Sitting at a hillside café in the Apennines for an early lunch, you’re trying to finish a plate of spaghetti alla bolognese. No matter how much Sangiovese you drink to wash it down though, you are full. You order a caffè, just to enjoy the view from the restaurant a little longer. The Adriatic Coast is in the distance. This is the Italian vacation of which you’ve always dreamed. Just one minor detail: you’re not in Italy.
San Marino is one of the smallest countries in the world. It’s also one of the oldest. And it’s completely surrounded by Italy. San Marino, the small capital of the same name, is an easy day trip–just 10 kilometers away–for those visiting the Italian beach town of Rimini. Enter the country in Dogana. Follow the Superstrada to Borgo Maggiore. And then board the aerial tram for a 1.5 kilometer ride up to San Marino and Monte Titano.
The easily walkable historic center has cobblestone streets, medieval alleyways, cute cafés, and lots of Russian tourists. Stop at the tourist office to have your passport stamped. Buy a Red Card to climb hundreds of steps up two of Monte Titano’s three peaks. You’ll be rewarded with amazing views over the green Emilia-Romagna valley. The Guaita, the oldest of the peaks, has an 11th century defense tower that overlooks the city. The Cesta, the highest peak, is home to the Museum of Ancient Arms, featuring the frightening knee-breaker, the inquisitory chair, and the guillotine. The third peak, the Montale, isn’t open to the public, but at this point, your knees are aching from the stairs anyway.
Head back to the historic center. Tour the State Museum of San Marino to see artifacts from the Early Middle Ages, as well as San Marino coins, medals, and artwork. Visit the Basilica of San Marino. Upon entering, Chiesa di San Pietro will be on the side of the front steps. It was originally built in 600. Watch the red-and-green uniformed officers at the Changing of the Guard in the Piazza della Libertà.
And then grab a seat at Ristorante Righi on the piazza. Eat yellowtail carpaccio with burrata, and roasted salt cod with rosemary cream. Drink San Marino wine. Enjoy it while you’re here–San Marino doesn’t export its vino. And complete dinner with a glass of Passito. Your day trip might just have to be extended.