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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

San Marino: a fairyland inside Italy!!

Dear friends,

Today I want to take you to The Republic of San Marino, I place I’ve visited several times and that I love. Well it’s in Italy … but it’s another country!!!!
The Most Serene Republic of San Marino (Serenissima Repubblica di San Marino) is a beautiful little country situated in the Apennine Mountains of Italy. It’s one of the European microstates along with Liechtenstein, the Vatican, Monaco, Andorra and Malta. It is a landlocked enclave, completely surrounded by Italy, on the border between the region of Emilia-Romagna and Marche. Its size is just over 61 km2 (24 sq mi) with an estimated population of almost 30,000.
The language spoken is Italian and the Emiliano-Romagnolo dialect is widely spoken, too.
Its topography is dominated by the Apennines mountain range, and it has a rugged terrain. The highest point in the country, the summit of Monte Titano, is situated at 749 m (2,457ft) above sea level. There are no bodies of water of any significant size. San Marino has no level natural land; 100% of the nation-state is built on top of the range: mountains and breathtaking views….which means comfortable shoes and a lot of walk to do!!!

The climate is Mediterranean with continental influences, having warm summers and cool winters.
I visited San Marino several times since it’s only a few hours driving from Venice. And I enjoyed every time the wonderful serene and quiet atmosphere of it.
San Marino is the oldest recorded sovereign state and constitutional republic in the world, having been founded on 3 September 301 by stonecutter Marinus of Rab. According to tradition, Saint Marinus left the island of Rab in Croatia with his lifelong friend, Leo, and went to the city of Rimini as a mason. After the Diocletianic Persecution following his Christian sermons, he escaped to the nearby Monte Titano, where he built a small church and thus founded, what is now the city and the state of San Marino. By the mid-fifth century, a community was formed; because of its relatively inaccessible location and its poverty, it has succeeded, with a few brief interruptions, in maintaining its independence. In 1631 its independence was recognized by the Papacy.
The advance of Napoleon 's army in 1797 presented a brief threat to the independence of San Marino, but the country was spared its liberty thanks to one of its Regents, Antonio Onofri, who managed to gain the respect and friendship of Napoleon.
During the later phase of the Italian unification process in the nineteenth century, San Marino served as a refuge for numerous persons, who were persecuted because of their opposition to the unification. In memory of this support, Giuseppe Garibaldi accepted the wish of San Marino not to be incorporated into the new Italian state.
The nation's small population also ensures that it is one of the wealthiest countries in the world in terms of GDP (per capital). San Marino is considered to be in a highly stable economic status, with the lowest unemployment rate in Europe, no national debt and a budget surplus and the world's highest male life expectancy (81 years).  And I think it has to do with a very relaxed life they lived in the mountains and the fresh and clean air their breath!!

The City of San Marino, also known simply as San Marino, is the capital city of the Republic of San Marino. The city is on the western slopes of San Marino's highest point, the impressive beautiful Monte Titano. And it is very beautiful!!
The urban heart of the city is protected by three towers/fortress, which are also very important tourist attractions. They are located on the three peaks of Monte Titano in the capital and they are depicted on both the Flag of San Marino and its coat of arms. Guarita, the oldest of the three, it was constructed in the eleventh century. Some rooms in the fort were used to keep prisoners. To the entrance's left, stands the beautiful Chapel of the Rocca, consecrated to St. Barbara.
The Cesta Fortress dates way back to the 13th century is very beautiful too and it’s located on Mount Titano's high peak. The Montale fortress is like a watchtower, but it still is privately owned and you can only see from a distance.

Beside San Marino City there are other eight minor municipalities: Acquaviva, Borgo Maggiore, Chiesanuova, Domagnano, Faetano, Fiorentino, Montegiardino and Serravalle.
The largest town of the Republic is Dogana, which is not an autonomous castello, municipality, but rather belongs to the Castello of Serravalle.
The main economic activities were stone extraction and carving. Today, there is a more varied economy, including tourism of course, commerce, sale of postage stamps, and a small agricultural industry, although the last is in decay. San Marino imports goods, such as food, from Italy.
There are also more than a thousand retail outlets in San Marino, where you can find a great variety of products. It’s a very quiet and beautiful little country and I always enjoy strolling in San Marino. It’s like time stand still there and you feel like you are back in the middle age in the so many little shops!

