I was pleased to be asked to write a couple of pages for When To Go recently, and this first one is all about the delightful little Republic of San Marino.
When to go to San Marino? San Marino, Europe’s third smallest country after the Vatican City and Monaco, has that rarest of things in European history: an ancient but benign lineage. It has carefully maintained neutrality at times, at other times risked its precious 1700 years of independence to shelter the oppressed, from Jews during the Second World War to those opposing Italian unification. Today San Marino lives on, a prosperous and edenic dot on the map, surrounded by the clamour and glamour of Italy.
When to go to San Marino
This all depends on whether you want glorious summer scenery or romantic snow-covered mountains. San Marino has no airport and no railway station, so despite its lack of border controls, a certain amount of restriction on access is provided by the fact that you must enter by road.
Picturesque as it is in winter, the ice which sometimes appears on the narrow, steep and winding roads can be treacherous. Nowhere in San Marino is flat, so the hilly terrain is probably best viewed in the summer months from a logistical, if not an aesthetic, viewpoint.
When to go to San Marino: Culture
The capital, also called San Marino, packs a bewitching variety of museums into its tiny confines, including the a wax museum, the Museum of Ancient Arms, located in the ancient second tower of San Marino, the Museum of Curious Objects and the Museum of the Vampire. The latter does not limit itself strictly to blood-suckers, exploring monsters from werewolves to war criminals in a small but eerie space. It’s quite a relief to come blinking out into the sunshine afterwards. These can be enjoyed year-round, albeit with more generous opening times in high season, as can San Marino’s four attractive theatres.
When to go to San Marino: Festivals
For the smallest republic on earth, San Marino hosts an extraordinary diversity of significant events, many of them centred around its beloved soccer. In comparison to the hectic “agosto” summer vacation vibe in neighbouring Rimini, even the high season is manageable in San Marino. It’s worth checking out the relatively new July tradition of the medieval days, when for just under a week, everyone in San Marino colludes in travelling back in time, from their dress to their rituals and routine. September 3 marks the Feast of San Marino and the Republic, a celebration of the foundation of the republic in the year 301.
When to go to San Marino: Shopping
Year round, San Marino benefits from a 20% sales tax break in comparison to the country that surrounds it. There are also, however, some seasonal retail highlights, The Marvels of Christmas runs right from December 1 until the end of the 12 days of Christmas, and boasts beautiful lighting, local Christmas crafts, and fun activities for kids. Running from March to December, there is also Il Mercatale in Borgo Maggiore, which is primarily a showcase for antiques.
When to go to San Marino: Nature
Faetano lake in San Marino offers good fishing pretty much year round. San Marino’s disproportionately large amount of weapons shops bears witness to the thriving game and hunting industry. The season runs from September to February but a permit is required and the activity is strictly regulated. Hiking and walking through the lovely mountain routes, you may spot rabbits, hedgehogs and other small mammals.
When to go to San Marino: More Info
When To Go always recommends looking at other resources for more information. You can visit the San Marino Tourism Board for additional insights on your travels to San Marino. Just remember: the Sammarinese have every reason to be proud and protective of their nationhood, so do avoid the faux pas of calling them Italian.
Travel Correspondent: Dr. Emma French, affectionately known as Phileas French, is a travel correspondent for WhenToGo. She is a freelance travel writer with articles for Got Saga, In the Know Traveler, The Travel Belles, Travel Culture Magazine, The Lost Girls, The Adventure Travel Shop and the Bangladesh Web Guide.