When you arrive in San Marino, you're visiting the third smallest country in the world; but what a punch this tiny place packs. Just like Vatican City (one of the two smaller countries), it is totally surrounded by Italy.
More specifically, surrounded by the Emilia Romagna region of Italy with cities like Modena and Parma, just 10km off the coast from the Adriatic Sea. The rules to enter San Marino follow the same protocol as entering Italy, so if you need a visa or passport for that--you'll need one here.
It won't take you long to actually get through San Marino, it's just 61 square kilometers. Yet, you won't want to rush it. Take your time exploring San Marino's nine districts, including San Marino City. This is where you'll find the 16th century Basilica San Marino, where the reliquary of the saint himself is housed.
The Palazzo Pubblico, or Town Hall, is another of San Marino's famous sites--framed by a charming Town Square and little shops.
What you might notice about San Marino is that it isn't flat. The entire diminutive country is set along some hilly landscape decorated with Pine Forests. Hiking and biking through the countryside is one of the best ways to experience San Marino; and to visit its three "fortresses". Guaita and Montale are the older of them, built just about a thousand years ago.
The Government Palace is where you need to be at either 830am or 630pm, since that's when the Changing of the Guard takes place. You can spend the rest of the day at Malatesta Castle with its church and Stamp and Coin Museum.
Stamps from San Marino are especially prized, so stock up if you can. For a small fee you can have San Marino stamped in your passport. A cute addition to your world travels. If you want to get yourself some other type of souvenir, San Marino is great for buying ceramics and wine. And for some reason, cigarettes.
For as small as you'll find San Marino, it has even more museums. The St. Francis Museum is a blend of old with modern; a Contemporary Art Museum housed within a medieval cloister. Then you've got the Museum of Emigration. How anyone would want to leave this slice of Utopia is mind boggling.
The food is exceptional, all with an Italian influence. The cafes, bars, and trattorias serve up the most delicious tortellini, veal cutlets, and ravioli; followed by San Marino Tort.
San Marino's got great scenery, fantastic food, and a long history. What else more can you ask for? How about a great time? On top of everything else, San Marino hosts an annual Sailing Regatta and a Formula One Grand Prix.
Bigger isn't always better, which never is that more evident than in the country of San Marino. By staying small you can get to explore every nook and cranny of its medieval town center, which doesn't even allow cars.
Yes, San Marino might be totally dwarfed by the much bigger country of Italy--but you'll forget all about it with one look.