Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Vicarious Tourism: San Marino

Between a certain wedding and a certain funeral I picked a hell of a weekend to go on vacation. I spent it in Bologna, eating, drinking, and making making merry with my grad school classmates. A good time was had by all. I had a couple of extra days on both ends of the reunion so I took a couple of day trips, including one to San Marino.

The tallest tower
The Most Serene Republic of San Marino is the world's oldest surviving sovereign state, having been founded as a monastic community in 301 AD. How did they manage to keep their independence through all the centuries of Italian great houses squabbling over territory? This becomes apparent when you see the place - it's essentially a very steep little mountain with a small town and a fortress at the top. I got tired enough just strolling around the old city for a couple of hours; I can't even imagine how much energy it would take to invade it with pre-industrial weaponry and transportation. It was also pretty poor until the advent of modern tourism so it was hardly worth the trouble.

The economy of San Marino is based almost entirely on tourism so there are lots of museums, public and private, to fill your time with. I mostly shunned them. I did pay the €4.50 to clamber around in two of the towers and look briefly at the small collection of historical weaponry. There wasn't all that much to see inside the towers but the views from the battlements were fabulous. The picturesqueness of the place is really probably the best thing San Marino has going for it, particularly in the spring when all the flowers are blooming. It's also a nice visit for micronation enthusiasts and completionist world travelers; there's no border control but they'll sell you a nice visa and entry stamp at the tourist office for €5 to prove that you have really been there. Yay passport bling!

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