Outdoor & adventure in San Marino
When I told my friends and family that I’d be heading to San Marino the past summer, they looked at me with a bit of doubt in their eyes. ‘So, what’s to see there?’ is a frequent question I got. Or worse, some people had not even heard of San Marino before and/or had no idea where it’s located. During my stay in San Marino I got plenty of time to explore, experience and soak up the outdoor and adventure in and around San Marino.
Before I will continue telling you about my adventures, I’ll start with some general information about San Marino, because few people know about it. San Marino is a small country completely surrounded by Italy. It only measures 61 square kilometers and it’s located in the northern Apennine region, close to the popular seaside town of Rimini. San Marino receives some 4 million visitors each year, most of them being day trippers, who stay no longer than 4 hours on average. Only 100.000 visitors choose to stay overnight in San Marino. Which is a real shame if you ask me, because there is a lot more to see and do than meets the eye.
How to get to San Marino
As I mentioned, most visitors are people visiting just for the day, mostly coming from Rimini or the nearby Emilia Romagna region. San Marino is however a very nice and surprising destination for a weekend getaway and I strongly suggest to stay at least two to three nights. The closest airport is Bologna and from here it’s about a two hour drive to San Marino. If coming by train, you can get as close as Rimini and from there grab a taxi. Bear in mind that the old town itself does not allow cars however there is ample parking space on the mountain and shuttles will take you to Centro Storico, the old part of the city.
About San Marino
Most tourists know San Marino as ‘the tiny country on a mountain’ but it has so much more to offer than that. The surrounding mountains have all kinds of cool activities to offer such as hiking, cycling and climbing. During my trip I tried various outdoor activities in and around the old city, so I got good idea of what San Marino has to offer. I will tell you about my experiences and why a visit to San Marino is the perfect combination of outdoor adventure and culture.
Take a city walk in San Marino
You cannot visit San Marino without making a walk through Centro Storico. This was my first activity upon arrival. You can walk around here for hours without being in the same street twice. Make sure to visit the Basilica and the change of the guards. Get yourself an icecream and find the best price for a new pair of sunglasses, as you can shop tax free here. Then take a stroll along the three old towers, named Guaita, Cesta and Montale. All of them offer amazing panoramas on the land surrounding San Marino and in the distance, the Adriatic Sea. It can get pretty crowded during the day, but once you get here in the late afternoon or early evening, it usually is far more quiet and with the sun setting it’s definitely the best time of the day to visit. End your day at Piazza della Libertà where you can enjoy the sunset and have an amazing meal at Restaurante Righi.
Hike Sentiero della Rupe
On my second day it’s time for adventure, as I’m going to hike Sentiero della Rupe, San Marino’s best hike and a well hidden secret because not many people know about it. Along the way I only see some locals but other than that very few people. From the old town take the cable car down to Borgo Maggiore which is the lower part of the city. Take a walk to your right here and you will automatically run into the red and white signs saying Sentiero della Rupe. The trail is just 2 kilometers long but don’t be fooled, it can be quite a challenge especially on a hot day. It has various steep climbs and descents and the path can get quite narrow in some places. However, the views along the way are simply stunning and the rock formations you will pass along the way are gorgeous, too. Sometimes you will have to hold on to a rope for a little bit and at the end you will get a nice surprise: a very steep climb on steel stairs, that will eventually take you back to the Montale tower. From here you can easily walk back to Centro Storico where you can enjoy a good lunch and a cold beer. Make sure to bring plenty of water along the way and be careful, those with a fear of heights may not enjoy it everywhere as it does go right along some steep drop offs.
Cycling in San Marino’s countryside
On my third day in San Marino I’m changing my hiking pants for biking pants for a tour with the guys from SM Explore, an organisation specialized in adventures activities in and around San Marino. Once again I take the cable car down and here the guides are awaiting me with an e-bike. First I get a tour through the old tunnels, which have been used to house refugees in the past. After this, it’s time to step onto the pedals and cycle all the way down, way into the countryside. Eventually we get to an old watermill where we park the bikes and get a short tour. Next up is a short hike to Grotta di Canepa, a short yet adventurous hike to a small cave. Once again there are ropes to hold on to and upon arrival at the cave I’m advised to keep my helmet on because it’s a very low entrance. We only get a few meters inside because eventually it gets too narrow, but it’s nice and cool for sure to hang out here a little bit.
Next up is a short hike to a waterfall where we cool down for a bit. Then it’s time to get back onto the bikes and slowly start pedaling uphill again. This is where the E in E-bike comes in very useful, without this it would have been a major challenge, even for the experienced cyclist. Half way along the route we stop for lunch, provided by Terra di San Marino, who are specialized in making local products such as cheese, meat and wines. I’d describe it as pure and very rich, so it’s a great way to learn more about the San Marino food.
