The mist had still not cleared fully within the walls of the San Marino Citta, but I decided to brave it. After all, I had to see the main attraction of this tiny little European country.
If you have seen the national flag of San Marino, you cannot miss out on the 3 towers that grace its middle. Also depicted on their coat of arms, these are a group of 3 towers located on the peaks of Monte Titano, on which the city of San Marino is built.
The Guaita, Cesta and the Montale. And if there is one thing I had to see in San Marino, it were these 3 towers.
Towards The Guaita
From the tourism office (where I had decided to get a unique souvenir for San Marino – its official visa stamp!), I started walking towards the first of the towers – known as the Guaita. I knew it would be less than 10 minutes, but I kept getting distracted. The path to the Guaita was easily laid out, with clear markers and signboards everywhere. But the problem was, there were too many beautiful restaurants and on the way. So, I stopped here and there. And clicked away randomly.
Even though the mist was still omni-present, the walking was fun. The cobblestones were slippery at places due, and many of the shops were closed. Along the steps, I took a look at the majestic Guaita far away, huddled in a cloud of mist.
After a not-so-laboursome walk along the steps, I finally reached the entrance to the Guaita tower. The oldest of the 3 towers, it was constructed in the 11th century as a prison. And it would be a misnomer to call Guaita a tower, because this was an entire fortress.
The tower itself was sparsely populated today, most probably because I was the only nut to come here on a misty day. But while the mist clouded my views – and my pictures – inside the Guaita tower, there was no mist when I looked out at the views of the Adriatic coast and the city of Rimini from atop the top of the tower, which was 700 metres above sea level.
The Piadina of San Marino
I left the Guaita tower and started walking towards the second tower – the Cesta.
But the stomach was growling. I had left early morning from Rimini after a hurried breakfast, and a lunch was definitely the requirement of the hour. Along the fortress walls, there were plenty of vintage-looking restaurants, and I ambled into one of them. Thanks to the mist, I was the only customer there.
I asked the owner for what is special in these parts of Europe. Without flinching, he replied, “have you tried the Piadina?”
I had not. I was quite an expert in Italian food, even dining at Communist Osterias in Rome, but why had I not heard of Piadina before? Because it was a traditional Italian regional food (Prodotto agroalimentare tradizionale) specifically popular in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, which included San Marino and Rimini. While Rome and Milan had their pizzas and paninis, San Marino had its piadina.
The Piadina is a simple thin Italian flatbread. Sold in outlets called ‘Piadineria’, the flatbread is filled with cheese or cold cuts. I was told by the owner that he could make the piadina with sweet fillings like jam or nutella too, if I wanted it. But for this cold weather, I preferred the company of meat.
“What is the local beer?”, I asked.
“I will get that too”, said the owner with a smile. And my lunch was complete.
Note: If you want other local recommendations, I would also enjoy a Gnocco Fritto (also called Crescentina) later in the day when I got back to Rimini. This is basically a diamond-shaped bread which is made with milk, fried, and then filled with Cheese and Salumi, the Italian version of Salami.
Now for the Cesta
After my hearty lunch, and a cigarette in the company of the Amarcord beer which I had just discovered, I said goodbye to the owner and continued my walk towards the remaining 2 towers.
Turns out, I did not have to walk much. Just 50 metres from the restaurant, I came face-to-face with the 2nd tower. The Cesta – also called ‘Fratta’ locally – was built in the 11th century and is currently home to a museum. Among the 3 towers, the Cesta was also the highest, but that is also because it sits on the highest peak in San Marino city.
But there was just one problem. The Cesta was closed.
Either, the mist had ensured that the caretaker had gone away. Or he was probably on a lunch break, since it was around 1 pm. But all I could see of the Cesta was the giant iron door in the middle of the fortress wall.
I made my walk towards Montale after this sight.
The Finale of the walk – Tower Montale
It was quite a long walk, as the Montale tower is situated at the south-eastern end of the city. The cobblestone path sometimes gave way to steps, almost like I had magically reached the set of a LOTR movie. And towards the end of my walk, the path went through some verdant forests. It was almost like I was following a hiking trail.
After a pleasant walk, I finally reached the Montale. Structurally, it was much smaller than the previous 2 towers, and the youngest – being built in the 14th century. While the Guaita and Cesta were actually fortresses, the Montale was a single tower. And it had no door too!
Well, it did. But the door was slightly at a height, and the tower itself was not open to tourists anyway. But the Montale had a strategic role in the history of San Marino, as it was perched in the perfect location and I could observe around the whole city from the base of this tower. Imagine if I could have gotten on top of it?
Entrance Fee: € 3 per tower for the Guaita/Cesta. € 4,50 for both the towers. The Montale tower is not open for the public.
September – June : from 9 am to 5 pm
June – September : from 8 am to 8 pm
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This post is part of my travel stories in San Marino. Click here to check out other amazing stories from San Marino.
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