For those who (like me) love Italy, you may be aware that, within its borders, Italy contains two independent countries.

One – the Holy See or Vatican – requires little introduction. The second might be less known.

San Marino, or, by its romantic sounding full Italian name Serenissima Repubblica di San Marino, is just under 62 square kilometers and is tucked at the border of Italy’s Emilia Romagna and Marche regions. The tiny country boasts just under 34,000 citizens. Italian is the official language.

Legend has it that the first human settlement in San Marino was founded in the fourth century AD by a Dalmatian stonecutter who had come to nearby Rimini to rebuild the city walls that had been destroyed by pirates. The mason, Marinus of Rab (modern-day Croatia), was a Christian intent on fleeing the religious persecution of Roman Emperor Diocletian.

He soon settled on Mount Titus and attracted other like-minded Christians of the era to join the monastic community he founded on that dramatic mountain perch.

San Marino /Kimberly Sullivan

The monastic community soon transformed into an independent country, officially founded on 3 September 301.

Marinus of Rab would eventually be sainted, to become Saint Marinus, or San Marino in Italian.

San Marino claims to be the oldest, still existing sovereign state in the world as well as the oldest constitutional republic in the world. San Marino’s constitution, dating back to 1600, is the world’s oldest written constitution still in effect.

San Marino/Kimberly Sullivan

San Marino is made up of nine “castles” (communities), but most visitors will head to the one founded by San Marino himself, and bearing his name.

If you love medieval architecture, this is the place for you. There are three towers to visit and plenty of turrets and dramatic walkways – so bring good walking shoes.

San Marino/ Kimberly Sullivan

We were there on a perfect day, and there are great views out to then surrounding countryside and Rimini and the Adriatic Sea is clearly visible only 16 kilometers (10 miles) in the distance.

It’s been years I’ve been “meaning to” visit this independent country, so it was fun I actually got the chance to go. You won’t notice much of a change when you cross the “border”, except for flags of San Marino flying in this independent territory.

San Marino/ Kimberly Sullivan

You can either walk up to San Marino or park your car and take the panoramic gondola that whisks you to then top. Although we rarely miss an opportunity to hike, limited time meant we chose then latter option, which was a fun way to approach the mountain perch.

San Marino/ Kimberly Sullivan
Riding up in the gondola

San Marino’s historic center, since 2008, is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Next time you’re in Italy, especially in the regions of Emilia Romagna or the Marche, enjoy your time “abroad” in picturesque San Marino.

San Marino/ Kimberly Sullivan
San Marino/ Kimberly Sullivan
San Marino/ Kimberly Sullivan
San Marino/ Kimberly Sullivan
San Marino/ Kimberly Sullivan