San Marino is the oldest republic in the world, a tiny country up on a hill, surrounded by ancient fortifications, looking out across Italy and over the sea. It took us two trains and a bus to get there from Venice, but we were rewarded with glorious weather and striking views across the lands.
The bus dropped us off at the bottom of the country, and we had a confusing, daunting and winding trek up to our hotel nestled in the old city walls. With the sun beating down on us, we hauled our luggage slowly up the steep narrow streets, and started to appreciate how this land has maintained its independence. A rugged wall rings the tall tiny country, with three tall towers keeping watch from all directions.
Once we had checked into our hotel and met their puppy Kira, we wandered down the convoluted roads to the People’s Palace to see the changing of the guard at 5:30. Inside, we could see two men in their jaunty red and green uniforms, and as I watched them, they switched places at a desk. The newly seated guard took of his hat and started reading a book. I was a little disappointed by the lack of spectacle in the ceremony, until I read later that the event runs only from May to September.
The souvenir shops were quite interesting, selling liquor, San Marino euro coins, San Marino stamps, and a huge number of weapons – guns, knives, mace, etc. I am guessing that the laws governing the sale of armaments in this country are a little more lax than usual. However, instead of picking up a rifle, we found a cute owl clock to take home instead. We paid our 5 euro to have our passports stamped at the tourist office, and she did an excellent job, even carefully affixing a colour postage stamp to the page for some extra pizzazz. We finished up our day with some gnocci and fries, and went to sleep safely ensconced within the stone arms of San Marino.