The Republic of San Marino

Trip Start Apr 27, 2011
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Trip End Aug 09, 2011


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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Justin and I decided to do a bit more traveling throughout Italy before it was time for me to leave, so on Wednesday we went to San Marino.  It is its own separate country but is an enclave surrounded by Italy on the eastern side of the Apennines Mountains.  San Marino is the oldest sovereign state and constitutional republic in the world and the constitution of San Marino is the world's oldest constitution still in effect (enacted in 1600).  One last piece of interesting history before I continue: It's the third smallest country in the world, with the Vatican City and Monaco being smaller.

Wednesday morning, bright and early, Justin and I woke up and took the train to Rimini.  There is no train to reach San Marino, mainly because of its rugged terrain and mountainous location (some history: a single narrow-gage line had been built connecting Rimini to the country of San Marino utilizing many tunnels and bridges in the process, however shortly after opening it was almost completely destroyed during WWII.  It's interesting because one can still see the bridges, tunnels, and stations today but some have been converted into parks, public footpaths, or traffic routes.)  We arrived to Rimini shortly after 9am and then took a bus which drove us up to San Marino.  (A little side-note: even though we didn't have time to do exploring in Rimini after returning from San Marino, I did see the Arch of Augustus, built in 27 B.C. and the old Roman walls that used to surround the city!)  The trip up reminded me a bit of my trip up to Mount Grappa last summer- in that, we sped around and around and around the mountain range and if you dared to look outside your window, you could see an amazing view.. at a height of 2,500 feet!  (good grief!!!)  We arrived into the country an hour later and Justin and I set forth exploring. 

San Marino has three towers so we decided to make our way towards the First Tower, or Guaita.  This tower was formally a watch post and shelter of the early inhabitants of Mount Titano and has two circles of defensive walls.  Some portions of the tower date back to the 10th-11th centuries and is one of the most ancient fortifications in Italy.  This tower was created straight out of the stone surface provided by nature and if one dares to look over the edge, it is a straight drop down the mountain.  Justin and I decided to pay a few Euros so we could look within the walls of Towers one and two (we would have done the third one also but I'll explain why we didn't later!) and we were given a lot of freedom, roaming throughout the inner fortress.  We could climb up the stairs, down the stairs, inside the watchrooms, even up to the tippy top of the tower.  After looking up at the not so safe staircase though (and the fact that I am terrified of heights), Justin and I opted out of that view.  Because we were so high up, we really got spectacular views of the landscape in the distance- I will include photos but they really don't do any justice to what I saw.

After we saw the First Tower, Justin and I made our way to the Second Tower, or Cesta.  This tower was erected on the highest point of Mount Titano, 755 meters above sea level, and is situated halfway along an absolutely spectacular view of the area.  The Second Tower was used as an observation post from the mid 13th century.  Also, it includes the Museum of Ancient Arms with hundreds (700 in fact) of weapons and ancient armour is on display.  Justin was like a kid in a candy store for our trip to San Marino- he was living out his childhood Lego fantasy and since I had lived out my princess fantasy in Verona the previous week, the least I could do was let him have his fun!  It actually was quite interesting though, although I'm pretty sure Justin understood what we were looking at better than I (and he was more brave looking over the edge than me- hence, I gave him my camera for photo opportunities).  On our way to the second tower, we stopped for lunch at a really great cafe.  We really lucked out and were able to sit outside and look out at the great views we had been admiring all morning!  After enjoying a scrumptious lunch (I had a piadini with cheese, ham, lettuce, and mushroom sauce), we continued to hike towards the second tower.  We basically did the same thing we did in Tower 1: climb up, down, and around with me clinging onto the wall for dear life while Justin almost sacrificed his life-on several occasions- for the sake of good photography (okay, so maybe I'm exaggerating a little concerning his death-defying stunts, but I couldn't believe how he could walk around the edges the way he did!)  When we reached the museum inside the second Tower, I settled down on a ledge near a window while Justin- armed with a camera in his hand- practically drooled over all of the dangerous weapons on display.  It was interesting to see their little section of weapons sold as "ancient" but were really from the 1980's.. I was trying to find the same little clues the experts found which led them to debunk those items.  (A game to entertain myself while Justin was admiring old things..  Although I failed miserably!)  We attempted to climb to the top of this tower (since tower #1 didn't work out) and made it a tad further.. the creaky wooden floors freaked me out enough so that I didn't continue on.  I shouted encouraging words to Justin as he attempted to continue on and he briefly made it before descending back to safety.  He told me the tower had "holes" in it that were large enough to stick your foot through if you weren't careful (mama mia)! 

After this, we trucked on to see the Third Tower, or Montale which was built in the 14th century.  We went through a lot of forestry in order to get to this tower that you practically needed a machete to get through the brush with (okay, maybe exaggerating a bit here too.  There was a pathwalk..)  So when Justin and I finally made it up to this third tower, we were anxious to see what was inside of it- this one was different from the first two in that it was an actual tower with no fortress surrounding it.  We walked around the tower to try and find the door.. but to our dismay we couldn't find one!  On one side of the tower there were some iron rungs 20 feet up and that is where we spotted a small door.  The question was, how on earth did people get up that tower?  Justin's theory was that as an extra precautionary measure against enemies, they didn't put the door in an easily accessible spot and that there might have been a wooden ladder that was propped on the side of the wall as a way to get up and down.  Regardless, it was obvious that no one had been here lately because there was a tree growing out one of the small windows on the tower. 

A bit exhausted from all of the hiking we had been doing, Justin and I went back down to the centre and grabbed some gelato (of course) while resting in the shade.  We had noticed a museum on the way in and wanted to see what it was about.  We ended up paying a few euros for entry and toured.. that's right.  A torture museum.  My goodness.  People were just terrible back then (and some of the devices are still in use today...)  As painful as it was to read about, it was rather interesting to learn about what was used for whom, and why such people "deserved" to be treated this badly.  Every few moments as Justin and I went through the museum, reading the plaques and looking at the equipment, we would voice our disgust with "ewww" or "ugh!" or "is that what I think it is?"  I'll spare the details but just let your imagination wander about the kinds of instruments we saw and just know that it was 10x worse than what you'd expect.

Shortly afterwards, we decided to go back home.  It had been a long day and we were both very tired from all of the traveling we had been doing.  Plus, we had to rest up because the next day (Thursday) we would be going to Venice!

Before I end my post, I wanted to mention a few more things about San Marino.  It was a great place to visit; the people there were very friendly and while there were tourists, it was definitely not crowded.  If you ever go to Italy and are looking for a new, refreshing place to go, I would suggest San Marino in a heartbeat!
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