A VIEW OF THE QUARRY
When we arrive in San Marino for the first time, the first thing that will catch our attention will be the towers and the fortresses on the top of a mountain, Mt. Titano.Along the slope of this mountain is the city of San Marino. It is the highest mountain in this small country, 775 meters above sea level. On this mountain there are three peaks, and on each one of them a fortress is erected, La Guaita, De La Fratta and Montale. The Guaita Fortress or also called Rocca, and is the oldest of the three fortresses, since its construction time was on the 11thcentury. It is surrounded by a small perimeter wall with battlements and supported directly on top of a very large rock, hence its second name.
It was built basically as a guard post and refuge for the first inhabitants on Mt. Titano. According to legend, it was here that the first population of San Marino lived and is also believed, although there is no proof to verify it, that the first inhabitants date back to 301 A.D. when a group of stonemasons fleeing the persecutions of Christians by the Roman Emperor Diocletian, took refuge in the highest and most inaccessible part of the mountain which would be this Mt. Titano. One of these stonemasons was a certain master Marino, who built a small chapel in this place. Soon, other persecuted people arrived to take refuge there as well, and little by little this territory was called the Land of San Marino.
This fortress is very well preserved, and the first thing we will cross to enter will be a drawbridge, with a very ornate door. Although its interior does not have much to see, what is spectacular are the views that will leave us with our mouths opened, because when we reach the top, we will find ourselves in one of the highest points of the Republic of San Marino. From there, you can see the entire republic, characterized by the red roof of its houses, the adjacent towns and the entire valley.
If the day is clear, we can see the Apennines, the Adriatic Sea, Rimini and even Ravenna. When we are admiring all of this territory… we will understand perfectly why the famous stonemason Marino settled in this place.
SALITA ALLA ROCCA, 61
Surely after strolling through the city of San Marino, we want to have something sweet to re-energize, and the best and most typical is the Tre Monti Cake whose literal translation would be “the cake of the three mountains” or the Titano Cake. They are the quintessential sweets of the city, and totally handmade whose recipe has been the same for 70 years. The Titano Cake is a two-layer sweet made of bitter and sweet almond dough, eggs and honey, baked and filled with chocolate cream. It is a soft and brittle sweet in the mouth.
In the first bite, its sweetness in the entire mouth and the softness of the dough attracts attention, then the flavor of the almonds balances the amount of sugar in the dough with a bitter touch. The chocolate filling has an alcoholic touch.Perfect to accompany a coffee, a tea or as breakfast. The Tre Monti Cake consists of five layers of wafer filled with cocoa and hazelnut cream, covered with an external crown of dark chocolate. When you eat it, the cream of the filling melts gently in your mouth, feeling at first the toasted flavor of the hazelnuts and then the aroma of cocoa both from the inside and the strong flavor of the outer crown of the dark chocolate.
These typical sweets were born back in 1942, in the city of San Marino. The elders of the place still remember the smell of bread in the streets of the historic center. The first maker of these sweets was married to a Viennese lady, who had taken refuge in the city of San Marino for racial reasons. It was these Austrian origins of the wife that surely have given rise to the birth of the Tre Monti Cake, since the wafer is assimilated to the Austrian “waffle”.
To accompany these sweets, nothing is better than a Moscato di San Marino wine, which is a white wine with at least 85% Moscato grape, adapted to accompany these typical sweets.Today, they are marketed in any pastry shop, cafeteria or even supermarkets to be able to put them in our suitcase and bring the flavor of San Marino to our home.
OUT WITH TAXES
Forthose who love shopping, San Marino is ideal, as a large number of businesses, markets and outlets scattered throughout the city, making this the ideal place to buy typical and not so typical souvenirs. Large businesses of perfumes, jewelries, watches, leather goods and large branded clothes, but why are these types of products so cheap here? Well, it is a country with a very low tax burden, hence the great differences between the products of San Marino and those of neighboring Italy. But what interests us is really artisanal and indigenous, so the best thing is to admire the stained-glass windows and small artisan workshops of hand painted ceramics and lace and embroidery woven by the hands of the women of San Marino.
