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Nestled in Italy several kilometres off the Adriatic Coast, San Marino owes much of its modern tourism industry to the distinctive capital (bearing the same name), which rises proudly above the Italian landscape atop Mount Titano. The city is vertically built, making for some tough walking, but is well worth it: stunning vistas of the Adriatic Sea, or the Po river valley are only half the attraction. Within the city itself, a medieval castle and three fortresses make this a one-of-a-kind sort of place.
While it is the world's second smallest republic, San Marino is a proud nation, with a distinctive identity. Named after the saint who is said to have first settled the area, the Sammarinese remain devoutly religious. Holy days fill up the calendar. A less religious, yet wholly entertaining festival is the Medieval Days with Antique Crossbow Competition, which acts as an enjoyable reinforcement of the city's medieval image.
According to tradition, Saint Marinus left the island of Rab in Croatia with his lifelong friend, Leo, and went to the city of Rimini as a mason. After the Diocletianic Persecution following his Christian sermons, he escaped to the nearby Monte Titano, where he built a small church and thus founded what is now the city and the state of San Marino. The official date of foundation of the Republic is 3 September 301.
The advance of Napoleon's army in 1797 presented a brief threat to the independence of San Marino, but the country was spared its liberty thanks to one of its Regents, Antonio Onofri, who managed to gain the respect and friendship of Napoleon.
During the later phase of the Italian unification process in the nineteenth century, San Marino served as a refuge for numerous persons who were persecuted because of their support for the unification. In memory of this support, Giuseppe Garibaldi accepted the wish of San Marino not to be incorporated into the new Italian state.
In World War I, as Italy declared war on Austria-Hungary on 23 May 1915, San Marino remained neutral and Italy adopted a hostile view of Sammarinese neutrality, suspecting that San Marino could harbor Austrian spies who could be given access to its new radiotelegraph station. From 1923 to 1943, San Marino was under the rule of the Sammarinese Fascist Party (PFS). During World War II San Marino remained neutral. Despite that, on 26 June 1944 it was bombed by the RAF, which mistakenly believed that the country had been overrun by German forces and was being used to amass stores and ammunition.
San Marino also had the world's first democratically-elected communist government, which held office between 1945 and 1957 and again between 2006 and 2008.
San Marino became a member of the Council of Europe in 1988 and of the United Nations in 1992. It is not a member of the European Union.
San Marino is completely surrounded by Italy and is a very small country. It is relatively hilly. San Marino is located on the border between the regions of Emilia Romagna and Marche and about 10 kilometres from the Adriatic coast at Rimini. Its topography is dominated by the Apennine mountain range, and it has a rugged terrain. The highest point in the country, the summit of Monte Titano, is situated at 749 metres above sea level. There are no bodies of water of any significant size. San Marino is the third smallest country in Europe, with only Vatican City and Monaco being smaller. San Marino has no natural level ground; it is entirely composed of hilly terrain.
San Marino is divided into nine municipalities, known locally as Castelli (singular: castello), literally castles.
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Built on the three peaks of Monte Titano, which is the tallest mountain in the republic, the Three Towers of San Marino are stunning hanging off the tops of these peaks. The towers were originally built as look out towers in order to protect the republic. Guaita is the oldest tower on the three peaks and overlooks the city. This tower was originally built in the 11th century and was briefly a prison at one time. Cresta is the highest of the three towers and museum to honour Saint Marinus is located in the tower. This tower was constructed in the 13th century. Montale is the smallest of the three towers and was constructed in the 14th century. Montale is not currently open to the public.
The Palazzo Pubblico (Public Palace) is the city hall for the City of San Marino. This fortress like building is the site of all public ceremonies and seat of the Republic's main institutional and administrative bodies. After hundreds of years of abuse the building under went a massive restoration process recently.
With many mountains and some nice green space San Marino has some great hiking. Explore the mountains around the area or go on an urban adventure.
Held in the months of April and September every year, the interesting Investiture of the new Captains Regent is held outside Government Palace. It celebrates the installation of the Heads of State, and follows a very strict but intriguing protocol. Tourists who are visiting San Marino on the first of September or April should visit Piazza della Liberta for this celebration.
Even though the event is held in the nearby track at Misano in Italy, the San Marino World Motorcycle Championship is still part of the republic’s calendar. The race is held in the month of June, and thousands of visitors flock to the republic to witness it.
The Adriatic Music Festival is held in the month of July, welcoming thousands of tourists and musicians from across the globe. Many of the performances throughout the several-day event take place in the public squares and pedestrian streets of San Marino City. Tourists are advised to book accommodation before arriving into San Marino for the event. Some tourists actually stay in the nearby towns of Italy, such as Rimini.
