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The Republic of San Marino
Wednesday, September 9
After a very successful visit to the Cinque Terre, it was time to turn our attention to Italy's other coast. Specifically, Venice, where we had a two-night stay reserved in a nice-looking apartment. Originally today had been planned as an easy ride straight to Venice with an early arrival time. However, Roland had a special little spot he wanted to visit en-route: the tiny republic of San Marino - a fully-enclosed enclave surrounded by Italy not far from the Adriatic Coast near Rimini. Apparently, Roland has a mental country-visiting list, and this little country had not yet been ticked off.
Bye-bye, Cinque Terre
In order to visit San Marino while still maintaining a 6:00 pm arrival time at our apartment in Venice, we had to get moving early. Really early. It was still dark as we awoke in Corniglia, and after a hasty breakfast, we were walking up through the quiet alleways and the town's only road to the car parking spot by 6 a.m. Along the way Roland decided to do some impromptu picture taking at the Corniglia cemetery. He arrived a few minutes later at the car, having not succeeded in taking any good pictures but having instead succeeded in managing to severely sprain his ankle in the dark.
courtesy JInnes
La Spezia Dawn
The countryside was deserted as we drove up and along the twisty highways above the Cinque Terre. After a final view down to Riomaggiore, we crossed through the car tunnel connecting over to La Spezia, and we began winding downhill towards the town. Being a fairly major city, there was already some morning commuter traffic, but it was early enough that we were not much impeded by it. Soon afterwards, we reached the autostrada and started our journey east - directly across the "trunk" of Italy - to the eastern side.
courtesy RHanel
In transit to San Marino
Once past the vicinity of Florence, we turned off of the Autostrada and headed more directly towards San Marino, passing through a bit of Tuscan countryside before crossing some thickly-forested Appenine Hills on some very twisty roads. Fun for me, but I think Roland and Stephanie were less enamored of it (although they didn't really show it). A short bit of autostrada offered relief before we turned off on a very interesting and remote back access to San Marino. By about 11:30, we had crossed into the micro-state (there's no border control or anything like that) and were climbing up one of the wide roads leading to the capital city, which sits on the upper slopes of San Marino's biggest mountain (really, its only mountain): Mount Titan (or Titano, in Italian).
courtesy RHanel
courtesy JInnes
courtesy RHanel
Tuscan Vineyard
Tuscan Grapes
Approaching San Marino
I had an pre-impression of San Marino that struck me as a bit like Monaco - full of wealthy people, upscale, well-kept. The comparison turns out to be mildly apt, but falls apart in many areas. Monaco allows gambling, San Marino does not. San Marino is well-off, but Monaco is far richer, with a full 30% of its population being millionaires. To be frank, as we parked and started walking along the road into the old part of the main city, I found it less glitzy than the impression I had had in my mind. It was definitely a bit upscale, but really, it seemed like most other nice old Italian cities - except with strange blue 5-digit license plates.
courtesy RHanel
courtesy RHanel
Arriving San Marino
San Miranese Plates
Walls of San Marino
We wandered upwards through the streets of the old city (which really isn't very big - remember, San Marino's entire population is about 30,000), passing a few of the more notable buildings, like the palazzo pubblico and the Basilica of San Marino.
courtesy RHanel
courtesy JInnes
Western Miranese Countryside
Miranese rooftops
Via Donna Felicissima
courtesy JInnes
courtesy JInnes
Palazzo Pubblico
Western Countryside
Il Topolino
One of the main reasons we were here, though, was Roland's desire to visit San Marino's high point. This was located on top of one of the three fortified towers that are strung along the crest of Monte Titano. We weren't immediately sure which of the towers it was, though, so we walked along the crest from north to south (to ensure we didn't miss it).

The area along the crest of Monte Titano was a nice mix of forested parkland and old fortifications. With a very steep aspect to the north-east, there were many excellent views from along the sharp crest.
Towards the Second Castle
The Cesta
Crest Walk
The first of the three towers along San Marino's Monte Titano was called Guaita. When we determined that it was not the highest, we did not seek to enter (the tower complex is open to the public for a fee). We didn't really have a lot of time to spare, and we wanted to reserve our attention to the highest tower.
courtesy RHanel
courtesy JInnes
Battlement closeup, Cesta
Il Montale
Entering Cesta
The second (or middle, if you prefer) tower complex is called Cesta, and sits atop the highest bump along Monte Titano's crest. Here we paid the entrance fee and started along the signed route through the fortification's structure. This led first through a historic weapons museum before emerging onto the deck surrounding the main tower. Seeing no realistic way to scale the final ten-meter high structure, Roland settled for his country highpoint shot on the crenellated wall of the deck, with the second-highest Guaita tower as a backdrop.
courtesy RHanel
Dual Linchpin
From 2nd to 1st
Roland at High Point
courtesy JInnes
The Guaita
To the coast
To the coast
View from Guard Tower
We spent a few more minutes exploring the scenic battlements of the Cesta tower fortifications, then began our walk down to the car (the third and northernmost tower along the ridgeline is not as high and in any case is not open to the public). In the end, our boots-on-the-ground time in San Marino had been brief: we had walked a flattened loop of about two kilometres that had taken - in total - about one hour, including all of our stops. A rapid little visit, to be sure.
Interactive trackmap with photo points - San Marino Towers - click map to view
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