San Marino towers
The Republic of San Marino
The Republic of San Marino is a real estate agent’s dream location. Perched on top of Monte Titano, at 749 metres, San Marino towers over its surroundings. From the top of the mountain, one can enjoy a 360° view of the surrounding valleys and the Adriatic Sea.
The state has a subtropical climate, i.e. warm summers and balmy winters. Furthermore, its capital has a city centre with UNESCO world heritage status. Excellent locally produced wine and a spectacular landscape are other highlights.
As a tiny country with a surface area of only 61 km², one can go ‘abroad’ from anywhere in no time. Abroad meaning Italy, as San Marino is an Italian enclave. The language in San Marino is Italian, and so is the cuisine.
To the east of the country is the seaside resort of Rimini, which can be reached within thirty minutes by car. If city life is a requirement, then Bologna is only an hour and a half away. In short, San Marino has it all. This place answers any realtor’s dream of a ‘location, location, location’.
Besides an excellent location, there is also a relatively favourable tax regime to be had.
In half an hour from the top of the mountain to the beach
San Marino a tax haven?
There is no VAT on purchases in San Marino. In other words, one can shop tax-free. Moreover, capital gains and income tax rates are relatively low.
I think yes. In fact so good that it must be an expat’s dream to live there. Except that it is almost impossible for individuals to get a residence permit. If moving to San Marino is impossible, that leaves the option to visit this mini-state.
Sightseeing San Marino
And frankly, it’s nice to spend a few days in San Marino, but there is that, a few days. The scenery is fantastic if you like hiking in the mountains. San Marino, the capital of the Republic of San Marino, is small but friendly. But mostly small.
UNESCO World Heritage
The historic centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It dates from the 13th century and includes several medieval structures such as fortified towers, bastions, gates and walls. It is also home to the 18th-century Titano Theatre, the neoclassical San Marino Basilica and monasteries from the 14th and 16th centuries.
On Monte Titano, three medieval towers stand on the summits: Guaita, De La Fratta (or Cesta) and Montale. The latter is the smallest of the three towers. It is closed to the public.
State Museums San Marino
The government sponsors several museums. Ostensibly mainly to provide jobs for the country’s residents. At every museum entrance, we are welcomed by at least three people. One to tell us to scan the ticket, one to tell us to walk through the gate and one, I suspect, because three is better than two.
Visitors get admitted to eight museums (March 2023) for eight euros a ticket. These include:
1. First Tower (Guiata)
Fort Guaita is the number one attraction. The oldest and most famous of the three towers was built on Monte Titano. The tower was built in the 11th century and briefly served as a prison. In 2008, the fortress was registered as a World Heritage Site. The view from the tower is spectacular.
2. Second Tower (Cesta), or De La Fratte
Cesta is located on the highest peak of Monte Titano. The tower houses a museum in honour of Saint Marinus. Its collection features more than 1,550 weapons from the Middle Ages to the present day. The tower was built in the 13th century on the remains of a Roman fort. Unfortunately, the tower is temporarily closed for restoration (2023).
3. St Francis museum
The abbey of St Francis Church houses an art collection consisting of frescoes, paintings from the 15th to the 18th century and religious artefacts.
4. Basilica di San Marino
The Basilica di San Marino is a Catholic church in Piazza Domus Plebis. The basilica is dedicated to Saint Marinus, the patron saint and founder. The current basilica was rebuilt in 1836 in neoclassical style, replacing an earlier basilica from the 7th century.
5. State Museum
The State Museum of San Marino displays artistic and archaeological artefacts. The museum is housed in the historic Palazzo Pergami-Belluzzi.
6. Museum of Modern Art
Well, what to say about the Museum of Modern Art? I am neither a connoisseur nor a lover of modern art. However, the ticket is included in the price, so if you have time to spare, I suggest you stroll through the museum.
7. Stamp and Coin Museum
Number seven on this list is a museum of stamps and coins. This museum is also included in the price, but life is too short anyway. Unless you are a keen philatelist, then you should visit.
8. Public Palace
Palazzo Pubblico houses the city hall and the Parliament of San Marino.; it is located in Piazza della Libertà. Its neoclassical architecture attracts many tourists, especially the marble Statue of Liberty. However, the building is only open to the public when no dignitaries are expected.
Statues in San Marino
The capital of San Marino is home to a relatively large number of statues. And mostly of naked women, such as the war memorial (pictured). The figure of the naked woman with a child is dedicated to the victims of the Second World War bombing. Baffling, I know. One wonders were the victims mainly naked women in high heels!?
Furthermore, a naked woman figure also stands in front of the indoor shopping mall.
In front of City Hall, the Statue of Liberty is a woman, but at least she is dressed, whereas other naked women appear to have been created headless.
Anyway, the real highlight of San Marino, literally and figuratively, is the walk along the ridge of Monte Titano, the Sentiero della Rupe.
Sentiero della Rupe
The Sentiero della Rupe runs along the summit of Monte Titano. It is about four kilometres long, depending on where one strays from the trail. The elevation profile depends on the route followed. But it will be somewhere between 200 and 400 metres. The trail passes steep cliffs, unusual rock formations and forests. In several places, it is not clear how the path continues or where it ends.
The track is steep, often requiring scrambling. At the most dangerous parts, there are ropes to hold on to. The narrow path is definitely unsuitable for people with vertigo. Good walking shoes are essential. Especially in wet weather, ordinary sneakers, slippers or sandals are dangerous as the chances of slipping are considerable.
Cable car San Marino – Borgo Maggiore
San Marino cable car
In Borgo Maggiore is a cable car up to the town of San Marino. A single ticket costs five euros. The village square of Borgo Maggiore has several terraces and restaurants.
Practical Tips San Marino
On weekends, San Marino is super crowded with day-trippers. Parking is difficult. Outside the high season, the weekdays are a lot quieter. If you can avoid visiting over the weekend, I would do so.
Visitors are not allowed to enter the historic centre by car. However, you can park near the city centre. P6 and P7 are closest to the city gate but tend to fill up quickly.
We stayed overnight at Hotel La Grotta—a small hotel near the city gate with nice rooms. The breakfast buffet is in an attractive restaurant. The hotel has friendly staff.
San Marino wine
Should you have made the Sammarinesi estate agent happy by buying a house, celebrate this happy occasion at La Cantinetta della Corte on Via Martin Luther King. The wine shop serves delicious wine with tasty cheese or other dishes.
Try the Tessano di San Marino. This red wine with 14% alcohol comes from one of San Marino’s slopes.
The wine is made with the best Sangiovese grapes grown on the clayey hills of San Marino. You better be quick, as only 3,000 bottles are produced a year.
Or if you prefer to stay in Italian spheres, have a Valpolicella Ripasso.
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