And a bonus: taking a foodtour in Emilia Romagna
On my last day of this trip, I’m joining a foodtour with Elena from Food in Tour through the Emilia Romagna region. The highlight of the day definitely as making our own pasta. Elena’s mother explains us, in Italian, how to make our own tagiatelle and it’s not nearly as difficult as I thought it would be. Basically it’s just about putting a lot of love and patience in preparing the dough, if you do this, almost nothing can go wrong. While we are taking pics of area, the pasta is being prepared and added to a very rich lunch. Later in the afternoon we are going on a truffle hunt close tothe town of Sant’Agata Feltria, famous for its amazing truffels that can be found in the woods here. I’d never had truffles before (only the Belgian chocolate ones) but we get to taste all kind of truffle products and I have to say that I love it. Later that night, when visiting the town of Verucchio, I even order a truffle pizza. Elena hosts the tours with a lot of enthusiasm and always gets in touch with her clients beforehand, to make sure they will get to see and do what meets their interest.
On day 5 my adventure in San Marino has come to an end and I’m pleasantly surprised about this special place. It has a large variety of culture combined with nature and adventure which makes it a great getaway for a long weekend. Tourists coming to San Marino for just a couple of hours don’t realize what they are missing out on because it’s an amazing place and there’s lots to see and discover. I stayed at Hotel Cesare, a very fine 4* hotel right in the center of town. A great base to settle for a couple of days and enjoy all the good things that San Marino has to offer.
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Thanks for sharing!
[I was invited on this trip by the tourism board of San Marino. As always, all opinions are entirely my own.]
I’ve never been to San Marino and I had no idea it was so beautiful! Thank you for the tip on the hike – I am always on the lookout for new hiking destinations in Europe 🙂
Ioanna (A Woman Afoot)
Hi Ioanna! Happy to hear this, I’m sure you’d love San Marino. It’s gorgeous here indeed for hiking. Happy trails to you xoxo Anto
I’m a little ashamed to say I thought San Marino was just part of Italy. And it does look stunning. Definitely somewhere I’d like to visit, though I am not so sure I’d be cycling there!!!
No worries, many people think so and that’s no problem at all 🙂
Awesome. Darcee & I keep getting similar responses from our friends when we are telling them we are heading to Liechtenstein! haha, love the tiny countries of Europe. San Marino looks like an amazing outdoor playground. I would definitely like hiking the trail and watching the sunset from atop the castle. Beautiful pics
Ahhh yes, that’s also one of those places I’ve never really given a thought of visiting. But I will have to one day 🙂
Ooh you just have bumped this place up my hit list. It looks fab and I love those towers
Yes they were one of the highlights of my trip for sure!
Kavey Favelle | Kavey Eats
Had heard of San Marino but not really thought about visiting, or looked into what was there, but love the look of the mountain-top city state, just stunning architecture and views. I am not a hiker or biker but would still enjoy a visit. Adding to my wish list, thanks!
Even though if you’re not a hiker, you’d certainly enjoy this a lot as there are plenty of things to see and do for anyone. Plus really good shopping, too 🙂
San Marino looks amazing! I missed on both of my past journeys to Italy, but I know it’ll be on a future visit’s itinerary. It looks incredible. The city walk and food tour would be the top two things I would want to do. Although, I do love a good hike. I guess I’ll just have to stay long enough to do all three, huh? 😉
It is amazing, I hope you can go one day!
I have to say I didn’t know much about San Marino before reading this – apart from that they scored a goal against England in the first 10 seconds of a game! It looks like a great place for outdoor adventure – just my sort of thing! The cycle route looked great fun, and the scenery is spectacular.
HAha yes, that’s where I knew them from, too. So yes they have their own soccer team 🙂
This looks like a great day trip! I could totally see myself hiking here. This is the second post I saw today about truffle hunting. It looks like a blast!
Yes I’ve been seeing more and more posts about truffle hunting, too. Such a fun activity!
I actually had no idea that San Marino was a country, nor that there was a country landlocked within Italy. So have learnt something new today! You got such beautiful shots on your walk around the city itself; beautiful architecture, buildings, and views of the mountains. It definitely looks like a beautiful region to explore. The hike up Sentiero della Rupe has some beautiful views of the surrounding countryside, and cycling sounds like a fun day too. Plus truffle hunting and food tours, it sounds like there’s a pretty diverse mix of things to do.
Glad you had a fab time!
Haha I get that, many people do not know of it 🙂 it was a great time and so much fun. Go one day if you have the chance!
Sandy N Vyjay
San Merino is indeed a revelation. What a charming and pristine place. The town looks straight out of a fairytale. The landscapes seem to be filled with the spirit of adventure. Definitely a great places to get away to and lose oneself.
Yes, the castles make me think of fairytales all the time indeed, they are stunning and mythical at the same time!
I never knew that San Marino is such a beautiful country and the place looks mesmerizing, straight out of the fairyland. Your pictures are simply gorgeous. We would love to take that hike and watch the sunset from the castle.
Funnily enough, I was reading about it recently in an Italian travel magazine, Turisti Per Caso. It seems that there is plenty of history there once you scratch the surface. Add in all the activities you mentioned and I have to say that I’m tempted to put it on my list.