Best Things to Do in San Marino in One Day
San Marino, a tiny country completely surrounded by Italy, got on my radar a while ago. So, I just had to visit San Marino on my recent Northern Italy trip!
San Marino is one of the smallest (and oldest) countries in the world, and not many have heard of it. Many others assume it is part of Italy. Well, with only 32,000 inhabitants, it surely is not a big player – not in politics, not in tourism, and probably not in many other aspects either (no offense).
With the old town and Mount Titano being listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites in 2008, it has gained influence in the tourism sector, and so tourism does play a big role here.
If you are wondering about what to do in San Marino, here you will find out about the best things to do in San Marino in one day (you will not need more time than 8-24 hours) and its best attractions.
SAN MARINO TRAVEL TIPS
But before talking about the main landmarks in San Marino, here are a few other things to know about the country.
How to Get to San Marino
By car: I got here by car – getting here in the shoulder season is quite easy. There is some paid parking “near the old town“ (about 700 meters away). If you book your hotel, check out my tip about free parking. There are no tolls in San Marino.
By bus: There is no train connection to San Marino, but you can take a bus from Rimini, which is about 5€ (one way), and it takes about 50 minutes. It will get you to the old town and is quite convenient.
How to Get Around San Marino
If you only have a day or two in San Marino, you will most likely spend your time in the old town, which is uphill, so you will need comfortable shoes to get around easily. From there, you can walk to many tourist attractions and will most likely not need another bus, etc.
Where to Eat in San Marino
There are many restaurants and cafes in the old town of San Marino – I actually had my lunch and dinner in the old town, and both were pretty good. Prices are probably a bit higher than in some parts of Italy though.
Where to Stay in San Marino
I picked a hotel about 700 meters outside of the old town. You get what you pay for, and while I‘ve gotten much better hotels for a lower rate, this hotel was kind of… not good. The location was okay, but again, a 700-meter uphill walk to the old town was not great, and the hotel was not amazing – which was okay as it was not expensive by San Marino standards. But I would not stay there again.
However, it seems all hotels in San Marino are rated quite poorly – maybe it has something to do with the lack of language skills. So, my tip is to NOT stay in San Marino, but make Rimini your base and just go there for a day (you really will not need more time, believe me).
Looking for people who speak English in San Marino is not the easiest thing. Even in the museums, for example, the staff does not speak any English or any other language other than Italian. Not even in my hotel. It was even worse than my experiences in France.
I think that this really left a bad taste in my mouth because it was kind of disappointing – after visiting Italy, where many people in the tourism industry do speak (basic) English, I could not ask anyone (except the women at the tourism office).
Many people in San Marino made up for it by being very friendly though – but my tip is to learn some basic Italian and download a translator app beforehand.
Solo Female Travel
I was traveling solo in San Marino – well, kind of. My little dog was with me, but in general, San Marino is super safe.
The only downside was that people did not speak any English and communication was limited to smiling.
Traveling With a Dog in San Marino
In case you did not know: I have the world’s cutest dog. I took him with me on my trip and the reactions to him were similar to the ones we got in Italy: the people in San Marino love dogs and you can take dogs to many places.
He was allowed to enter the towers, but sometimes, I had to put him in his bag (he is not very big) and then I was allowed to enter museums and the town hall, for example.
With bigger dogs, it might be a bit trickier, but in general, I would say that San Marino is the dog-friendliest place in the world (even more dog-friendly than Italy).
More Things to Know About San Marino
San Marino Card: You can buy a San Marino Card, which will give you a discount with some of the restaurants and activities, but you can visit certain places without any extra costs (including some museums and two towers).
The card costs 10.50€, and if you have accommodation in San Marino, you can get it for 7.50€. I bought it at one of the participant museums and I think it was worth it (until I lost the card, but that is a different story).
Currency: Though San Marino is not part of the European Union, it does have the €.
