Photo: ALEX_UGALEK/Shutterstock

A Persecuted Saint Founded This Tiny European Country 17 Centuries Ago

San Marino Insider Guides
by Morgane Croissant Jul 6, 2023

Dominated by a 2,425-foot-tall mountain, Mount Titano, San Marino is the third-smallest county in Europe and the fifth-smallest in the world. The 1700-year-old landlocked enclave surrounded by Italy used to be the least-visited country in Europe, but today, its uniqueness, beautiful architecture, UNESCO-listed attributes, and peaceful countryside a stone’s throw away from the glittering waters of the Adriatic Sea attract visitors from all over the world.

Where is San Marino?

San Marino is a small landlocked nation surrounded by north-central Italy. It is 80 miles southeast from the city of Bologna and only 13 miles from the costal city of Rimini.

For a detailed map of the capital city, download this PDF that highlights all the must-see attractions.

How to get to San Marino?

San Marino cable car

Photo: npp_studio/Shutterstock

There are no airports or train stations in San Marino. The closest international airport is Federico Fellini International Airport in Rimini. The closest train stations are:

  • Rimini railway station
  • Cattolica-Gabicce railway station
  • Misano railway station
  • Riccione railway station

From the train stations above, you can catch a bus (Bonelli Bus) to the small country.

If you have wheels, you can drive to San Marino. There is a parking lot (P11) where you can leave your car and take the cable car to the center of the old city from there.

Is San Marino considered part of Italy or is it its own country?

San Marino is not part of Italy, it is its own independent country and its citizens have their own passport. It is said that the Republic of San Marino dates back from 301 when Saint Marinus and a group of Christians settled there to flee religious persecution from the Roman Empire.

Is San Marino the oldest country in the world?

The nation claims that it is the oldest surviving republic in the world, but it is not the oldest country in the world. According to a 2023 report by USA Today, the oldest country in the world is either Iran or Japan, depending on the criteria used to determine the age of a nation.

When was San Marino founded?

It is believed that the country was founded 17 centuries ago, more specifically in the year 301.

Is San Marino in the EU?

San Marino is not a member country of the European Union.

Do I need a visa to visit San Marino?

Travelers to the tiny nation do not need a special visa to enter (there is no border control upon entering the country), but they do need to be in possession of a valid passport during the length of their stay.

Depending on how long you want to spend in the country, you may need to register and/or obtain a special permit. If you are planning to stay more than three days in the country, you need to register with the Gendarmerie within 24 hours of arrival. If you are spending between 10 and 30 days in the country, you need to obtain a tourist permit. If you are staying more than 30 days, you need to obtain a stay permit.

What is the capital of San Marino?

The capital city of the tiny nation is also called San Marino.

How big is San Marino?

View of San Marino

Photo: ALEX_UGALEK/Shutterstock

The country is 23.6 square miles. It is the third-smallest country in Europe behind the Vatican and Monaco. It’s the fifth-smallest country in the world.

How many people live in San Marino?

There are around 33,900 people living in the country. While in the recent past the country was often believed to be the least-visited nation in Europe, the BBC reports that more than 3 millions tourists visit the country every year.

What language do people speak in San Marino?

The official language of San Marino is Italian, but many also speak the Sammarinese dialect of Romagnol.

What currency is used in San Marino?

Despite the fact that it is not part of the European Union or the euro area, the nation uses the euro since 2002. The San Marino euros are sought after by collectors. Before the adoption of the euro, the country used the Sammarinese lira.

What is the flag of San Marino?

San Marino flag

Photo: canbedone/Shutterstock

The flag of the landlocked enclave consists of two equal-size horizontal bands: one while and one blue. In the very center of the flag is the country’s coat of arms dating back to 1862. The coat of arms features the three towers/fortresses that stand on Mount Titano and which are part of the fortifications of the capital. The crown at the top of the coat of arms is not a symbol of monarchy, but rather a symbol of self-sovereignty.

What to do in San Marino

Besides walking the streets of the old town of the capital city, visitors to the tiny nation would be remiss not to visit all three of the famous fortresses (Guaita, Cesta, and Montale) that sit on top of Mount Titano’s peaks — if only for the views they provide. (both the old town and Mount Titano are listed as cultural heritage sites by the UNESCO.) The fortresses, sometimes referred to as towers, are linked by a relatively easy walking path. But the capital city is not all there is to see — the country consists of nine provinces or castelli, all of which are worthy of your time. Wander around the small towns of this very small country, visit centuries-old churches, admire the architecture, and take a hike on the numerous and peaceful walking trails that snake all around the nation. Don’t forget to get yourself some of the country’s special euros coins and ride the cable car from and to the capital city.

The best places to stay in San Marino

We hope you love the spaces and stays we recommend! Just so you know, Matador may collect a small commission from the links on this page if you decide to book a stay.

Hotel Cesare

Photo: Expedia
Photo: Expedia
Photo: Expedia

See more photos

The Hotel Cesare is a four-star property located in the center of the San Marino’s old town — the perfect base to explore the capital of this small European nation. The 28 comfortable rooms are simply decorated and the bathroom are colorful in a fun and retro kind of way. Request a room with a mountain view and/or a balcony for the full Sammarinese experience. There is a restaurant serving Italian fare on site, and there is free WiFi.

Book Now

Hotel San Marino iDesign

Photo: Expedia
Photo: Expedia
Photo: Expedia

See more photos

Located in the town of Murata, south of the capital city (around three miles away), the Hotel San Marino iDesign is modern, in contrast to just about every other building in the country. Inside, the 27 rooms are decorated with a sleek and minimalist approach while the common areas are a mix of style, art, and decorative objects. There is a convenience store and a café on site, but no restaurant or bar. The rooftop terrace is a great place to relax on a sun lounger and take in the beautiful views which extend all the way to the Adriatic Sea. There is free WiFi, free breakfast, and the possibility of renting bikes.

Book Now

Grand Hotel San Marino

Photo: Expedia
Photo: Expedia
Photo: Expedia

See more photos

The Grand Hotel San Marino is a four-star property of 62 rooms and a garden located in the UNESCO-listed historical center of the capital city. There are two restaurants and a bar on site, as well as a full-service spa. There is a health club offering yoga classes and an outdoor tennis court.

Book Now

Discover Matador