This Beautiful, Venerable City: San Marino

It’s 5:19 a.m. I’ve been up since 2:45. Why? Because of the darn time change, that’s why. Yesterday was my first full day home in the Pacific Standard Time zone in three months, and my body is still functioning on Italian time. It’s telling me that I should be at the middle school in a classroom right now, not uselessly trying to fall back asleep for three hours. So, I decided I should get up and make the most of my inability to fall asleep.

I have two suitcases on the floor of my room, and I wasn’t about to start unpacking those. Nope. No, thank you.  Granted, Delta lost my luggage AGAIN, so it hasn’t been sitting there for days. But still, unpacking is for later, when I can blast Josh Groban’s new album of theatre music. Why not blog, I say? I still have a few more up my sleeve. So, I’m sitting here with my large cup of American coffee wishing for my tiny Italian espresso (something I never thought would happen). I’m sitting here in my Idaho kitchen wishing for the rolling hills of Marche.

Enough with the “homesickness” already, Jack. Get on with it.

This here post is about the tiny little country of San Marino.

The Republic of San Marino is the 5th smallest country in the world and Italy’s only surviving city-state. (In this trip alone, I’ve been to 3 of the 5 smallest countries in the world!) This old republic dates back to A.D. 301. It’s small enough to make a day trip out of, and, in my humble opinion, the historic center of San Marino rivals Ancapri for one of the best views in all of Italy. It’s also an UNESCO World Heritage site.

After going to Rimini in the morning with my host family, they drove me here to this wonderful medieval city. While they were getting a family portrait done, I had about an hour to go off by myself and explore. Anybody who knows me knows that I could ramble around for hours; I love exploring. For this reason, I would definitely recommend at least three hours for seeing the basic center of San Marino. You’ll probably want more.

I went first to the third tower. It’s a lovely walk in the spring time.

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The third tower, Montale, has no visible entrance from the bottom. Apparently, there is a door that is meters off the ground which I don’t remember seeing. In the past, the tower was an isolated look-out post with great views of the surrounding hills and valleys. The tower’s bottom is a pit, meters deep, that was used as a prison in the past.

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Isn’t it awesome?

Then, I went to the second tower, Cesta Castle. It is both possible and desirable to enter the first and second towers—for a separate payments, of course. Since I wasn’t looking to spend any money at all, I decided to head over to the first tower and spend my money there, since that was the one that allowed views of the other two together. (Though I understand that the second tower has the highest viewpoint of the three.) Both of these towers have museums; the second tower contains the museum of arms.

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The origins of the first tower, Rocca Guaita, go back to the tenth century. I mean, come on! If that’s not cool to you, I would hate to know what is.  This tower is built directly onto the rock and is very strongly fortified and protected. In fact, it was used for protection in times of siege and as a prison until quite recently. For a person who loves exploring, this tower is a real-life treat. After you pay the unamused lady for entrance, there is a courtyard surrounded by the walls with a narrow ledge which you can walk around.

Here comes my favorite part. In one area of the courtyard, there are tiny, rickety wooden stairs that lead to an unmarked door where it looks like someone forgot to post the “entrance prohibited” sign. This is the entrance to the bottom of the tower.

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Poi, there’s another set of old wooden stairs. At the top of these stairs there is a wooden ladder that leads through a hole in the ceiling. Again, this is an ideal spot for an “do not enter sign.” I mean, they are always in the spots where you really want to go, right? I was looking around expecting to see some old guy sitting on a chair waiting for me to set foot on those stairs before telling me “BASTA!” But nope. Instead I see some young guys come through the hole in the ceiling and down the stairs. I was running with this freedom!  So up the stairs I went, pushing myself up through the ceiling and into an octagonal room with views of the courtyard and another set of wooden stairs that led to the very top of the tour.

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These windows were spaced throughout the whole top room. My imagination ran away with me and ghosts of soldiers in uniform taking the night watch appeared alongside me. Oh, the novels that could be inspired from one experience! Yes, I’m weird. But these views. In case you haven’t noticed, you know I’m all about these vies, ’bout these views. No kidding. I will nearly exhaust myself to death to get to a good viewpoint. These were literally breath taking. Since I took a million photos of the same thing, here are my favorites. As you can see, the two towers (pleased with the LOTR reference) are visible from the first (barely). I’m not sure where the people on Pinterest get their angle, but if I had more time, I would have found out.

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I have never seen anything like this, and had the day been clear and sunny, it would be even more awesome. I don’t use the word awesome lightly here. This panorama makes one feel quite tiny and insignificant. It simultaneously give you the  “Liz-on-top-of-the-world” feeling (Pride and Prejudice reference for 98% of the readers). It also makes you think about the people who built this tower, or any Italian city for that matter. With it’s dramatic height and steep cliffs, this tower is quite thrilling, really and most definitely a place to see Italy.

I would have taken photos of the entrance through the ceiling, but I had to wait a lifetime to exit since there was a never ending line of people coming up and another group of people waiting to go down. I didn’t want to be “that person” that holds up a line of people for a photo, so I scurried down and left the tower. Then I realized I had about five minutes to get to my host family and, at the rate tourists move, it might take me a year to get back, so I booked it out without a photo. (I have serious road rage when I’m walking. It’s a problem.)

So until next time when I document my last weekend adventure in southern Italy…

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