Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Surprises You Will Find in the Middle of Italy, Like San Marino

My most common reason for visiting a place is because of the view.  I moved from the Midwest to Connecticut because of the view.  I went to Iceland and Switzerland and countless other places from Niagara Falls to Oregon to the Grand Canyon just for the view.  So, it was of no surprise how interested I was in the tiny Republic of San Marino when I saw the view.

The tiny republic of San Marino is one of the smallest countries in the world.  It's number five on that list with only 61 square kilometers or 24 square miles of land that's mostly mountain.  It is the oldest independent republic in the world and has a high GDP.  It was founded in the year AD 301 by Saint Marinus who went there to take refuge from religious persecution.  The republic was obviously named after him and has survived all these years, even though it sits smack in the middle of Italy's mountain country.  The city of San Marino is the place that I wanted most to visit.  It's medieval, and that just sucks me in.

San Marino has castles.  It's an old land from a forgotten time of kings and lords and forts for protection against the many regimes that would try to take it over.  They must have done all right, since they're still there, and still autonomous.  Today, San Marino is mainly seen as some kind of tourist trap and a great shopping place since there is no sales tax.  I hear it's very popular with Russian visitors.

There are a couple of things to know about visiting San Marino.  First, it is in the middle of Italy as I mentioned.  It is the only independent republic aside from Vatican City that is completely surrounded by another country, and that country is Italy.  Rimini, Italy is the closest airport.  There is a bus service to Rimini that is considered San Marino's international transportation service.  Most people just drive in for a day trip anyway.  You won't need your passport to cross the border, since it's all part of the European Union, but you can bring it and get it stamped if you like.  It's a souvenir type thing.  They do have their own currency in San Marino, but they do accept Euros.  It's also very popular to mail postcards and things from San Marino for the postmark and the stamps.

The city of San Marino and Mount Titano are the main focus of a trip to San Marino.  There are three fortresses up on the 700 meter high mountain and they are all fabulous historical places to visit.  The city's medieval areas are on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list.  To be honest, it's not often that you see a single mountain with fortresses on three separate peaks.  The photo ops are amazing, the view is amazing, and the buildings are amazing.

Here's another great feature.  You can walk up to the forts, but that's a lot of work, and this is Adventures for Anyone, not Adventures for those who can climb mountains.  So, San Marino has a solution.  They have tram service to the hilltops.  This makes it easy for anyone to go up and be impressed by the forts and the view.

Central Italy, and most of Italy is filled with ancient towns and beautiful churches and San Marino is no different.  It was founded by a priest for heaven's sake.  Beautiful churches were a forgone conclusion once I heard that.  The churches are beautiful, and of course the country is almost completely Catholic.  Just remember that everything in this town is ancient and the whole place is on the side of a mountain.  There are no flat roads or walkways in this area.

Up 700 meres is not where you will find your average town.  This was a stronghold that made it through the Ottomans, Napoleon, Mussolini and Hitler.  They're tough and completely out of reach.  But, they do have military.  They have a changing of the guards every day at the gates.  It's all mostly part of the tourism in this tiny country, but it is cool to see.

San Marino is one of those great places to go and wander with your wallet and you camera.  It's known as a tourist spot for shopping.  But you can spend the whole day wandering museums, the walls, the fortresses, the churches, and eating at great restaurants.  It's one of those nice places to go and experience history without the fast pace of someplace like Rome.  There are hundreds of tourists during the summer months, but it's still relaxing and fun to look around.

There are just under 200 official countries in the world.  San Marino is the oldest tiny independent republic.  It is the fifth smallest country in the world.  It is the third smallest country in Europe, and it is one of only two countries that is completely surrounded by another single country.  It's a unique spot in the world with a lot of history, amazing ancient architecture, fabulous museums, great tax free shopping, easy borders to cross, and views that you will never forget.  So, traveling to a place like San Marino is something that I would do just for the view.  I would make sure I had my passport stamped, and I would so send postcards home.  I already have money from there, so why not go?  It's a great place to take a day off from touring Italy.  It's that side trip that you'll remember for the rest of your life.  Come and see the amazing triple fortresses that overlook the city of San Marino in the country of San Marino.  Enjoy!

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