With only 60,000 visitors last year, San Marino became Europe’s least-visited country in 2016. While it’s certainly no under-the-radar destination, the microstate, which is landlocked by Italy and lies just a short distance from the Adriatic Coast, holds a lot of historical, cultural, and eye-candy appeal. If you’re in the region and need some persuasion to pay San Marino a visit, here are six reasons to make a pit stop in the place.
1. The Beauty
A beautiful oasis of emerald rolling hills, vast blue skies, and rugged mountains, the landscape of the Most Serene Republic of San Marino (yes, that really is an official name) is as glorious as anything you’ll see in Tuscany. If you want to head off the usual tourist track, with hikes through the region, explorations might even lead to the odd winery. Aside from the natural scenery, the main City of San Marino, which can be reached by cable car, is full of charming old buildings, statues, and sculptures. It’s typically packed during the day, so we recommend staying till after dark, when the town is emptied of tourists and lit up to reveal a rare calmness.
2. The History
It might have the smallest number of visitors of any country in Europe, but San Marino tops the charts when it comes to a rich history. The world’s oldest-surviving sovereign state and oldest republic (it’s been around in its current form since 310 A.D.), the country has age on its side. Despite the onslaught of tacky souvenir shops that sell a slightly off-putting number of medieval style weapons, the sense of history is keenly felt here, from the castles to medieval buildings to the cobbled old town.
3. The Ancient Fortress
Speaking of history, San Marino has one of the oldest (and most impressive) fortresses around. Built on Monte Titano in the 11th century, Castello della Guaita is the oldest of the three towers that call San Marino home. It’s even depicted on the San Marino flag. The tower, which was briefly used as a prison, is open throughout the year and can be paired with a visit to the second tower, Castello della Cesta, which is home to the Museum of Ancient Weapons.
4. The Views
With peaks come views, and San Marino arguably has some of the best in Europe. The journey to the top of Monte Titano, which stands more than 700 meters above sea level, rewards with panoramic views of rolling hills, orange terra-cotta rooftops, and the stunning sea.
5. The Passport Stamp
There’s a certain joy that comes from flicking through your passport and counting the stamps you’ve collected thus far, and as far as rare stamps go, San Marino, the world’s fifth-smallest country, ranks high. But it’ll cost you — five euros to be exact. To get the stamp, head to the tourist information center by the cable car and wait in line for the genuine, yet novelty, addition to your passport.
6. It Makes for a Great Day Trip
Located just 40 minutes away from Rimini, San Marino is an ideal day trip away from the coast and into the mountains. Even if you choose to come for a short period, the combination of ancient history and stunning views will keep you entertained until it’s time to get back to the Adriatic.
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