Last year, while i was planning my summer trip to Europe – mainly to Italy (since i scored a great round trip flight deal under ₹30K), i started getting a bit worried because Southern Italy temperatures look horridly unappealing – nearing 40 degrees Celcius. As i began to modify my plan and looked northward to Austria and Germany, to escape from the heat to the Alps, i noticed something strange on the Italy map… it seemed to have a ‘hole’ somewhere around the north east, near Bologna / east of Florence.
Lo and behold, it turned out to be San Marino – a secret country i had never heard of before – ever!
What i liked about the topography of this new prospect was the fact that it had great weather since it was situated slightly higher than the parts of Italy that surrounded it on all sides. I had never seen a country landlocked by just one other country before. I had hit my wow moment and grew more and more curious about this enchanting place.
After some quick research on WikiTravel, i figured out that the best way to reach San Marino was from Rimini, a coastal city on the east of Italy which could be accessed by train from Bologna (another enchanting city i fell in love with).
After spending just one night in Bologna, i took the train to Rimini which took about an hour and from here, a bus service runs every hour to San Marino and takes just over half hour to reach and costs just 10 Euros for a return trip (or € 5 for a single journey)!
Bus tickets to San Marino from Rimini
🛂 Visa & Entry Formalities
Open to all with a valid Schengen visa, entry into San Marino is a breeze with no extra documentation required.
But for the sake of an extra awesome stamp, i went and got my passport stamped at the tourist center as soon as i entered the country – it sure makes for a great memento for just 5 Euros!
San Marino passport stamp
🚶 Getting Around
Most of this tiny country is very accessible on foot – in fact it has been designed to be pedestrian friendly and multi-level elevators allow people with challenges to get around easily as well. If you have the time and the inclination, this is the BEST way to explore San Marino.
San Marino’s borders are visually marked by its 3 towers – Torre 1, 2 & 3. The hiking trails are great fun for anyone who loves walking and hiking, but accessing the towers themselves is ticketed and well worth it. Please remember that even the most expensive Purple card allows you to enter each tower only once, so don’t leave anything for a second visit. You could cover all 3 towers on foot, in half a day or a full day depending on your fitness level and interest level. Or perhaps you could split it into two days as well, like i did.
For kids and families, the Tourist Toy Train is a great option to recce and get familiarized with the region in a fun way!
There is no other public transport to get around (there are a few buses of course, but frequency is very limited making it restrictive) – so unless you have a self-drive vehicle or a rented bike, walking is your best bet. Even taxis are not easily available, given the winding terrain of the land.
🏨 Where To Stay
Hostels – There are no hostels in the heart of San Marino – only one at the foothill ‘Hostel San Marino’ (starts from € 20 per night), where i stayed in and liked – but i decided to stay in the heart of the main city for the next night, and i’d highly encourage doing the same.
The extra money is well worth it because you’ll save a ton of time and even high-end hotels are under 100 Euros, if you book in advance!
Mid-Range Hotels – I stayed at the La Rocca (starts € 45 per night) because i found a great deal paying under 50 Euros for a night, inclusive of breakfast.
Luxury / Premium – If you’re looking for some indulgence and extra comfort, check out an array of excellent options with unbeatable pricing in the city center such as Grand Hotel San Marino(starts € 70 per night) or Hotel Rosa San Marino(starts € 60 per night)
🍲 Food & Drink
San Marino is a paradise for foodies, and surprisingly an inexpensive one when you compare the prices to the excellent quality of food available in this hilly nation. Most dining options here come with a spectacular view of the valley, making it all the more memorable and enjoyable to savour San Marino’s offerings as a multi-sensory experience!
Where To Eat (or, where I ate and loved it!)
A delightful library + cafe + restaurant with an outdoor patio.
Try their sparkling wine with a cheese board. Pure sinful delight, with a gorgeous view thrown in!
Ristorante Il Beccafico (at La Rocca Hotel)
I wouldn’t have discovered this cozy restaurant if i wasn’t staying at the same hotel.
Besides a lovely view of the valley, their breakfast is a fabulous spread of local delicacies and they also serve up some great coffee!
All in all, San Marino stole my heart and i’ve already added it to my MUST RE-VISIT destinations list, especially for a snow experience in the winters!
Let me know if you need any help in including San Marino for your next Europe trip. I’d highly recommend you combine it with an Italy plan! Leave me a comment or question and i’d be happy to answer and help you in every way i can.
Leading an experimental life as a digital nomad, I started traveling in 2007 while choosing to shuttle between Goa and Mumbai as 'home'. An epic life-changing trip to South America an year later gave birth to this blog, Exotic Gringo.