“So do you know the list of the smallest countries in the world” I am asked?
Let me see … ” 1. Vatican City, 2. Monaco, 3. Nauru, 4. Tuvalu, and 5. San Marino”…
Our World Country Count
As Explorason is country counting on our world trip, San Marino for us also becomes the 69th country we have visited over the past four and a half years.
Recently we became mixed up with our world traveling country count, so we had to check the list (somehow I undercounted ten countries), and I confess this was also one of the reasons we wanted to visit San Marino.
We were in Italy, and San Marino is one of the two countries tucked inside of Italy, so easily accessible for tourists and travelers alike.
We also wanted to come and experience a new ultra-modern hotel called Hotel San Marino iDesign run by the friendly Francesco, who has been in the hospitality industry most of his life and is one of the most welcoming Italian gentlemen you can meet.
He has the biblical philosophy he shares on his website too of
Hebrews 13:2 to “Never forget to be hospitable because, in this way, more than one hosted angels without knowing it”.
So when we enter Hotel San Marino iDesign with our Italian friends (who kindly drove us here from Reggio Emilia), Francesco in his friendly nature, invited us all in for a coffee.
We left our bags and passports with Francesco and decided to come back and check in later so that we had time to spend some of the days together in this ancient city. Francesco had talked in Italian with our friends and guided them as to where to park the car, and given us free entry/discount pass for the old city of San Marino.
San Marino is the oldest still functioning republic in the world, and a few years ago there were as many as thirty banks here. Many still come here for financial reasons -but not us. We were here today to explore.
As we parked and exited the car, snow lay about on the ground, and icicles hung frozen from cascading water that once ran down the old stone wall of the city.
It’s Sunday, and also the last day of their Christmas Markets. There are so many pretty wooden stalls with unique crafts on sale.
Most of the shops and restaurants were open (which for post-New Year was amazing), and we walked up through the snake-shape cobblestone streets.
In one area they had been painted white to match the chalky buildings, but this was really slippery!
There is a cable car that runs from the bottom of the mountain up the sheer cliff-side.
San Marino old city is just a place to wander through slowly. The kids loved exploring, and it is easy to get lost without – getting lost!
We stopped for lunch in a tiny hut near one of the castles. There are three towers and on this day we walked to two of them.
Our blogger friends (Mom With Backpack) needed to drive all the way back to Reggio Emilio that afternoon as school term resumed in the morning, so they left us about 2: 30 pm.
The view was ‘to die for’ and the humongous jacuzzi bath was incredible!
I actually had a sleep that afternoon, as I have been recovering from the flu. I can’t remember the last time I had a sleep in the afternoon! It just seemed such a cozy and restful place as the afternoon sun warmed our room.
We then joined our friend Francesco for dinner, and he drove us in the opposite direction to a lovely local San Marino restaurant.
I asked him to place an order for us, and we enjoyed San Marino red wine and also fish that was caught in the sea nearby. It was cooked in the foil with herbs and vegetables and was really delicious with a cleansing sorbet to finish.
I slept really well that night and we woke late to a lovely breakfast.
I can imagine how gorgeous it would be in the summer when breakfast is served out in the courtyard. I especially love the world map outside – I want this for my garden one day!
But for today, we are snug and warm eating our breakfast in the bar and dining area, and the array of food was plentiful. I think most of the guests were late risers, as soon we were joined by a few other guests.
We both wanted to go back today and explore more of San Marino old city. I was surprised at the change from yesterday to today. 80% of the city was closed. No restaurants or stores were trading when we arrived, but a few opened up a little later. Some stores were closed just because it was a Monday, and others were seen packing away their merchandise or looked to be getting ready to renovate. Still, other stores had placed closed signs with dates they were away for a much-needed winter vacation after a busy tourist season.
This was like two different old towns in two days. The Christmas Market huts were closed as we wandered up the hillside. But Explorason and I decided to explore the third tower area. The path to this is off to the side of Tower 2 and the snow made the track somewhat slippery.
I loved that several times that day Explorason enjoyed himself so much and talked about how much he enjoys his traveling life.
Small and children do need to be watched if you go hiking in some areas of San Marino old city. Sheer cliffs drop off from rocky formations, and steps with no sides head up to the walls where guards once stood with ammunition, cannons, and weaponry protecting this walled city.
We returned to the main part of town and found a fabulous restaurant for a late lunch. It had quite a few customers but we managed to be seated at the very corner window overlooking the bell tower and out onto the snowy hills. It was a million dollar location and a really reasonably priced meal too which surprised me. In fact, I found all of San Marino to be very affordable.
After lunch, we slowly walked back down the hill to Hotel San Marino iDesign which takes about half an hour.
It was an evening of more travel talk as we dined with Francesco and famous Modena artist, Rossano Ferrari (who also responsible for many of the pieces of art at the hotel.) He has painted the pool area on the roof that is open in the summertime and will be commissioned for more art pieces in the coming months.
The restaurant selected was out of town and a secret to locals who come here to dine on the home-style cooking.
It is famous for the truffles they cook with, and I enjoyed two different truffle dishes – which was a real treat, once again served with San Marino wine. Explorason had them prepare Milanese – one of his favorites.
We returned to the hotel later that evening (which was beginning to feel like a home away from home.) The collection of treasures that Francesco displays in the lobby area from his world journey is amazing, and I listen to him tell me story after story that accompanied each item. It inspired me to continue to collect my treasures from the places we visit, and it also inspired me to write an article too.
I felt like a kindred spirit with Francesco in many ways. His love for travel and his appreciation for art and collectibles is also very dear to my heart.
We shared many stories of the richness travel brings to our lives.
Staying at iDesign Hotel and San Marino has been one of the highlights of our world travels. If you get a chance to visit Italy, do not miss this tiny country, and if you stop by iDesign, please do introduce yourself to Francesco – he is a delightful soul who will treat you with his amazing and friendly hospitality.
Website: Hotel San Marino iDesign
Address: Via del Serrone, 124, 47890 Murata, San Marino