched on the slopes of Mount Titano, the views are magnificent. Outside the capital, San Marino’s other towns and villages are less touristy and set against a backdrop of pretty woods, streams and lakes. San Marino has a lot to offer. Just don’t visit in high season.

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Stay overnight in San Marino – preferably outside of peak season – to experience the city minus the day-tripper crowd and witness the sun slink behind the Apennines.

Cycle the Laila footpath – a 3km route starting from the town of Domagnano. Following an old railway track (disused since 1944), this path weaves through tall pine trees, olive groves and a Roman archaeological site.

Don’t leave without trying San Marino’s answer to the Kit Kat – the Torta Tre Monti, made with wafers, hazelnut cream and chocolate.

Wanderlust tips

Escape the crush on the funicular running between San Marino city and its neighbour, Borgo Maggiore. Instead take a 20-minute gentle uphill stroll along the Costa dell’Arnella footpath. This evocative stone pathway linking the two towns is lined with trees, so is shaded in summer.

When to go to San Marino

San Marino has a Mediterranean climate with warm summers moderated by sea breezes. However, in summer the streets are clogged with visitors, especially on the weekends.

In winter, the republic’s high altitude (it is built on the Apennine range) ensures it sees a sprinkling of snow.

Visit on 9 September and you will be treated to a crossbow tournament held to celebrate the anniversary of the republic’s foundation. The Mille Miglia classic car rally from Brescia to Rome usually goes through San Marino in mid-May.

International airports

The nearest international airports are in Italy: Rimini (RMI) is 27km away, Bologna (BLQ) is 125km away.

Getting around in San Marino

There’s no internal rail system and local bus services are limited. It is worth noting, if you’re staying in a Sammarinese hotel, you are entitled to a discount on local bus fares (though not on the crossborder service to Rimini, Italy). Cars are banned in the historic centre of the capital.

San Marino accommodation

For a small republic San Marino has plenty of accommodation. You’ll find everything from B&Bs to 4* hotels, self-serviced apartments and bungalows to camping sites. Consider also staying in nearby Rimini, which tends to be slightly cheaper.

San Marino food & drink

In San Marino’s restaurants you’ll find the robust fare typical of the Emilia-Romagna region: Parmesan cheese, Parma ham, balsamic vinegar and, of course, spaghetti alla Bolognese. The Sammarinese speciality, Mistra liqueur, is well worth a glug.

Health & safety in San Marino

As with all places that attract tourists, watch out for pickpockets.