ONE DAY IN SAN MARINO – BEST THINGS TO DO AND SEE
Okay, here are my tips on how to spend a day in San Marino.
Tower 1, 2, and 3: Rocca Guaita, Torre Cesta, and Montale
The best thing to do in San Marino is to head to the two towers (the third tower is not accessible to the public).
Rocca Guaita and Torre Cesta are two fortress towers that you can visit and they are situated on a ridge at the summit of Mount Titano.
To get to the towers, you have to hike a bit. Getting up to the first tower – Rocca Guaita – takes probably only 15-30 minutes, and though it is uphill, it is not too challenging and does not include many stairs.
Even if you don’t enjoy hiking up, the views are worth it. You can access most (maybe even all) parts of Rocca Guaita, which is also the oldest and biggest of the three fortresses.
Rocca Guaita dates back to the 11th century. From there, you have amazing views of the second tower and also of San Marino´s beautiful scenery.
It was used as a prison as recently as 1975, but I did not even realize that at the time of my visit.
From there, head to the second tower.
Torre Cesta is the second fortress and dates back to the 13th century and it now also has a traditional weaponry museum where you can see weapons from the 13th century.
Cesta Castle (in English) dates from the 13th century and sits atop Monte Titano, at 750 meters above sea level – again, great views from here.
If you want, you could head to the third tower.
Montale was built on Mount Titano around the 13th century as well. The tower is not accessible to visitors, and I stopped my hike after the second tower, but if you are in the mood for a bit more walking and hiking, you might enjoy the walk to the third tower.
Along the way, you will find some stalls and restaurants. For the towers, you will need to buy tickets, but the entrance fee is also included in the San Marino Card.
Depending on how much time you want to spend there, I would suggest planning for 90-240 minutes.
After that, it is time to explore the old town and more San Marino sights and attractions.
Public Palace / Palazzo Pubblico
The town hall of San Marino and its official governmental building, Palazzo Pubblico, is located at Piazza della Liberta, and is the eye-catcher of the square with its Gothic style and ornate facade.
It is here where the main government events and ceremonies take place. If there is no event taking place you can visit it (and it is free with your San Marino Card) and learn about San Marino´s history (a short video is shown).
It is probably one of the most remarkable buildings in the country, and when you are looking at it from the outside, pay attention to the square clock tower that tops the building and features battlements that echo Palazzo Vecchio in Florence.
Piazza della Liberta
As mentioned, the town hall is located in this piazza (which also offers some nice views), but you can also watch the changing of the guard ceremony with the Guardie di Rocca.
I did not get to see it during the time of my visit, but the Guardies wear green uniforms and red pompom hats, and the changing of the guard takes place every hour during the day in the summer months.
Museo di Stato
For the history fans, I recommend visiting Museo di Stato, which you will find inside the Palazzo Pergami Belluzzi.
San Marino has quite a few museums and one of them is – without any extra costs if you have the San Marino Card – the Museo di Stato.
It is very small, and if you don’t look at each piece for a minute or so, you will finish in 20-90 minutes.
Basilica di San Marino
The Basilica di San Marino is a beautiful religious site, also located in the old town.
It was built in the 19th century upon the remains of a Roman church that originally stood in the fourth century and it has a beautiful but quite simple interior and houses the bones of the patron saint of San Marino, Saint Marinus.
Other than the above-mentioned activities, I just recommend strolling the cute streets of the old town.
Often, I just aimlessly walk around (if I am not in a rush), and with one day in San Marino, you should have enough time to do so yourself. You might stumble upon Cava dei Balestrieri or other cute places, but the highlights of San Marino have already been mentioned above.
So, while I had a nice time in San Marino, I do believe that one day in this small country is surely enough. If the weather had been better, my opinion might have been different (with chances to enjoy more cafes outdoors and enjoy San Marino as a whole in a different way), but regardless of the weather, a day in San Marino will allow you to see the most beautiful places it has to offer!