What’s 24 square miles, the 5th smallest country, had train service knocked out in World War II and never returned and had Honest Abe Lincoln as an honorary citizen? Well, if you read the title of this post you probably know the answer. Its San Marino.
Rounding out our visit to three of Europe’s smallest countries (having visited Monaco from Nice and Vatican City whilst in Rome) during our visit to two of its larger ones, we day tripped from Ravenna to San Marino. San Marino rises up above the plains of Emilia-Romagna to the north and west and the part of Italy bordering the Adriatic sea to the east with views of the bordering mountains and shorelines of The Marches to the south.
You can take a train to Rimini, on the coast, and a bus from there or you can drive. We drove, parked and took the quick funicular up to the heart of the capitol city of San Marino, also called San Marino. Surrounding the Titano Mountain, on which the capitol lies, are villages and farms and other mountains and because so much of the surrounding area of Italy is mostly flat, you can get some pretty killer views from the towers and walkways of this small city.
There are a few tourist sights. Two of its three towers are open to the public and one of them, Tower Two, has a Weapons Museum in it. There are a couple of art galleries, a basilica, a coin and stamp museum and some other museums that fit into “tourist trap category” (vampire museum, wax museum, torture museum). You can get your passport stamped at the tourist office for 5 euro, if you want. We just wandered around and ate lunch. We actually liked it better than we expected to (perhaps tainted by our distaste for Monaco) and would consider it for an overnight if we were passing through from north to south, from Venice down to Umbria for example (or vice versa, of course), in a future trip. The Grand Hotel San Marino looked like it had some pretty amazing westward views for sunset.
So what’s up with Abe? Apparently, right before the Civil War, San Marino wrote to Lincoln offering an alliance, wishing the US well in its current “political griefs” and offering Lincoln honorary citizenship in the oldest republic in the world. Lincoln has even been on the San Marino stamp three times. I guess the Sammarinese of the 19th century had good taste in character.