Both ceramics and embroidery are born to adorn everyday objects, clothing and home fabrics, but over the years it has been spreading and they are reproduced in ever more artistic objects. The city’s history is always taken as a model. The colors are usually rich and bright with strong contrasts of shadows and lights. Nowadays in many of the city’s businesses, we find small artisans working in their workshops and we can see them, making ceramics, gold objects, tools worked in iron, but above all, refined lace.
We can get carried away by the great bazaars whose pottery or embroidery is of poor quality with lower prices, but of doubtful artisan origin. Today, these artisans are not part of the city’s economy, as they are artisans on a very small scale. All these handicrafts have a common symbolism, love for the city and freedom. Since the Middle Ages, the country was granted the order of municipality and since then, San Marino has always known how to maintain its independence peacefully throughout the centuries which is why it is the oldest functioning republic in the world.
San Mariners are very mistrusting of their legacy and with deeply rooted traditions, so much so, that curiously until a few years ago, becoming a San Mariner was very complicated, since citizenship could only be transmitted from parents to children. The economy of San Marino comes mainly from the tourist and commercial sector. It is also a tax haven through the banks and financial institutions that operate from these.
A BASILICA WITHOUT A CRUCIFIX
It is the main Catholic church, and the place of worship par excellence of the San Mariners and their pride. So much so, that it even appears on the 10-cent coin, and in most of the decorations or embroidery of its crafts. Here are the relics of San Marino Diacono, the patron of the city and the founder (that first stonemason refugee). It is built on an old basilica considered one of the first Christian monuments of the pre-Romanesque style in Italy, but which has unfortunately disappeared, built in a neoclassical style, reminding us of a Greek temple. Something curious in this church is that there was no crucifix until the visit of Pope Benedict XVI in 2011.
Before, there was only the statue of San Marino presiding over the altar, with the words, “Freedom, Freedom”. The truth is that these words are not very religious. The devotion to San Marino is not so much religious as symbolic, towards the freedom of the state. We are facing the oldest state in Europe, and something curious about this state is that it has two regent captains to perform the functions of the heads of state. Every six months, the parliament elects two regents who will hold office at the same time for half a year. The inauguration is on April 1 and October 1, and these regents preside over the government and the parliament. The fact that there are two rulers comes from the old Roman republic, in which there were two consuls.
Right next to the basilica, we will see a small church, the Church of San Pedro, built in 600. In this church built partly excavated in the rock, two niches are visible in the crypt that according to tradition, are the beds of San Marino and San Leo. They say that Giuseppe Garibaldi fled to this small church when he fled after the fall of the Roman Republic, so we cannot leave San Marino without taking a photo in this curious place, a “Greek temple”, Catholic and in which an image that is not the usual one is venerated.
PIAZZA DOMUS PLEBIS
AN ATYPICAL MUSEUM
San Marino is a small place full of charms in the open air. Legend has it that this city was founded by the San Mariner who sought refuge on Mt. Titanio, back in the year 301 A.D. It is a medieval city that preserves old houses of great historical and patrimonial value, full of narrow corridors, stairs that go up and down, cobbled slopes and bucolic sunsets that attract around 4 million tourists a year. Its center is car-free and all visitors will enter the city through the 15thcentury San Francisco Gate. On this door we have a plaque with a curious inscription that recalls the punishment to which those who entered the city with weapons were subjected to.
This door was an old guard post, as it was the only place through which you could enter. In fact, if we go under the door, and look up, we will see the place where pots of boiling oil were thrown at the enemy. Anyone could enter!! For those days with bad weather, or if you prefer to take a break from the steep streets, and have a fun time, we recommend a curious museum, The Museum of Curiosities. Do not be scared by the word “museum” because you will really enjoy this place. It is a small museum and can be visited in about approximately 30 mins with a large collection of strange objects from all over the world; inventions, Guinness records and peculiarities along with their stories.
