San Marino is a perfect destination to visit from Bologna. A lot of people go just for a day trip, but I read that it is nice to be there for sunrise and sunset as well, so I decided to stay one night. I am so glad that I did! One day would have felt super rushed. There is so much beauty in this small country, that I still feel like I didn’t spend enough time there. I booked all of my transportation tickets as I went. I don’t feel like there is much need to book in advance. I took a 9:45AM train from Bologna to Rimini and arrived in Rimini around 11:00AM. This cost 10 euros. I then purchased a bus ticket from the store right across from the train station. This cost 10 euros round trip. I do recommend getting the return ticket in advance because they are not time specific so you can catch any bus back with the same ticket.
The next bus to San Marino wasn’t until 12:15 because they have fewer buses that run on Sundays. Since I had an hour to kill, I decided to walk around the city for a bit. I headed toward the city center and passed the Tempio Malatestiano, Rimini’s most famous church.
Then I strolled through the market in the old town square, Piazza Tre Martiri. The square was very lively and would’ve been a great place to stop for a bite to eat since there were so many restaurants and cafes lining the streets.
I then headed toward Arco d’Augusto, Rimini’s most iconic monuments. The arch was built in 27 B.C. and is the oldest surviving Roman triumphal archway in existence. The gate’s principal function, aside from functioning as a city gate, was to support the lavish bronze statue of Augustus. It remained one of the city gates until the Fascist period, when the city wall was demolished, and the arch was left as an isolated monument. It is such an important symbol to the city, that it appears on their coat of arms.
Luckily, the bus to San Marino makes a stop at the Arco d’Augusto, so I didn’t have to walk back to the train station. However, this was a little risky if the bus had gotten full at the first stop. Thank goodness there were still seats. The bus to San Marino from Rimini took approximately 45 minutes so I arrived in San Marino around 1 PM.
I stayed at Hotel Joli, which was in an amazing location! Featuring panoramic views of San Marino and Montefeltro countryside, this hotel is just 300 meters from the entrance to the historical center. The view from my room was incredible. The staff was very friendly and helpful. They provided me with a city map and let me know about all of the Christmas activities going on. Since I was in town on December 29th, I thought that I was going to miss all of the Christmas festivities. Luckily, they were continuing through January 6th. The hotel is also only 100 meters from the main bus station and a car park where guests receive discounted rates. They also give you a discount card that will get you discounts on the main attractions, as well as in some shops.
After dropping off my bags at the hotel, I stopped at a pizzeria right down the street from the hotel for lunch. I then set off to explore San Marino and all its beauty. I started by exploring the towers and then heading down to the lower streets which have plenty of shops, restaurants, churches, and museums.
Mount Titano is a mountain of the Apennines and the highest peak in San Marino. It stands at 739 meters above sea level and is located immediately to the east of the capital. It was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008. Photos of this mountain is what made San Marino stick out to me. I knew I had to visit and see it for myself!
Montale Third Tower
The first tower I came to was Montale Tower. It was built at the beginning of the 14thcentury and meant to be used as a prison and surveillance tower. You cannot enter the third tower.
Cesta or Fratta Second Tower
Museum of Ancient Weapons
The tower is located on the highest of Monte Titano’s summits. A museum to honor Saint Marinus, created in 1956, is located in this tower and showcases over 1,500 weapons dating from the medieval era to the modern day. It was constructed in the 13th century on the remains of an older Roman fort.
There are various prices for the towers. You can pay for each individually, get a tower pass, or get a pass to enter the towers, as well as some other attractions. Aside from the towers, it got me free entry to the Public Palace, State Museum, National Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art, and St. Francis Church and Art Gallery. I decided to go with this option for 7.50 euros. I thought it was well worth the money even though I didn’t go to each thing that was included. The attractions close around 6PM so I only had time to see the ones I was most interested in.
Rocca or Guaita First Tower
The Guaita fortress is the oldest of the three towers constructed on Monte Titano, and the most famous. It was built in the 11th century and served briefly as a prison. All three towers are depicted on both the national flag and coat of arms. It was registered as one of the World Heritage Sites in 2008.
Basilica of Saint Marinus
This church is situated in the Piazzale Domus Plebis and had the majestic Garland of Dreams. It made for a great photo opportunity. Entry to the church is free.
Kingdom of Dreams
The Palazzo Pubblico is the town hall of the city of San Marino as well as its official government building. The building, where official state ceremonies take place, is the seat of the Republic’s main institutional and administrative bodies.
During Christmas time, you can watch a Christmas light show every evening from 4:30-7:30PM. It was an incredible sight! There are projections on an iceberg and a sleigh where you can take an interactive experience.
Statue of Liberty
This statue is also situated in Piazza della Liberta. It is made in the neoclassical style of white Carrara marble and is located between Parva Domus and the Palazzo Pubblico. The statue symbolizes freedom and is represented by a warrior fiercely advancing with one hand extending forward while the other carries a flag.
The ticket I purchased to get me into the towers also allowed me into the State Museum. It has a collection of artefacts, paintings, and coins related to San Marino and its history. I found it a bit boring so I walked around quickly before heading back outside to the festivities.
Cava dei Balestrieri
Ice Skating/Via Eugippo/Christmas Markets
Cava dei Balestrieri on Via Eugippo is a great street to get a view of the city below. This area is lined with Christmas markets in the winter and has an ice rink below.
A cascade of lights illuminates the enchanting ice rink below Cava dei Balestrieri. Although I didn’t skate, it looked like a great place to spend the evening if I had enough time.
Panoramic Cable Car
The Funivia di San Marino is an aerial cable car in San Marino. The cable car runs from a lower terminus in Borgo Maggiore to the upper station in the city of San Marino. Rolled out in 1959 and modernized two times, the first in the 90’s and the second in 2017, it is one of the most used means of transport to reach the capital, especially by tourists and workers. Although I didn’t take a ride in the funicular, I did watch it from the top. It runs every fifteen minutes and a return ticket costs 4.50 euros.
Chalet of Dreams
During the winter, Campo Bruno Reffi is transformed into the enchanting Chalet of Dreams, the magical kingdom for children. They offer creative workshops, kids face painting, a movie area, and photo sets. Admission is free so I thought I would go check it out and grab a quick photo.
St. Francis Church and Art Gallery
The church of San Francesco was built in 1351. The museum in St. Francis has preserved paintings by Guercino and Raphael.
Fratta, Murata Nuova, St. Francis Gate, and Portanova
The historic city center of San Marino is surrounded by the city walls and gates. The city wall formed around the Guaita fortress in the 10th century. The second ring of walls followed in the 14th, the third one in the 15th century. The walls are entered through San Francesco Gate, the “City Gate”, which was built in 1361 to guard against the Malatesta family and gives direct access to the city center.
I absolutely loved San Marino. I really wish I could’ve stayed longer. The one thing about San Marino that was a bummer was that everything closes around 7PM, because the last bus out of San Marino leaves at 6PM so all of the shops close up when majority of the people are gone.
I did, however, find a nice Italian restaurant called Nido del Falco to eat at after everything was shut down. The views from this restaurant are amazing and the prices are reasonable. One full day definitely wasn’t enough. I left first thing in the morning on the 8AM bus to head to Switzerland, but if I didn’t have a full day of traveling ahead of me, then I would’ve enjoyed walking around again.