As we had little time at our disposal before leaving Italy, we decided to spend it in the best possible way. The sights around Rimini Fiera (where the convention we had attended took place) were plentiful but the choice wasn’t that hard. We headed to San Marino hoping to discover something different and it was indeed unique although not for the obvious reasons!
We left the sea behind us and began to drive uphill. The distance between Rimini and San Marino is just 17 km but quickly the road turned seriously steep (at least for our vehicle ‘habits’) and eventually it took us a little more time than expected…We arrived late in the afternoon and we went directly to the free parking area [43.94092,12.44243] next to the cable car. The terrain was thankfully flat and spacious; it has two toilets too! We left our camper van and went to explore the neighborhood. We discovered four parking lots (!) in terrace-like terrain just a few meters away. They had better view, they were more sheltered and less busy; the first lot had even facilities for dumping the black water tank and refilling the water tank, for free [43.94065,12.44058]. The only disadvantage was that they were not illuminated. But San Marino is considered to be a safe country, isn’t it?
There is a path starting from the upper parking lot (on the left of the bathrooms) which leads after 5 minutes through a dense grove of trees to the cable car. The cost for the round trip is € 4.50, while one way will cost € 2.80. The cable car runs every 15 minutes starting at 7:50 in the morning.
Instead we preferred to climb up to the Borgo Maggiore and then take the path leading to the top of the hill at the Porta della Rupe (meaning Cliff) entrance. It is very impressive and although it is quite steep, it is worth the effort. It took us 20/30 minutes to climb up. If you are in doubt about your fitness or if you just don’t fancy climbing, take the cable car and do the downhill walk.
When we arrived at the capital of the state it was already getting dark. There was no sign of tourists around, only locals, mostly young people hanging around. The atmosphere was very relaxed and joyful. The town was lively, a bit provincial but extremely elegant. Nothing prepared us for the next morning’s hustle and bustle.
We returned to ‘our’ parking lot, where we spent a quiet night along with two other German motorhomes. Next morning we took the path again to fully explore the town’s attractions. Although we were out of season (it was early October), the influx of tourists was impressive. I really don’t want to know how it is during the high season…
Before starting our tour, we passed by the tourist office (it is located near the upper terminal of the cable car), where we took a free map and several brochures, including a leaflet dedicated to campers with all the information for overnight stay etc. Not bad at all…
The tourist office is open from 8.15 to 18.00 Monday to Friday and from 9:00 to 13:30 and 2:00 p.m. to 18:00 Saturday and Sunday.
Following the tourist trail we arrived slowly at the gates of the first Tower, known as the Guaita. The admission fee is € 4 (with 1 € discount for those over 65) but if you plan to visit more than one museum/site it is more convenient to buy the multi-museum ticket. It costs € 10 and it gives access to all the city’s museums/sites. The Towers are open from 9:00 to 17:12 during the week and close an hour later during the weekend.
We continued our tour by visiting the second Tower, called the Cesta. This site displays a museum of weapons that I found quite interesting although badly lit; needless to say the subject it is not to my taste. The views, however, are even more beautiful than ones before. Having fulfilled our major tourist ‘duties’ we began to descend without visiting the other towers. Besides it is part of our ritual: leaving something for next time means you are hoping there will be a next time!
Speaking of weapons, it is impressive the number and the variety of guns and knives displayed in the windows of the tourist shops! Hoping that they are air-soft guns (at least they say so although nobody is sure) we focused on more interest items like wines, spirits, perfumes, chocolates and other goodies sold at lower than regular prices due to the tax-free status. Judging from the number of tourists carrying shopping bags, there is no doubt that San Marino is one of the shopping Meccas in Europe!
Besides the above mentioned parking spaces for motorhomes, there are other options too. The parking area number 10 [43.93464,12.44481] has places designated for camper vans and it is located close to the center. The cost starts from € 1.50 per hour and comes to € 8.00 for the whole day, while in the evening until 8 in the morning is free. There are columns for electricity supply (10 cents for 24 minutes to 2 euro for 8 hours). Note that the machines accepts only coins and they do not give change. If you plan to stay there for the night, have in mind that the terrain is sloping.
The good news is that you don’t have to walk uphill to reach the city center. You enter the covered parking number 9, right in front, and then following the signs to the city center you take a lift to another car park; from there a second elevator leads you to a second level, where you take a third elevator to get to level three. Crossing the road you take a fourth lift and you are at the gates of the city center!
Anyway I think that you will sleep better in the parking lot where we were.