If tourists are interested in medieval history, then traveling to San Marino during the summer month of July is recommended. During this month, the Medieval Days festival is held. The local citizens, especially shop owners in the historic old town, dress up in medieval costume, and many ancient events take place. The most popular is the crossbow competition held in the main square.
San Marino’s Mt Titano becomes the center of world ethnological culture through the San Marino Ethnological Festival. Since the year 1988, a long list of people from diverse cultures have traveled to San Marino to take part in this festival, including Amazon Jungle performances and even local Thai performances. The event occurs across a complete week in mid-July.
The beauty of jazz music is on display for tourists and locals at the San Marino Jazz Festival. Held over three days in July, this majestic festival lures in many world-famous jazz artists and jazz bands. The festival is actually held in the city of Borgo Maggiore, but tourists can literally stay anywhere in the republic and reach the festival in no time at all.
On September 3 each year, the republic celebrates the founding of the San Marino Republic hundreds of years ago. There are plenty of activities to experience and witness on this day, including crossbow events, flag waving competitions, and a beautiful concert by the military. Of course, the fireworks display is simply outstanding, luring the attention of locals and visitors alike.
The Marvels of Christmas is one of the most important events on the local calendar. The market/fair is operated over the course of a few weeks, from December 1 to January 6. Inside the Marvels of Christmas, dozens of tables and stalls are set up to sell local food, and handicrafts.
The climate in San Marino is comparable to the area in the central northern parts of Italy, with warm summers and relatively mild winters, though occasionally frost is possible. Also, summers nights are colder compared to the coastline. Summers are dry, while most of the precipitation falls during the months of November to March. Expect temperatures between 25 °C and 30 °C in summer, around 10º C or slightly less in winter.
There is no airport in San Marino. The nearest airport is Federico Fellini International Airport (RMI) in Rimini, Italy, located 16 km away. Bus services connect the airport to San Marino. Air Berlin has flights from Amsterdam and Berlin. Ryanair has connections to East Midlands, London and Stockholm.
There is also an international heliport located in Borgo Maggiore.
A train station, tunnel and train line were built in the 1930s to link the city with Rimini but it was closed after the war and never reopened. There have been some proposals to reopen the line but it never seems to happen.
Crossing from Italy is fast and straightforward and there are no border controls. Just have your papers in order in case you need to show driving permit or insurance for the car.
You can enter San Marino from Italy without any hassle and there isn't even a border control. Once you are in San Marino, it is best to park your car in Borgo Maggiore at the foot of the moutain and take the cable railway up the moutain to San Marino town itself. If you really want you can travel to the city by car as well but you have to leave your car outside the walled city and the fee to park your car here is much higher than in Borgo Maggiore.
No buses travel around San Marino, but bus number 72 takes you here from Rimini at the Adriatic coast in Italy.
Once in the city of San Marino itself, everything can be explored easily on foot although some small roads can be steep in places.
In general, the same rules apply as for Italy. Though noticed that San Marino is not a Schengen country and a Schengen Visa is not valid here.
See also: Money Matters
San Marino has adopted the Euro (ISO code: EUR, symbol: €) as its official currency. One Euro is divided into 100 cents, which is sometimes referred to as eurocents, especially when distinguishing them with the US cents.
Euro banknotes come in denominations of €5, €10, €20, €50, €100, €200, €500. The highest three denominations are rarely used in everyday transactions. All Euro banknotes have a common design for each denomination on both sides throughout the Eurozone.
The Euro coins are 1 cent, 2 cents, 5 cents, 10 cents, 20 cents, 50 cents, €1 and €2. Some countries in the Eurozone have law which requires cash transactions to be rounded to the nearest 5 cents. All Euro coins have a common design on the denomination (value) side, while the opposite side may have a different image from one country to another. Although the image side may be different, all Euro coins remain legal tender throughout the Eurozone.
San Marino Euros are rarely used in everyday life, as they are quite valuable and generally only coin collectors have them.
The Akademio Internacia de la Sciencoj San Marino (AIS) (International Academy of Sciences San Marino) is a science institute that uses the Esperanto language.
The people in San Marino speak a very clear Italian.
English is learned at school in San Marino and Russian is spoken in many shops due to the many Russian tourists.
Obviously Italian dishes, like lasagne, spaghetti alla bolognese, gelato (Italian ice-cream) etc are popular here.
Although San Marino has a few hotels, the seaside resort of Rimini has a lot more and is probably a cheaper option.
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The local beer is very tasty. Spirits are also very commonly found, especially Limoncello, a lemon liquor.
Try the locally produced wine. The coffee, like in its Italian neighbour, is superb.
See also: Travel Health
There are no vaccinations legally required to travel to San Marino.
See also: Travel Safety
San Marino is a safe country. Like in any other place that attracts many tourists, you should watch out for pickpockets.
See also: International Telephone Calls
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