When you think of Europe as a vacation destination usually popular countries such as Italy, France, Spain, Greece, and even Germany come to mind. We’re here to tell you that you’re missing one of the best places to visit in Europe: San Marino. This tiny, landlocked country in the middle of Italy has it all – ancient origins, beautiful scenery, and scrumptious food. Keep on reading to learn more about one of Europe’s best-kept secrets!
1. It’s One of the Smallest Countries in the World
San Marino is definite proof that sometimes great things come in small packages. This is one of the most interesting countries in the world, and yet, it’s one of the smallest. It is the fifth smallest country globally and the third smallest in Europe. Sure, the Vatican, Monaco, Tuvalu (an independent island nation within the British Commonwealth and Nauru (a tiny island country in Micronesia, northeast of Australia) may be smaller, but San Marino isn’t that far behind, with an estimated population of only 34,016. If you look at a map of this tiny nation you’ll see exactly how small it really is. The entire country is only 23.6 square miles (or 61 km²).
2. San Marino Has a Rich History
Since the country is nestled in the heart of Italy between Le Marche and the Emilia-Romagna region, one might expect it to have a rich history. Well, it surely does and it does not disappoint. This small country has had settlements from as early as the 5th century BC. It was founded in 301 AD by a Christian stonemason, Saint Marinus of Rab. This makes San Marino the world’s oldest lasting republic.
Interestingly, Saint Marinus was fleeing persecution when he founded the state. This is still respected today, with San Marino being known for offering unconditional political sanctuary to everyone. One of the most famous examples of this in history is when Giuseppe Garibaldi was surrounded by three armies and sought safety within the fortress walls. In fact, despite being neutral during the Second World War, San Marino still provided shelter to approximately 100,000 evacuees from regions of Italy that were being bombed.
3. San Marino Peaceful and Resilient
This neutral country joined the United Nations in 1992 and continues to be one of the most peaceful members. There’s a reason it’s also known as . It is a safe haven for all and it hasn’t actively participated in a battle since 1463. It didn’t even participate in the two World Wars and remained neutral.
It is also known for its resilience. It resisted invasions from Cesare Borgia in the 1500s, didn’t become part of the Papal State, and wasn’t even invaded by Napoleon! During your trip to San Marino, you must visit the old town’s three towers which are a symbol of the country’s resilience. They’re even featured on San Marino’s national crest.
4. The Highest Point in the Country Is Mount Titano
Monte Titano (or “Mount Titan) is the highest peak in the country and stands at a mighty 2424.54 ft (739 m). No trip to San Marino can be complete without taking in the breathtaking panoramic views from this awe-inspiring mountaintop. Each peak boasts a beautiful medieval tower with three total towers: Guaita, Cesta, and Montale.
Unfortunately, Montale is privately owned and can’t be accessed by tourists. However, both Guaita and Cesta are available to climb and are known for stunning views of the countryside and the Adriatic Sea. These medieval towers transport you back to the past and help to give a fairytale-like feel to this miniature country. That’s why visiting Guaita and Cesta is one of our top picks when touring San Marino. Additionally, the San Marino Historic Center and Mount Titano are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
5. Our Favourite President is an Honorary Citizen
San Marino may not be as popular as other travel spots, but it has always had an admirer in Abraham Lincoln. In 1861, the former president wrote a letter to the country saying, “Although your dominion is small, your State is nevertheless one of the most honored in all of history.” The humble nation offered him honorary citizenship in return. To this day, the country has a bust of Abraham Lincoln in their parliament building, which is open to visitors and one of the most popular sites to see.
Traveling to San Marino
These are only a few interesting facts about San Marino. This historic country may be miniature, but it is still packed with a captivating history and tremendous beauty. As one of the hidden gems of Europe, it isn’t as widely known as some other countries but it is definitely a pleasant surprise to visit. Now that you’ve learned about San Marion click here to learn about the Leaning Tower of Pisa and why it has its famous tilt.