The town is known for its long, winding cobble stoned streets; so don’t think about wearing high hills there. San Marino is also notable in that cars are prohibited in much of the town center. Be prepare to walk a lot, wear comfortable shoes…the panoramas all around are beautiful!!
Main sights worth a visit in San Marino City are Palazzo dei Capitani, Palazzo Pubblico, The Three Tower of San Marino, Piazza del Titano, Piazza Garibaldi, Monastery of Santa Clara.
Shopping in San Marino would be incomplete without a visit to Serravalle where you can find more big modern malls, still build in the middle of the middle age village. Very nice combination of old and new!!
Borgo Maggiore is one of the 9 communes or “castelli” of San Marino and it’s the second largest town of San Marino, after Dogana. I went there from San Marino City with their aerial tramway. There is a 1.5 km (0.93 mi) aerial tramway connecting the city of San Marino with Borgo Maggiore. Two aerial tramway cars, gondolas, operate in opposition on a cable, and a service is provided at roughly every fifteen minute throughout the day. The views are out of this world!! This is always one of my favorite trips there!!!
San Marino became a member of the Council of Europe in 1988 and of the United Nations in 1992. It is not a member of the European Union, but it is allowed to use the euro as its currency by arrangement with the Council of the European Union; it is also granted the right to use its own designs on the national side of the euro coins. Before the euro, the Sanmarinese lira was pegged to, and exchangeable with, the Italian lira. The small number of Sanmarinese euro coins, as was the case with the lira before it, is primarily of interest to coin collectors.

San Marino's postage stamps, which are only valid for mail within the country, are mostly sold to philatelists and are a source of income.
Other key industries are banking, electronics, and ceramics. There are quite a few local products available in the country of San Marino, and wine is one of them. Wine production in the country has increased quite considerably in present years. This has primarily been possible for the “designation of origin label.” Tessano Riserva and Brugneto are fine red wines and many wine lovers buy these wines. Oro dei Goti is a popular raisin wine manufactured by the San Marino Winegrowers. There are also some liqueurs typical of San Marino like the truffle flavored bitter Tilus and the herbal Duca di Gualdo.
There are 220 km of roads in the country, the main road being the San Marino Superhighway.
There are no airports in San Marino, but there is an international heliport located in Borgo Maggiore. Most tourists, who arrive by air land at Federico Fellini International Airport close to the city of Rimini, make then the transfer by bus.
San Marino has limited public transport facilities. There is a regular bus service between Rimini and the city of San Marino, popular with both tourists and tourist industry workers commuting to San Marino from Italy. This service stops at approximately twenty locations in Rimini and within San Marino, with its two terminus stops at Rimini railway station and San Marino coach station, respectively. There is also a bus going from Borgo Maggiore to Dogana, the other big “castello” worth the visit.
There is also a limited licensed taxi service operating nationwide in San Marino. There are seven licensed taxi-operating companies in the republic, and Italian taxis regularly operate within San Marino when carrying passengers picked up in Italian territory. But be aware that in San Marino to walk is the best way to move around!!

The Republic of San Marino as the same public holidays we have in Italy for the exception of two public holidays March 25 Festa delle Milizie (Feast of the Militants), and on September 3rd the National Feast of San Marino, celebrating the Republic dating back to 301.
Well being myself a daughter of a Police Officer I’ve always find interesting to know more about those men in uniform. And I can assure you will love them for other reason too: some are quite good-looking men!
San Marino has one of the smallest military forces in the world. I very much enjoyed while visiting the beauty and diversity of their uniforms.
They have different branches that have varied functions including: performing ceremonial duties; patrolling borders; mounting guard at government buildings; and assisting police in major criminal cases. The entire military corps of San Marino depends upon the co-operation of full-time forces and volunteers’ militants.

They have the Crossbow a ceremonial force of approximately eighty volunteers. Its uniform is medieval in design, and although a statutory military unit, it has no military function today.
The Guard of the Rock is a front-line military unit in the San Marino armed forces, a state border patrol, with responsibility for patrolling borders and defending them. They are responsible also for guarding the Palazzo Pubblico in San Marino City the seat of national Government. In this role they are the forces most visible to tourists, and are known for their colorful ceremony of changing the Guard. The uniform of the Guard of the Rock is a distinctive red and green.
The Guard of the Council or locally as the 'Guard of Nobles' is another volunteer unit with ceremonial duties who provide a ceremonial bodyguard to government officials on festivals of both state and church. Due to its striking blue, white, and gold uniform, it is perhaps the best-known part of the Sanmarinese military, and appears on countless postcard views of the republic. You can’t miss them.

