San Marino: Day trip destination of the month

The Guaita Fortress, built in the XI century, overlooks the Republic of San Marino. The fortress, otherwise known as the "first tower" has been restored several times throughout its long history. The prominent landmark provides tourists a variety of great photo opportunities. (U.S. Air Force photo/2nd Lt. Brian Wagner)

The Guaita Fortress, built in the XI century, overlooks the Republic of San Marino. The fortress, otherwise known as the "first tower" has been restored several times throughout its long history. The prominent landmark provides tourists a variety of great photo opportunities. (U.S. Air Force photo/2nd Lt. Brian Wagner)

Many visitors travel to the Republic of San Marino for its shops. Offering tax-free products, shops include everything from precious jewels and designer merchandise to ceramics, leather goods, perfumes, clothing and unique crafts. (U.S. Air Force photo/2nd Lt. Brian Wagner)

Many visitors travel to the Republic of San Marino for its shops. Offering tax-free products, shops include everything from precious jewels and designer merchandise to ceramics, leather goods, perfumes, clothing and unique crafts. (U.S. Air Force photo/2nd Lt. Brian Wagner)

AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy -- Founded in circa 300 AD, the Republic of San Marino is considered, by many sources, the oldest republic in the world. It is completely surrounded by Italy and only has a land mass of 23 square miles.

About an hour drive South of Bologna, it is the perfect destination for a day trip where one can visit the fortress towers with their medieval weapons exhibition or one of their several museums and art galleries. Their "Palazzo Pubblico" or public palace built in 1894 is a must see with the hourly changing of the guard that provides unique photo opportunities.

There is a cable car from the base to the top of the mountain that offers an easy ride with breathtaking scenery of San Marino and the Adriatic coastline of nearby Rimini. The medieval "Cava dei Balestrieri" or quarry of crossbowmen is also a popular venue for modern day concerts, plays and other local events.

Although not an EU member, San Marino is allowed to use the euro as its currency and has also been granted the right to use its own design on the national side of the euro coins. San Marino coins and postage stamps are highly collectible items by casual tourists and serious collectors alike.

The historic city center provides many restaurants where one can relax and enjoy a wide array of dishes in the renowned cooking style of Italy's Romagna Region in which it lays. Souvenir shops and ice cream parlors or "gelaterias" are in no shortage their either.
Finally, one can memorialize the visit by obtaining a tourist visa stamp in their passport. It's as easy as making a quick stop in the tourist office and only costs 2.50 euro.