It is structured in three floors that we will go up by an elevator and during our visit, we will be going down until we finish on the street. We can find very curious items such as a flea trap, the fattest man in the world, the smallest woman in the world, a curious nose watch, etc. That is to say, it is full of eccentricities and various oddities.
The price is 7€. Salita Alla Rocca 26
On To Hunt Treasures
We are facing a small country of only 61 km2 and totally surrounded by another, Italy, as if it were an island in the middle of the ocean. Does it have borders then? Sure!! It has borders, but due to an agreement with Italy, there are no border controls, considering that Italy is in the Italian border space, and as long as you do not spend more than 10 days in this country, we should not justify it in any way or pass border posts. The inhabitants of San Marino even have their own passport and speak Italian, but a dialect called Emiliano-Romañol.
Italy belongs to the European Union, however, San Marino does not, but this does not prevent us from using the euro as currency, and this is due to a bilateral agreement between San Marino and Italy and to small exceptions of an economic nature made by the European Union with certain territories. Thus, San Marino mints its own currency, in the same factories where Italian euros are manufactured. The San Marino euro coins symbolize the main monuments of the city, such as the three towers, the public palace, the statue of liberty… etc. These coins are very difficult to obtain, because being such a small country, it mints very few, so one of our little challenges is to take one of these coins for souvenir.
In places of business, we can find them in batches, but it will be more valued and we will take it as a lucky coin if it is given to us there. Should we go get it? Shall we go for a treasure hunt? Since we’re talking about challenges, let’s go for another one a little easier but not less curious. Why not take an entry stamp to this country as a souvenir in our passport? Well, we can do it, although it is not mandatory to pass control of any kind, if we approach the tourist office, they will stamp our passport with this stamp of the fifth smallest country in the world and the oldest sovereign state in Europe. Of course, it is for the modest price of 5€.
INFORMATION AND TOURISM OFFICE
CONTRADA OMAGNANO 20
THE PARADE OF COLORS
Surely throughout our tour of San Marino, we have passed or seen the wonderful Liberty Plaza several times, either for the magnificent views seen from this point or to admire the Public Palace. This square is built on top of the ancient rainwater reservoirs that supplied the inhabitants of San Marino in ancient times. In the center of the Liberty Plaza is a white carrara marble statue, of a warrior woman who advances with force affirming freedom with the flag in her right hand. Her crown has three towers that represent those of the castle from the city.
Well, in this square you cannot miss the changing of the guards, which is very colorful and with a very precise schedule during the summer months. Well, from 2:30 P.M. and every 30 minutes, we can see the ritual of the changing of The Guards of Rocca, La Guardia di Rocca. Those in charge of this changing of the guard is The Guards of Rocca, who presides over the most important institutional headquarters, in addition to offering a sentry service, they do the changing of the guard in this place. They wear a very particular and colorful uniform of very ancient origin.
The jacket is dark green and has white and red details, and their pants are red with a white and green band that make it a really colorful parade. On the head they sometimes wear a kepi or cap with a red pompom or a helmet with white and red feathers. Of course, it is a display of color every half hour that we cannot stop seeing. But since we are talking about colorful uniforms, we must not fail to mention the curious color of the police force, in charge of traffic and tourists.
Their uniform, as strange as it may seem to us, is bright yellow on the shirt and navy blue on the pants. Truly, military corps bathed in color.
FROM SAINTS TO WITCHES
Now, we are going to go for a walk. We will begin walking with saints and we will end up walking with witches. For this, we will need about an hour at our disposal. To enter this historic area, the most common thing to do is to cross the San Francisco Gate. As soon as we cross the door, we will find the Museum of Torture, and wow… of course, it will be a little torture to climb all the slopes of the city! We continue up the Via Basilicas and we will pass the Church of San Francisco, the oldest sanctuary in the republic, then we will arrive at the Liberty Plaza, which is one of the most photographed squares in the city, with its Public Palace, the seat of government.
