0522 The Coolest Mini-country in the World (San Marino 001—new)

San Marino Travel Blog

 › entry 147 of 201 › view all entries

Backtrack a day…

 

On my second day in Rimini, I got up early and hurried out to grab a bus to the Nation of San Marino.  I’m particularly excited about my 69th country because this country is so small that I could literally explore and parkbench every town in the nation in a day or two.  It’ll be fun to finally be able to “finish” a country after all these European countries that I feel I’ve just barely gotten started on…

 

As we approach the border, I suddenly realize why San Marino is an independent country:   It’s perched on top of a mountain, defended by vertical cliffs and beyond the reach of arrows or cannons.    So before the days of airplanes and modern artillery, this place was practically unconquerable…

 

So during the previous centuries while one by one Senigalia, Fano, Roviano, Pesaro and all these other castles finally were conquered by the Pope’s army, tiny San Marino remained free… It’s a beautiful and inspiring sight… and makes you really appreciate the role geography can play in a nation’s history…

 

We cross into the nation.

  Even though the nation is smaller than an average metropolis, and only has a population of some 25,000 it actually has a number of separate towns--  the capital being San Marino, right on the top of the cliff. 

 

The first town doesn’t look all that interesting--  just a very modern commercial strip… some sort of Duty Free Zone.  But soon we start winding up the hillside, that gets steeper and steeper and then turns into sheer cliffs as we approach the capital.  We pass up a lot of cyclist who seem to enjoy the challenge of biking all the way to the top

I’m half tempted to get off the bus and hike from the border to the mountaintop, but figure it’ll make more sense to start at the capital and work my way down. 

 

San Marino City is absolutely magical.

  It’s the only capital in the world I think that preserves that old fortress feel--  as the town really can’t expand much due to the cliffs around it.  You have castles within castles with stairways and steep alleys that climb up towards the highest peak of the mountain. 

 

No only a couple of streets here and no traffic lights.  There is a pedestrian crossing with a full time policemen there in a bright yellow uniform telling you when to cross with grand sweeping gestures.

 

Might seem a bit unnecessary, but then again with a population of only 25,000, you’ve gotta take special care of your pedestrians! 

 

I continue up through the gateway to where I reach the top of a wall with a stunning view of the valley far far below…

 

And then on to San Marino’s stately but unpretentious capitol building, where I take another clip.

 

The town does have a bit of a tourist trappy feel--  but I’m not going to let that bother me… I can blame people for wanting come visit this place… A lot of little shops catering to “foreigners”, for example, you see a lot of air gun, knife and weapon shops--  I don’t know if these are illegal in Italy or something, but it seems like San Marino is the place to go if you want to by a sword or an air gun…

 

Finally I reach the top, to the first of the three old castles built on solid rock, at the very top of the cliff.  I pause for a bit, fantasizing of what it must have been like centuries ago to defend this fortress, with armies trying in vain to scale the cliff conquer your proud homeland…

 

Here I take one of my favourite photos and videoclips to date--  me with the guitar, with cliffs and castle in the background and a panoramic view of the valley far, far below…

 

I continue on to the second castle, and along the narrow ridge to the third--  which is little more than a tower… Then I head on back…

It looks like there’s a footpath down the cliff so I go to check it out.

  It takes me through a slit between two huge rocks and to the bottom of a cliff popular with rock climbers… But I can’t go any further down, so I climb back up to the top ridge.

 

I wander around San Marino a little bit more and then head on along the main road down the mountain.  San Marino has shot its way to the top as my favourite “mini country”--  possibly even edging out Singapore…

Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!