San Marino, Italy - travel guide for the Independent Republic of San Marino

Photo of San Marino (Marche region)

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Visit San Marino

The 'Serene Republic of San Marino', to give San Marino its official title, is an independent republic on the northern border of the Marche region of Italy covering about 60 square kilometres and with the city of San Marino (also known as Borgomaggiore) as its capital .

Despite its small size the Serene Republic has its own army and is a separate member of the Council of Europe (the organisation that defines and protects laws, human rights etc throughout Europe).

Explore San Marino: tourism and travel guide

Although San Marino is not part of Italy we include it on Italy This Way because it will usually be visited as a trip when you are visiting the Marches region of eastern-central Italy. It is a very poular day trip with visitors to the resort at Rimini.

Basilica - cathedral

The most popular trip for visitors to San Marino is to take the cable car that leads from the capital itself to the top of the mountain that stands poised above the city and is home to the original citadel and associated buildings and has very far-reaching views across the countryside. These highlights are strung out along the ridge and include a couple of small forts and the chance to walk along the ridge following the defensive walls.

The town of Borgomaggiore itself is smaller than you might expect from a capital city - the old town, the part of interest to visitors, is barely 500 metres long and 100 metres wide. Enter through the fortified walls via the Porta San Francisco on the west side of the old town after parking to the south of the city.

Within the walls there are lots of narrow streets to amble along exploring the sights. Strolling through the city you can't miss the 19th century Basilica of Saint Marinus, and there are two other principal sites of interest in San Marino: one is a small museum with artefacts from both inside and outside the Republic, and the other is the Palazzo Pubblico.

San Marino gets quite a lot of criticism in travel guides because of the emphasis on crowds and depriving visitors of their money, but we still suggest you visit: it is really quite pleasant to explore, and has perhaps the best views to be found in the Marche region of Italy.

Cablecar ride

Attracted by the unique nature of San Marino, it is very much established on the tourist trail in this part of Italy and for much of the year receives a very great number of tourists - above all at weekends in summer.

The numerous 'attractions' laid on for your benefit include the chance to photograph San Marino soldiers, get your passport stamped, send an official San Marino postcard, visit a small museum of torture, or select from an enormous range of other tourist offerings. All options will require you to get your wallet out.

Palace in San Marino

Visiting during spring or autumn is preferable if possible to avoid the most crowded periods. Contrary to what you might imagine from some visitor guides, we actually do suggest you visit San Marino, despite the tourist tack and duty-free shops, to enjoy a stroll around the old town and in particular the walk passed the forts with its lovely views both along the ridge and out across the countryside. 

Not so sure about paying to have your passport stamped though...

Medieval fortress above San Marino

There are also various shopping centres and markets and a factory-outlet centre in the newer (lower) part of the town. The tax-free status of San Marino and absence of border controls means you might find things at better prices than elsewhere in the region

Overall San Marino provides an interesting contrast if you are staying at the beach resort at Rimini. We suggest you also visit the medieval village at nearby San Leo when you are in this region.

Where is San Marino?

San Marino is at the north of the Marches region of central-western Italy, about 20 kilometres south-west of the popular seaside resort at Rimini.

You can find more local travel ideas in the Marche guide.

See also:

Map of San Marino and places to visit

Places to visit near San Marino

San Leo

San Leo

The beautiful village of San Leo is overlooked by an ancient castle high on a rocky outpost

San Leo guide

Rimini

Rimini

Rimini is a lively and popular seaside resort on the Adriatic Sea in western Italy

Rimini guide

Cesena

Cesena

The historic centre of Cesena has kept a good number of its interesting buildings and also the famous 15th century Malatesta Library

Cesena guide

Urbino

Urbino

The medieval centre of Urbino is very well preserved and not to be missed when you are in the region

Urbino guide

Urbania

Urbania

The small town of Urbania includes the Church of the Dead with 50 mummified monks on display as a highlight!

Urbania guide

Pesaro

Pesaro

Pesaro is best known as a beach resort but also has a fascinating medieval centre and art museum

Pesaro guide