Oh my, oh my! San Marino is our 105th country to visit, and it truly is a fortress town and a hilly town. The views are beyond compare. It reminds us of watching a video on Yosemite a few weeks before we first visited there, and then arriving and looking up. It was such a feeling of reverence and awe, very different than seeing a film or photos. The same applies here. Pictures can give you part of the story, but being here is a whole different level of being.
We arrived by bus from Rimini, Italy (as there are no trains that travel here), only to find no taxis at the station. The man there said, “You can walk! Only 10 minutes!” In front of us was the steepest mountain we had ever seen, and it was like looking up at the Empire State Building and having someone say – “It’s easy! Just start walking up the face of the building!” It was a sheer vertical climb UP. We declined, and he helped us call a taxi, a complicated venture. The 5-minute ride cost us 20 euros, and while shocking, it was money well spent!
San Marino is completely surrounded by Italy. DON’T refer to the citizens as Italians, though – they are Sammarinese, proud of their independence from Italy. The country is the third smallest in Europe, with only Vatican City and Monaco being smaller. It is the world’s oldest republic, having been founded by a stonemason, Marinus, in 301 AD. The city’s most notable features, and the most popular, are the three towers, which are on the crest of the city. The largest, and most accessible, is the Guaita Tower, built in the 11th century. We visited there and climbed more stairs in an hour than we had in the last year! The city is built for defense, with guard towers overlooking the city. This is reflected in the shops on the medieval streets (which twist and wind – up, up, up only, it seems), as there are quite a number that sell weapons. See the photos below – in the shop windows were crossbows, knives, daggers, swords, bows & arrows, handguns, and rifles. The other popular, and ubiquitous, stores are perfume and sunglasses…outnumbering even clothing stores, we think. The only cuisine is Italian, and our only dining choices are pizza, pasta, and sandwiches. No, we don’t mind that much, as it is all delicious.
The views! The stunning layout of mountains and fields is inescapable. We are at 2,457 feet, and each glance out is gasp-worthy, even after seeing it a hundred times. We spent three days here, although travel sites mention that a few hours are sufficient to see the entire city. What you miss that way, is having the streets to yourself after the day tourists leave, and being able to watch afternoon turn to dusk turn to night, watching the valley below and how it changes as the light fades. And the opposite is true in the morning, as it all “fully wakes up” before your eyes! Writing this blog, sitting on the bed with the panorama before us, is beautiful and priceless.
Of course, restaurants and hotels take full advantage of the view. The window tables fill up first, and hotel rooms with “a view” are more expensive. We don’t know how we lucked out, but we are on the top floor of our hotel, in a corner room, with four panoramic windows looking out (see the photo). We keep the drapes open all night, looking at the view before/as we drift off to sleep. Mike said, “Other people look at their Hummel collections; check out what WE look at!!” It makes us feel very fortunate to see the world as we do.