When we came back from San Francisco I promised my husband I wouldn’t book another holiday for a while. Cut to May and my aunt, who lives in South Africa, messaged me to say they were planning on coming over to Europe to go skiing and would we like to meet then in Geneva. We don’t get to see them often so of course my answer was a big fat YES! So I booked some flights and an AirBnB quicker than my husband could say EasyJet! The observant of you will notice that this post is referring to San Marino not Geneva though, so let’s just say booking those flights opened up the holiday floodgates and when I got an absolute steal of a trip arrive into my inbox from TravelZoo to Umbria, I felt like by not booking it I was almost losing money! Our flights were to Ancona so when I was looking at the map for how to get to our hotel in Umbria I noticed we were not far at all from San Marino! And in my never-ending quest to add another country to the list we decided to do it!
So once we’d picked up our little Fiat 500, we hit the road and busted it up to San Marino. I’m so lucky that my husband does all the driving when we’re abroad because I am absolutely terrified of doing it and those Italian drivers did nothing to help that!! San Marino was full of winding roads to the top but after a couple of wrong turns we finally made it, parked up and walked into the walled area of the city which is a (mostly) pedestrian only zone. We immediately knew it was going to be special when the views from the car park alone were like this:
We walked up through the twisting streets and found a beautiful town full of stunning views, pretty flowers and gorgeous old buildings.
It also lived up to its reputation of being a tax haven with masses of designer shops. In between all the clothes, perfume and watch shops were weirdly a lot of weapon shops selling everything from knives to rifles to vintage muskets! But the main reason for visiting San Marino was to see the towers it’s famous for so we wandered up the many many steps through the pretty streets before we got to the top.
On our walk up, we stopped for lunch at a little place up the hill called Hocus Pocus which served the these delicious pitta type sandwiches called piadina which is a kind of unleavened bread. I had mine with prosciutto and Squacquerone which is a creamy spreadable cheese which was SO good!
When we finally got to the top we were rewarded with views of two of the towers, and they were absolutely take your breath away amazing.
Not only from how pretty they were but how incredible they were, basically built into the mountain/cliff faces in the 13th century – how on earth did they manage it?! For anyone walking up, no matter how warm it is, it is quite breezy up there and I was so grateful we’d brought something warmer to wear up with us.
Once we’d seen the towers, we carried on having a walk around the town. We had another hour or so for a wander so spent it having a nosey round the little streets and walking down to the Tourist Information Office to get our passports stamped! As a European frequently travelling in Europe, we don’t get many opportunities for a passport stamp so thought we’d grab the chance before we continued our wander around.
It’s a pretty tiny place so after a few hours, we were ready to make our way back to the car for our onward journey to our hotel in Umbria.
San Marino was a really beautiful little place, with the key word being little. It would have been nice to have a bit more time there to perhaps have gone into one or more of the towers, and we also didn’t get chance to see the third but I think you could quite comfortably see everything with a one night, two day stay, or even two nights if you really wanted to hit the shops. There is no airport in San Marino and although we flew into Ancona there are nearer airports I believe in Rimini. There are also buses that run from there in the summer months so I don’t think you’d even need a car if you weren’t confident driving. I’d also highly recommend making sure you’ve got comfy shoes on – the paths up to the tower are very smooth so no need for crampons but it was quite steep with a few steps so heels are not a good idea! It’s important to point out too that San Marino is not just this walled town, outside of this old part is a more modern city with the usual things you’d expect to see like supermarkets and car dealerships but we didn’t do any exploring there. We also didn’t see the GP Track despite my husband’s best efforts to scout it out when we were at the top of the mountains!
I didn’t really know a lot about San Marino before we went so I’m glad we made the detour on our way to Umbria as it was worth it for the view of the towers alone. I hope this post has made you think about a stay or stopover in San Marino next time you visit Italy.