San Marino - The Hilltop State
Updated: Mar 26, 2019
Legend says that the first occupant of San Marino was Marinus (the name meaning ˝of the sea˝), a man originating from Croatia (at that time it belonged to the Roman Empire) who took refuge on the Mount Titano fleeing the Diocletianic Persecution. He built a chapel and a monastery, and he lived there as a hermit. His church from the 5th century no longer exists. Instead a basilica in neo-classic style was built on its place in 1826 and is called Basilica del Santo (the Basilica of the Saint).
The bones of Marinus are kept in the crypt built under the church.
The last words of Marinus were "Relinquo vos liberos ab utroque homine" ("I leave you free from both men").
The community constituted by Marinus endured and interpreted his last word as a call for freedom. This eventually became the moto of the citizens of San Marino who kept their independence during the centuries and now own the 3rd smallest state in Europe and the 5th smallest state in the world.
How did they manage to keep their independence? San Marino had his own fights to fight throughout history. A remarkable battle was one against the Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta in the 15th century. By defeating the Malatesta house, San Marino received the towns of Serravalle, Montegiardino and Fiorentino and some castles from Pope Pius II. The last town to join San Marino was Faetano. After that the state stopped extending, even though later it was offered this opportunity. The state managed to keep its independence despite the threat posed by the armies of Napoleon and the 20th centuries world wars, mainly due to its neutral position.
Today San Marino is a beautiful tiny state, with clean ancient stone peaks with bits of green grass and blooming trees. Like many ancient settlements, San Marino is also built on a hill which is called Mount Titano (Monte Titano in Italian). Mount Titano has 3 peaks and on each of them a fortress was built. The fortress Montale is situated on the smallest peak and it´s closed to the public.
Cesta, the second fortress, is on the tallest peak of Mount Titano and hosts a weapon collection of more than 1550 pieces and a museum dedicated to Marinus, San Marinese Museum of Ancient Arms.
Guaita is almost one thousand years old and is the most famous among the three towers. In exchange for a fee of 3 € you can climb up the tower. Opposite the entrance is the Chapel of Santa Barbara, which carries the name of the patron saint of armorers, artillerymen, military engineers and miners.
The chapel is a small building from 1960 with simple brick wall decoration, a stone altar which carries the bronze effigy of the saint and six candle sticks in form of towers. The small walled courtyard of the fortress houses pieces of artillery, two mortars and two canons donated by King Vittorio Emanuele II, respectively Vittorio Emanuele III. They are still used on celebration days.
The fortress has 2 towers: the Bell Tower which warned the citizens about danger and the Watch Tower from where Cesta, the field extending to the Adriatic Sea, the Apennine Mountains and the Mount Carpegna are visible.
Visiting only the peaks of San Marino is a unique experience, as the road leads on tiny, flowery narrow streets and the view from the towers are remarkable even if they are less than 800m tall. San Marino can offer some jolly for museum lovers too.
The Museo di Stato (Museum of the State) located in the Palazzo Pergami Belluzzi, in Piazzetta Titano, presents the history of San Marino through the exhibitions extended on 4 floors.
The Museo delle Cere (Wax Museum) exhibits a collection of about 100 figures which represent famous characters from the history like Abraham Lincoln, Giuseppe Garibaldi, Benito Mussolini Adolf Hitler and many others. The Museo della Tortura (Museum of Torture) exhibits a unique collection of medieval torture instruments.
And if you need a rest and something to eat, you can choose one of the many restaurants which offer typically Italian menu based on pizza and Mediterranean dishes. And a good strong Italian coffee.