San Marino was founded in 301 AD, making it the oldest republic in the world. It is also the third-smallest state in Europe with an area of just 61.2 square miles. The capital stands guard over the tiny county, surrounded by a stone wall and three towers. Added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites in 2008, the city packs all the charm of larger European capitals into a delightfully concentrated package. Over two million visitors tackle the steep climb to the city each year to walk the narrow streets, sip cappuccinos in traditional cafes and take in some of the most spectacular views in all of Europe. For such a small city and country, San Marino packs a huge punch.
Of the three towers that surround the city, La Rocca is the oldest. Built in the 11th century, the imposing stone tower was a protector of the capital before becoming a prison until 1970. Today, visitors are free to roam both the pentagonal structure and the surrounding Guaita fort. Unlike most European forts that have lost their original character as they have been transformed into tourist attractions, Guaita retains its historical atmosphere. No souvenir shops have crowded the grounds, and no guard rails prevent visitors from plummeting to the rocks below when climbing the parapets. It really feels more like a hands-on adventure playground than a traditional tourist site. After touring the battlements, explore the inner keep to uncover prison cells, displays of armaments and rooms that can only be seen by traversing open stairs next to a 300-foot drop. Rickety ladders allow access to the stone ceiling, then a trap door and another ladder reveal two more levels and battlements to explore. Travelers adventuresome enough to brave these elements are sweetly rewarded with incredible views of the surrounding hills and the placid Adriatic Sea.
San Marino got its name from Marinus, the Christian stonemason who founded the city in the early 4th century AD. Marinus climbed Mount Titano, the highest point in San Marino, to create a Christian community. Visitors can walk in his legendary footsteps by visiting Cesta Castle, an 11th-century fortress that tops the mountain's highest pinnacle. Like La Rocca, Cesta Castle is a pentagonal structure that still retains much of its historic character. Inside the tower is the Museum of Archaic Arms, where over 500 examples of weapons are on display, including crossbows, spears, lances, coats of armor, sidearms and more. Dating back to the Middle Ages, the pieces remind visitors of the Castle's history before it became a tourist attraction.
The capital is abundant with other historic sights. One of the most beautiful is the Basilica di San Marino, which dominates the lively Piazza Domus Plebis. Built in 1836, the church is a wonderful example of the Neoclassical style. Sixteen Corinthian columns support three naves, and relics of Saint Marino rest under an altar adorned by his statue. The eye-catching silver and gold reliquary bust on the altar's right side was created in 1602, and the attached Chiesa di San Pietro was originally built in 600 AD. Venture down to the crypt to see the beds of Saints Leo and Marino cut into the rock.
The greatest joy in San Marino is simply wandering the streets of the Medieval center. The narrow, winding streets are dotted with ancient houses and churches, and cars are banned in most areas. Let your feet be your guide as you absorb the spirit of San Marino, stopping to marvel at the medieval cloisters, art galleries, neo-Gothic government buildings and stately homes.
San Marino Geographical Location
The city of San Marino is located in the central west of the country on the slopes of Monte Titano.
San Marino is the country’s third largest city with a population of approximately 4,500.
San Marino Language
Italian is the official language of San Marino.
San Marino Predominant Religion
97% Roman Catholic
There is no official religion in San Marino and there is a small Jewish population as many Italian Jews sought refuge in San Marino during World War II.
San Marino Currency
The Euro is the official currency of San Marino.
San Marino Climate
San Marino has a Mediterranean climate with warm summer temperatures and mild winters.
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