The Army Militia is also largely ceremonial. It is a matter of civic pride for many San-Marinese to belong to the force, and all citizens with at least six years residence in the republic are entitled to enroll. The uniform is dark blue, with a kepi bearing a blue and white plume. The ceremonial form of the uniform includes a white cross-strap, and white and blue sash, white epaulets, and white decorated cuffs.
The Military Ensemble formally is part of the Army Militia, and is the ceremonial military band of San Marino. It consists of approximately fifty musicians. Military Ensemble music accompanies most state occasions in the republic. I was able to be part of the celebration of the Militants a few years back and it was a delight to hear the Military Ensemble and to see all the different militants march with their beautiful uniforms.
The Gendarmerie, is the only militarized law enforcement agency. Its members are full-time and have responsibility for the protection of citizens and property, and the preservation of law and order.
The cuisine of San Marino is strongly similar to Italian, especially that of the adjoining Emilia-Romagna and Marche regions, but it has a number of its own unique dishes and products. In the cuisines of San Marino, though the impact of Italian cuisines is quite clear, the influence of Mediterranean tastes cannot at all be denied. As you start tasting them, you will be amazed in experiencing an altogether different kind of cooking tradition.
And one of the most favorites of the San Marino Cuisines is the ‘fagioli con le cotiche’, which is actually the blend of Christmas bean and bacon soup. Once I tasted this preparation, I felt the urge within to know the recipe of this dish and when I went back home, this dish become a regular preparation for me. But other dishes I tasted here include the ‘nidi di rondine’ and ‘pasta e ceci’. These are actually very unique preparations and quite favorites both among the tourists as well as to the local residents.
Also the Piadina popular across Romagna, Passatelli, romagna spaghetti like mixture eggs, bread crumbs and parmigiano reggiano cheese, 'strozzapreti' pasta and a new dish called 'lasagnette' with lamb ragout and taleggio cheese are all delicious dishes you can taste in the different restaurants!!

The cuisines of San Marino do contain also a great collection of sweet dishes. As for the typical products, mention must be made of the Torta Titano and the Torta Tre Monti, my favorites, and also DOC products of San Marino, but also Cacciatello and zuppa di ciliege. All these dishes are especially famous for blend of many types of sweet ingredients and all of them are incredible delicious!!
As I said, my favorite is Torta Tre Monti ("Cake of the Three Mountains" or "Cake of the Three Towers"), cake made of layers of thin waffled wafers cemented together by chocolate or hazelnut crème. The final product is covered in chocolate fondant. You can buy a full-size cake but also the snack-size version. It is always an addiction for me to have in my bag while strolling in San Marino!

During one of my many visits at San Marino I stayed at the beautiful Titano Hotel. I was lucky to get a room with a balcony with a view on the Montefeltro Valley.

I went for dinner at a one of the oldest restaurant of the Republic called “La Terrazza” also in the Hotel Titano, in the Contrada del Collegio in the heart of San Marino.It’s an enchanting restaurant where you can enjoy view of the Mount Appenini and the most delicious dishes, a mixed of traditional dishes of the near regions of Emilia Romagna and Marche. Their homemade pastas are great and they serve delicious grilled meets. In the months of May and June, when I was there, I was lucky to enjoy the spectacular view at sunset from the restaurant and my room: breathtaking.
For a quick bite and a cold drinks I went to "Il Terrazzino", that face the center of the city, and it was a perfect romantic place!!
But there are so many wonderful little places where you can eat or stop for a caffee or a cold drink and everywhere the food is just delicious!!

The Public Palace is one of the many interesting places to see in San Marino. The Romanesque building was constructed in a style, which is Neo-gothic. Some of the other places to see in San Marino are National Museum, San Francesco Museum-Picture Gallery, Modern and Contemporary Art Gallery.

If you do not go for visits to the places like Malatesta Castle at Serravalle, Borgo Maggiore, Valdragone and fort at Pennarossa then your tour is bound to remain incomplete. The place is surrounded by quite a few numbers of tranquil streams, pinewoods, springs, lakes and fishing reserves. One of the most relaxing and quiet places I’ve ever been to.
The most important places of San Marino, which you cannot miss a visit to, include the places such as the Government Palace, the State Museum and Art Gallery, the Basilica, St Francis’ Church, the Capuccin Friars Church of St Quirino and the Exhibition Center of San Marino Handicrafts.
Among the most important tourist spots of San Marino, you will find numerous evidences of medieval architecture and side-by-side you will also find several masterpieces of modern architecture. Just walk around: you will be surprised of what you find!!
The country is almost like a fairyland, scattered with ancient forts, museums, and palaces.

Something very interesting I have learned is that the government of San Marino made United States President Abraham Lincoln an honorary citizen. He wrote in reply, saying that the republic proved that "government founded on republican principles is capable of being so administered as to be secure and enduring."
I hope you will have the chance to visit this Country inside Italy!! I’m sure you will love it as much as I do!! Only to write about it made me dream about going back!!!
Stay tuned for my next week blog dedicated to the “Easter in Italy” “la Pasqua in Italia!!

Love always,


  1. Very informative...thank you.!
    I`ll be in San Marino in early May to go to the highest point in my quest to get all of Europe`s highest summits.
    Alex :)

  2. i am proud to say that i am one of the very few who can say i am 100 % san marinese. my mom was born in borgo maggiore and my dad came from serravalle. i have been there 3 times and i plan to go back again in the near future, to visit san marino is to take a step back in time. the "citta", is as majestic today as it was hundreds of years ago. the peopleare friendly and the city is a s clean as can be. enjoy the fine fare and try the cheese , Stracchino, which is semo soft and so fresh it has to be discarded daily. while visiting san marino, i would suggest you take a day trip to rimini, which is one of the most breathtaking beaches on all of the riviera. its less than 1/2 hrs drive from the citta.