A setting of rare beauty, nine castles steeped in history, countless artistic treasures and a mediaeval atmosphere that sweeps through all the streets and alleyways of the Republic. There are also museums, monuments, squares, shops, markets, amusement parks… This is the Republic of San Marino.
The Three Towers
The Three Towers (Le Tre Torri) of the city of San Marino dominate the peak of Monte Titano, and are known as Rocca Guaita, Cesta (or Fratta) and Montale, where two castles stand: the castle of the City of San Marino and that of Borgo Maggiore. From here you can enjoy the spectacular atmosphere and panorama, and the vertiginous cliffs. You can also follow the enchanting witches’ (streghe) trail along the crest of Monte Titano, which connects the three towers.
Palazzo Pubblico, the Statue of Liberty and the changing of the guard
Palazzo Pubblico, or Government House, is the administrative centre of San Marino’s political life. The evocative changing of the guard can be watched during the summer period (from June to mid-September) every 30 minutes from 2:30 pm.
From the square in front of the Palazzo you can enjoy the view of the valley below and the Statue of Liberty, symbolic monument of the Republic.
Basilica del Santo Marino
The basilica is the principal church dedicated to the holy founder of the Republic, whose relics are preserved under the altar. To the right of the altar a silver shrine containing the top of the saint’s skull is housed in a marble monument. The basilica is easily recognisable by its atrium with eight Corinthian columns, accessed via a staircase.
The basilica is depicted on the San Marino ten eurocent coin.
City gateway of Saint Francis
Everything starts from here, regardless of what you want to do or see in San Marino. The gateway, known as the Porta di San Francesco, is in fact the city’s main entrance, and is named after the walls of the Franciscan convent, which it was built into. The current structure dates to 1581, when it was also equipped with a frontispiece and the original arch from 1361 was raised. The coats of arms of San Marino and the Feltresca Family are depicted on the back of the arch, while under the gateway a seventeenth-century stone plaque obliges foreigners to lay down their arms before entering the city, and another exhorts the guards to not open the gates “between one strike of the bell and another, if not for affairs of the state”.
San Marino State Museum and the Pinacoteca San Francesco
The San Marino State Museum houses about 5,000 pieces, the result of donations from all over the world: archaeological artefacts from the Neolithic era to the Middle Ages, but also ancient Egyptian, Etruscan and Roman finds.
You can find paintings of renowned seventeenth-century artists such as Guercino, Gerolamo Marchesi da Cotignola and Nicolò Liberatore, known as L’Alunno, in the Art Museum (Pinacoteca) annexed to the convent of the Franciscan friars.
Museum of the Emigrant
Established to salvage the memory of all those involved in this experience, the museum preserves and narrates their stories through images, documents and objects. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, San Marino was subject to a great migratory exodus. Thousands of San Marino citizens left the Republic to escape famine and misery or to seek their fortune, and undertook the difficult venture of emigrating to other countries. A diaspora that resulted in more than 13,000 San Marino citizens living far from this wall.
Opened in 1997, the idea for the museum arose from the desire to create a place of remembrance, which would enable both those living in the Republic and those living abroad to learn – without rituals or rhetoric – of the migratory events that took place, and thus collectively recognise themselves with respect to the past or the future. The collected material is divided into four main categories: objects, written sources, oral sources and iconographic sources.
Stamps and coinage
Many collectors are passionate about rare stamps and coins from San Marino. In fact, the Republic regularly issues various commemorative series of stamps, which have a considerable following among enthusiasts or those who simply collect souvenirs, constituting an important source of revenue for the State.
You can find them in gift shops. Philatelic collecting is so popular that it extends from here across the world; post offices also burn thousands of stamps in order to maintain the value of those already in circulation.
Despite the euro being in use, a limited quantity of San Marino coins are still minted. For numismatic purposes, the San Marino ECU has also been issued in gold since 1974, which is legal tender only within the national borders (1 ECU = 37.50 euro as nominal value).