San Marino – The Mini Guide to a Microstate

I went to the tiny country of San Marino recently, on a bit of a jolly. Here’s a list of things that relate to it. Read this and you won’t even have to go there. Though you still should.

It’s a country

If you’re on some egotistical mission to visit all the countries in the world, then you’ll have to pass through here at some point. It’s a bona fide country in its own right and one of the 193 UN member states.

Here’s a gratuitous photograph of the national flag.

Flag

It’s very small

It has a population of around 32,000 people in an area of 24 square miles, and is the third smallest country in Europe after Vatican City and Monaco.

It’s a on a hill

Well, kinda. San Marino is situated in the Apennine mountains, and hence on hilly terrain. But the bit that people think of as San Marino is the Città di San Marino (City of San Marino) which is set on Monte Titano (Mount Titan).

Which is a hill. Or a mount. Well, it’s kind of a ridge, in fact.

Here’s the proof if you don’t believe me.

San Marino

It has amazing views

This is what happens when you’re on a hill. You read it here first. Click on the panorama below to increase the bigness of it.

Panorama

CLICK ME!

It has 3 towers

What to do if you’re already on the highest part of ground in the region? I know! Build some high structures on the highest points, just to really drive the point home.

There are three of them – the Guaita, the Cesta and the Montale. The first two are accessible to visitors. The third isn’t, with the door being several metres up the side as if to passive-aggressively make that point.

It’s surrounded by Italy

I don’t mean in a siege-like way. I mean it’s an enclave. A country within another country. Like Swaziland or Lesotho in South Africa.

It has a front door

It’s not a door to the country, just to the main city. Which is a shame as I like the idea of a country with a front door. And a doorbell. And a cat flap.

Loads of cyclists come here

Monte Titano is a popular ascent for said people with bicycles. I didn’t take any photos. Sorry. Just imagine large groups of people wearing lycra sat outside cafes drinking beer.

Its full title is ‘The Most Serene Republic of San Marino’

There should more countries with self-applied complementary adjectives. ‘The Fantastic Kingdom of X ‘ ‘The Really Rather Good Nation of Y’

And to be fair, San Marino is pretty serene.

Trees

It’s all really nice with stone building and paths and stuff

Here are some photographs to illustrate this point.

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It’s reasonably priced

In some tourist hot spots, a glass of tap water alone will set up back twenty thousand pounds (don’t ask me to name them).

In San Marino, you can have a pizza in an open-air restaurant with a view out over the Adriatic for about €6. I don’t know if they have different prices for high season. They should, really. Because that’s such good value I’m nearly offended.

It’s not really aimed at backpackers

The only hostel in town isn’t in town at all. It’s way down the hill in the main highway at the bottom end of Borgo Maggiore, the largest town in San Marino.

Hostel

There’s a cable car

This is one of those things where the world doesn’t agree on meaning. Here I’m referring to the things that hang from cables in the air, not the things that sit on railway tracks and are connected by a pulley. You can walk up the path, instead, if you like. Or take a bus. Or drive up in a car. Or use a heli-pack. Or get carried up by a squadron of drones. Or be spat up there by a dragon. It’s really none of my business.

Cable car

It has a superabundance of weapons stores

Seriously, they’re everywhere. If there was some kind of global weaponry tournament, where everyone gets in a ring and fights with different armaments, then this would be a good place to hold it. Air guns, crossbows, swords, ground to air missiles… you can get all (well most) of those things in the many specialist shops here in the republic.

I asked a woman in the tourist information centre why this was, and she told me she didn’t know. That’s as far as my enquiries went. I probably wouldn’t make a good investigative journalist.

Perhaps it’s because San Marino has, as part of its military (it has a military!), a ceremonial division of crossbow wielders. I know it’s not always easy to tell when I’m being sarcastic, but that bit is true.

You can get a tourist visa for five euros

Even though you don’t need one. I wrote about it here.

San Marino tourist visa stamp

April is a great time to go

I’m sure there are other great times to go, but I went in April, and I’m glad I did. Just saying. Here’s a photo of a lizard to prove my point. Or my ignorance of the relationship between lizards and climate, perhaps.

Lizard

I keep typing it wrong

The very first time I type it, I end up with ‘San Marion’. Every single time, for some reason. This has little value to you, but it is nonetheless true.

San Marion

Have you been to San Marion? Or any other micronation? Anywhere – have you been anywhere? Leave a comment below telling us about it.

 

2 Comments

  1. Alison Godfrey

    Hi Neil, interesting review of 1st class travel in Poland. We travel first class on Virgin trains when it only costs a few quid more than 2nd. I could get used to it! You save a fortune on drinks and snacks too.
    Had Sunday dinner with your folks a while ago, thanks for the signed “Dancing Feat”. Really enjoy reading about your travels, don’t stop! X

    • Neil

      Hi there Alison 🙂 Thanks – I guess you’re referring to this – and there was me thinking it was just a load of ridiculously transparent post-hoc justification :)) Glad to hear you’re enjoying the book!

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Getting a San Marino Tourist Visa

At the tourist office in San Marino – the tiny enclave within Italy – you can get a tourist visa...

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