San Marino dates back to the third century AD, making it the world’s oldest republic. Although it sits in the middle of Italy, San Marino is independent and worthy of a visit on its own, if for a passport stamp alone.
The oldest parts of San Marino are located atop Mount Titano. The Old Town has several terraces offering tremendous views over the Apennines, the Adriatic coastline, and, on clear days, Croatia.
Aside from checking out the scenery, here are nine more things to do while you’re there:
1. Enter the Città di San Marino via St. Francis’s Gate. This was the original entrance to the capital, built during construction of the third set of city walls in the 16th century. Note the plaque marking San Marino’s addition to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2008.
2. Slip on a pair of comfortable shoes and wander the cobblestone streets of the Old Town. Pop in and out of shops that sell leather goods, jewelry, and, yes, tacky souvenirs. It’s hilly, so be prepared for a workout.
3. Head up to the fortresses, located on the three peaks of Monte Titano. The First Tower, also known as Guaita, dates back to the 11th century and was used as a prison as recently as 1975. Today, it provides a view of fortress life. The Second Tower (Cesta) was built in the 13th century and houses the Museum of Ancient Weapons. The Third Tower (Montale) was the last fortress built on Monte Titano. It’s not open to visitors, but a hike there provides stunning views.
4. Speaking of views, another way to get a unique angle on the Republic by riding the cable car connecting Borgo Maggiore below up to the Old City.
5. The Public Palace, located in Piazza della Libertà, is home to government goings-on. Inside, the entryway walls are decorated with inscriptions, coats-of-arms, decorations, and busts. However, the real treasure is the Council Hall, where the parliament meets. Check it out when legislators are not in session. During the summer, a colorful Changing of the Guard ceremony takes place here every day in front of the Public Palace.
6. The St. Francis Museum and Art Gallery is part of the St. Francis Church complex, erected in 1361. It exhibits an impressive collection of frescoes and sacred furnishings used by friars of yore.
7. The State Museum exhibits archaeological remnants confirming the story of Saint Marino, along with artifacts detailing the history of the Republic. Do not miss the collection of old San Marino coins.
9. Finally, be a tourist and get that passport stamped. It costs five euros at the the San Marino Tourism Office.