Città di San Marino
Perched on top of Mount Titano, Città di San Marino (the city) is the focal point of most visitors’ time and experience in San Marino. The city houses much of the country’s political, socio-cultural, and economic institutions within its charming pedestrian streets, along with its premier dining and shopping. And with commanding views over the rest of the country, surrounding Italy, and the Adriatic coast, what visitors can see from the city nearly rivals what there is to see in it.
The three defensive towers, along with the path linking them on the ridge of Mount Titano, are the city’s premier attraction:
The first tower (known as Rocca or Guaita; open 9:00-16:30) is a must-see, dominating both the San Marino cityscape and most travelers’ itineraries alike. Visitors can enjoy a panoramic vista of the surrounding hills and coastline, a spectacular view of the second tower, and a small exhibit about the fortifications’ history, which dates from the 13th century.
Continue along the path of the old city walls to reach the second tower (known as Cesta or Fratta; open 9:00-16:30). On the way, pause to enjoy the postcard-perfect views of both the first and second towers, as well as of Italy’s Adriatic coast. Within the second tower visitors will find both a traditional lookout tower and the Museum of Ancient Arms. As with the first tower - arrive early or late in the day to both avoid the crowds and get the best lighting.
The third tower (Montale) is both the smallest and newest. Unlike the other two towers, there is no entrance to or exhibits within it. However, the walk between the second and third towers (continuing along the ridgeline) is beautiful, and well worth the twenty minutes it takes to get there and back.
Other must-see spots in the city include:
Palazzo Pubblico (Piazza della Libertà; 9:00-17:00 weekdays and 9:00-18:00 weekends in winter, and until 20:00 in summer; may be closed on occasion for government functions so check with your concierge or the tourist information office before visiting) – The seat of San Marino's government and (often) open to the public, Palazzo Pubblico was renovated in the 1990s but kept true to its original 1890s design. Drop in to see the chambers of the Great and General Council (San Marino's parliament) and the Council of Twelve (a part of the judiciary). Time your visit with the changing of the guards (every hour on the half hour between 9:30-18:30; summer only) but skip the information video (which has only limited English subtitles).
Basilica di San Marino (Piazzale Domus Plebis; 8:00-19:45 in summer and 8:30-17:45 in winter) – The contemporary center of the country’s religious life, the Basilica di San Marino is a subdued affair when compared to the ornateness of some of neighboring Italy's highlight churches. Located within the city walls, the base décor is more floral than overtly religious, and the seating simple and tasteful.
The Tourist Information Office (Contrada Omagnano, 20; 8:30-18:00 weekdays and 9:30-13:30 & 14:00-18:00 weekends) – Even if you’re cooler than we are and don't want to admit it, you really do want that San Marino passport stamp.
Finally, there is something additional for everyone (English links when available):
For history buffs, the Museo Emigrante, which tells the story of mass immigration from San Marino during the latter part of the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth centuries, is well worth a visit. The Museo di Stato is as well, although the absence of English-language signage for most individual objects is limiting.
For those inclined towards art and culture, the new Galleria Nationale San Marino hosts a permanent modern art exhibit. Museo di San Francesco plays host to temporary exhibits by artists from Italy and around the world. And Teatro Titano hosts regularly scheduled (but usually Italian-language) shows.