My traveling partner has returned to Oregon and I’m now back home in Alba Adriatica, Italy after yet another adventure of a lifetime. Last year we did Italy, Austria, Germany, Slovakia, Hungary, Poland and Russia. This year we did Sicily, Israel, Turkey, Slovenia, Croatia, northern Italy and San Marino.
San Marino was Italian quaintness on steroids. It’s the world’s smallest republic, encompassing only 24 square miles with 32,000 residents. The republic sits on a mountaintop about an hour’s drive from Italy’s Adriatic Coast.
I had been aware of San Marino for the longest time, but had never considered it as a destination. Truthfully, one of my reasons for visiting was to have another mark on my international countries visited bedpost. Friends visiting me from Oregon this year stopped in San Marino and I finally decided to go.
With my companion, we put it on our list as our travels wound down and we approached my apartment in Alba Adriatica. After conducting some family business near Turin, we took the train to Rimini to grab a hotel room which would be cheaper than anything in San Marino. It was hot, somewhere in the nineties, and the humidity was in the mid-seventies.
The next day we woke up and grabbed a bus for San Marino. The bus was literally standing room only. We drove through small towns and undulating Italian farmland. Then, it was up-up-up a mountainside to get to the fortress that is San Marino.
I wasn’t sure what I was expecting from San Marino. While I had seen the photos my friends from Oregon took when they were here, I still needed to see it for myself.
In my mind, San Marino was more an Italian version of a trendy, upscale neighborhood–only with decidedly Italian overtones. Obviously, the language is Italian. San Marino is not part of the EU but it does use the euro as its currency due to a special agreement with the EU.
The little city-state is scrubbed clean. Graffiti is practically non-existent. Streets are immaculate and are stuffed with restaurants, coffee bars, shops and pasticcerias. There is even a (tiny) university. Government offices were very unassuming, unlike the behemoths in most nations. But then, with only 32,000 residents, smaller than many Portland suburbs, how many large offices are needed?
As is common with me, I was agog at the number and quality of restaurants. I naturally wanted to eat in each one and drink in every bar, sampling everyone’s espresso. My companion and I found a restaurant and ordered a couple of delicious sandwiches while we relaxed under the generous canopy of a treed area, away from the punishing sun.
Churches seemed to be less grand than elsewhere in Italy. Founded by a monastic community, as a republic it dates back to 301–the oldest republic in the world. Fiercely independent, it did not participate in World Wars I or II. It has been a haven for persecuted peoples and those seeking political refuge.
San Marino is one of the wealthiest nations on earth and is famous for its medieval walls surrounding the city-state. The towers of three castle-like citadels sit on the main promontories in the nation.
We only spent one day in San Marino. That’s about all one really needs. We stumbled upon live re-creations of life during medieval times. We saw sword fights and watched people perform metalworking. Women made and dyed cloth. It was actually a quaint way to experience a quaint and unique nation.
Travel is now done for a short time until more friends arrive from Salem, Oregon. At that time, I will play tour guide around Rome, Florence and my father’s hometown of Ascoli Piceno. Until then, rest is the name of the game.
I wonder if there is a way to get a commission from Italy for all the visitors I continue to bring?