4 Essential Things to Know Before You Go to San Marino

This tiny country is landlocked by Italy, and clings to the edge of the Apennine Mountains. Here are a few things to know before you go.

View of the Second Tower on top of Monte Titano in San Marino Photo © Getty Images/

This tiny speck of a country literally clings to the edge of the Apennine Mountains with spectacular views over the Italian Adriatic coast. The views are one of the main reasons some 2 million tourists a year visit the microstate. It's basically a good day trip, something to do when you need a break from the beaches at Rimini.

Tourism has made it rich, stable with high levels of employment and therefore relatively free of crime.

UNESCO World Heritage-listed site

That doesn't mean it's not a fascinating place; it has one of the oldest constitutions in the world, the ceremonial armed forces (including a crossbow corps!) have brilliant uniforms, the villages are charming and the castile is fairytale beautiful and accordingly on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

Tourist trap?

Beautiful if you like that sort of thing. Others say it's a tourist trap full of tacky souvenir shops and over-run by mad shoppers trying to grab a tax-free bargain.

It's true, its tax-free status does make it a shopping haven, and good sense can sometimes fly out the window when it all seems so cheap!

For example, one of the most common souvenirs is decommissioned or replica weaponry and ammunition. (Why weaponry? Some tenuous link to the second world war battle of San Marino.)

That rifle shell engraved with your loved one's name might seem like a bargain, but in a post-9/11 world it might get you some unwanted attention at your next port of call.

The Grand Prix wasn't actually in San Marino

San Marino is only 61 square kilometers (24 sq miles), that's large enough to find space for a grand prix racing circuit, but if you come to the microstate looking for the eponymous race, turn around and head back across the border. The Misano circuit is about 20 kms away just off the Autostrada Adriatica at Santa Monica-Cella, Italy.

For racing enthusiasts, you can test your driving skills at the famous circuit. There's a sport and driving school which will set you up with all the equipment and put you in an open-wheeler capable of reaching 200 km/h.?

Or there are "free practice" days where you can take your own bike or car onto the circuit. Prices start at 38 Euros for 15 minutes of motorbike racing, but you're required to meet certain safety standards and have your own gear.

But before you sign up check your travel insurance, many (but not all) policies exclude motorsport activities, so you won't be covered for medical expenses after that fiery crash!

Clear weather

One final tip. If you decide to make the day trip because it's not quite the right weather for lazing on the beach, don't expect the best attribute of the country to be available - the view. When the weather changes the castile perched high on the mountain is often shrouded in cloud.

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