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The very notion of a little independent principality sitting on top of a mountain surrounded by Italy is irresistible, so it’s hard to be in the area and not take a look. And its history as the oldest republic in Europe, founded in 301 AD makes it even more remarkable. The splendid views from the two castles that crown the ends of the long mountaintop are worth the trip. A bit of pomp and circumstance is added each hour (on the half hour) as the guard in their colorful uniforms changes in front of the Palazzo Pubblico. Tour this center of government on a combined ticket with the National Museum. Its collections range from local Neolithic ...

The very notion of a little independent principality sitting on top of a mountain surrounded by Italy is irresistible, so it’s hard to be in the area and not take a look. And its history as the oldest republic in Europe, founded in 301 AD makes it even more remarkable. The splendid views from the two castles that crown the ends of the long mountaintop are worth the trip. A bit of pomp and circumstance is added each hour (on the half hour) as the guard in their colorful uniforms changes in front of the Palazzo Pubblico. Tour this center of government on a combined ticket with the National Museum. Its collections range from local Neolithic artifacts and later archaeological finds to paintings, sculpture, Egyptian antiquities and Byzantine icons. Market day in San Marino is Thursday morning. Follow the paved walk along the top of the ridge, past kiosks selling food and souvenirs, from the earliest castle, Rocca Guaita, built in 1253, to Rocca Cesta. Crowning the highest point, this castle houses a museum of armaments. Close by is the hilltop village of Verucchio, whose 12th-century Rocca Malatestiana, the castle of the Malatesta family, provides views of an entire line of other hilltop castles, and to the Adriatic Sea.

Barbara Rogers
About the Expert

Barbara Radcliffe Rogers has written or coauthored more than 30 guidebooks, including The Portugal Traveler, Drive Around Portugal, City Spots Munich, City Spots Helsinki, City Spots Stockholm, Eating New England, and the Maine section of Thomas Cook's Independent Traveller USA.

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Barbara Rogers for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

  • Location: San Marino is 6.2 miles Southwest of Rimini, Italy.
  • Language: Italian, Emiliano-Romagnolo
  • Currency: Euro
  • Research: Wikipedia | Wikitravel
  • Weather: Rainfall