We will go up the land of Collegio until we reach Titano Plaza, where we will find the State Museum, which tells the history and legend of San Marino. We continue along the same street, always uphill, and we will arrive at the Basilica di San Marino with the remains of the founder of the city inside. Finally, and always following our upward path, we will arrive at Guaita Tower, the oldest of the San Marino fortresses. Of course, when we look at its towers or its walls, we will be out of breath. Not only because of the tiring way up, but because of the spectacular views that will be seen, but our walk does not end here, because that is when we will arrive at the Passo delle Streghe or the Witches’ Path, which is a small path on the cliff.
It connects the three towers of Mt. Titano, and here, there is a legend that says: that in medieval times, the princess was a witch and every night she went to the Witches’ Path and that her brown hair turned into white cat fur at daylight. On this path, many girls performed strange rites with herbs, woods, stones and plants. One night, like so many others during a full moon, the girls began their harmless rites, a soldier passed along the path and saw the girls singing. He hid behind a bush, meanwhile the girls, with the first rays of sunlight, returned to their homes in the form of black and white cats.
The princess stayed a while longer and the soldier decided to tell her that he loved her and that he understood that witches were not bad. The princess would correspond to the love of the young man, so every night they saw each other and when the light of day came, they had to separate, until one night, the soldiers came to the path to kill the witches, but the princess was saved because the soldier gave his life for her. She, broken with pain, threw herself from the castle walls and let out a scream so piercing and shrill that it woke her father. From that moment on, her father prohibited witch hunts.
The locals say that even today, at five in the morning on cold winter nights, the desperate cry of the girl is still heard on the Witches’ Path. Rocca Cesta Entance + Guaita Tower 4,50 €
GUAITA TOWER. SALITA ALLA ROCCA 61
“A CORRECTED COFFEE”
One of the places without a doubt to rest and be bewitched by the atmosphere of the city is the Plaza de Libertad. There we find a small, practically rectangular square where the public palace is located, with its beautiful clock tower, an administrative building and also the headquarters of the main institutional bodies where official ceremonies take place. The façade is richly decorated with symbols of the city. On the other side that surrounds the square, we find the Palazzo delle Poste dating from the 19thcentury and in the center, a statue dedicated to liberty. This small square has a series of terraces ideal to have a mistral, in addition to admiring the spectacular landscape that we have in front of us.Mistra is a liquor that during the 18thcentury, the Venetians exported from Greece and took it to their homeland, baptizing it with the name of the conquered city called Mistra.
From that moment, it became the quintessential liquor of La Serenìsima. Another version of the origin of this drink says that it was brought by fishermen who from the nearby port of Ancona traveled to the Greek city of Mistra and there they drank the famous Greek ouzo, which they brought to their country improving the recipe with local ingredients. The mistral has a dry flavor and is ideal to add to coffee, it can also be taken alone, and is widely used in the kitchen, in cakes or in fruit salad, thus obtaining that aniseed flavor characteristic of the liquor. Mistra is a liquor made from anise and fennel seeds, something basic in the cuisine of this area. It is prepared by letting the seeds infuse for a long time, until they acquire that characteristic perfume.
This liquor was used during the late eighties for sick transhumant shepherds. This area of Italy recovered this recipe and improved it, giving rise to one of the most famous drinks in the city of San Marino. Formerly, it was a product that was only produced at home, but today we can find it in any supermarket. Thus, we must and must ask for a “corretto coffee,” which would be no other than the typical Italian coffee. It’s that strong Italian coffee that practically only soaks the bottom of our cup to which they put a few drops of mistral.
The translation would be “corrected coffee” that will make us regain energy to continue our journey to ascend and descend through this small country.
PIAZZA DELLA LIBERTA
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