A Day Trip to San Marino
by Katie McCabe | @awelltraveledpair | December 13th, 2021
While John and I were staying in Florence, we decided to take a day trip out to San Marino. We had been to the area numerous times before, but had yet to visit this tiny republic. We were very interested in learning about the culture and seeing the famous Old Town, after all it is a renowned UNESCO World Heritage Site.
So, one Friday morning in November, we decided to pack up the car and head east. Destination - San Marino!
How to Get There
Contrary to popular belief, San Marino is not a city in Italy, it's actually its own country. It is landlocked by Italy, though. So, in order to visit San Marino, you must travel to Italy first.
San Marino doesn't have its own airport, and the closest large airports are Bologna and Florence. From there, you can then drive, take a train, or join a bus tour to San Marino. I recommend driving if possible, because the trains aren't very direct or quick. Drive times are as follows...
Rimini to San Marino - 30 minutes
Ravenna to San Marino - 1 hour
Bologna to San Marino - 90 minutes
Florence to San Marino - 2 hours
If you arrive by car, and are only staying for the day, the best place to park is in Parking Lot 7. It is right in the center of Old Town, and within a five minute walk to the Three Towers. Parking costs around €10 EUR for the day.
What to Do
The Three Towers:
There are so many fun things to do in San Marino, but the most popular attraction is definitely the Three Towers. These castle-like citadels are perched high on Mount Titano right in the center of Old Town, and date all the way back to the 11th century. The best way to see them is by foot, so be sure to pack comfortable walking shoes. It's best to start with the first tower (also known as Guaita Tower), then the second tower (also known as Cesta Tower), and end with the third tower (known as the Montale Tower). It is free to visit the exterior of the towers, but there is a small fee to go inside the first and second towers (€4.50 EUR for one tower and €6.00 EUR for two towers). People are not allowed to enter the third tower.
It takes about five to ten minutes to walk to each tower. The paths are a bit uphill and made from cobblestone, so remember those sturdy shoes. Unfortunately, strollers and wheelchairs may have a difficult time along these paths.
Once you've arrived, prepare to be wowed with incredible views all the way to the Adriatic Sea.
Hours of operation for the Three Towers are 8:00 to 20:00 (mid-June to mid-September) and 9:00 to 17:00 (mid-September to mid-June).
Stamp Your Passport:
Once you've explored the stunning Three Towers, take a quick ten minute walk to the Tourism Office and get your passport stamped for €5 EUR. It's a great little souvenir to take back home with you.
Note: The office is open Monday through Friday from 8:15 to 18:00, and Saturday and Sunday from 9:00 to 18:00.
Eat a Piada:
This is a must! You can't come to San Marino and not try their local specialty. A piada, or piadina, is thin Italian flatbread folded in half and filled with ingredients, such as prosciutto, cheese, marinara sauce, and/or vegetables. Each restaurant makes theirs differently, and if you get a chance to try more than one, go for it! If you don't have much time, I think L'Angela has some of the best!
Museo di Stato:
The Museo di Stato, or National Museum, not only houses national treasures, but it also includes ancient Egyptian antiquities and Byzantine artifacts. There are over 5,000 interesting pieces of art and history inside this local gem. The museum is a short one minute walk from the Tourism Office.
Note: The museum is open daily from 9:00 to 17:00, and entrance fees are €4.50 EUR.
Hike Mount Titano:
If you want to get more immersed in nature during your trip, then I suggest a hike on beautiful Mount Titano. When you arrive at the third tower (the Montale Tower), instead of turning around and heading back to Old Town, just keep walking along the trail. There's an elevation gain of about 300 meters / 1,000 feet along this hike, and the entire journey should take around three to four hours round-trip. The trail is marked as easy, and the views along the way are definitely worth the minimal effort.
Where to Stay
I think the best hotel in San Marino is the Grand Hotel San Marino. It's within close walking distance to both the Old Town and the Three Towers. It also has spectacular views over San Marino's land below. Check the hotel's official website for pricing and availability.
When to Go
San Marino is a year-round destination, it just depends on what kind of weather you like. Summer is dry and hot, with daily highs reaching 80°F to 90°F (26°C to 32°C). Winter is cold and often wet, with daily highs reaching 30°F t0 40°F (-1°C to 4°C). Spring and fall are cool and very comfortable, with daily highs averaging 50°F to 65°F (10°C to 18°C).
Another thing to remember is that June through September brings heavy crowds of people, where October through May are a lot less busy. We visited in November and it was perfect! The temperature was a cool 55°F (13°C), the day was sunny, and there were barely any other tourists around. It was lovely.
San Marino is the 5th smallest country in the world.
The euro is the main currency, even though San Marino is not part of the EU.
The official language is Italian, but English is widely-spoken.
Local residents are called Sammarinese.
Abraham Lincoln expressed his admiration for San Marino in 1861, so the tiny country granted him citizenship.
It was the first country to establish a regular postal service.