The City-State of San Marino
The historic centers of San Marino and Borgo Maggiore, in addition to Mount Titano, all within the Most Serene Republic of San Marino, are beautiful sites that were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2008.
According to UNESCO, San Marino and Mount Titano “constitute an exceptional testimony to the establishment of a representative democracy based on civic autonomy and self-governance, with a unique, uninterrupted continuity as the capital of an independent republic since the 13th Century. San Marino is an exceptional testimony to a living cultural tradition that has persisted over the last seven hundred years.”
Innumerable elements characterize the City of San Marino’s historic center, beginning with the Three Towers (also known as rocche in Italian, or strongholds) that stand out against the backdrop of Mount Titano. The towers served the Republic of San Marino as a defense against aggression from the Malatesta clan of Rimini; they eventually became the symbol of the ancient city-state. Resting on the summit of Mount Titano, straddling the transition from land to sky, San Marino is protected by its old defensive walls, with their magnificent gates and their two bastions.
The Tower, known as the Rocca or Guaita, was the first element of fortification on Mount Titano and its core dates back to the year 1000. Eventually a monument that came to signify peace, this tower was a military stronghold, a watchtower that protected San Marino from outside attacks.
Numerous restorations undertaken in the course of time, from those in the 16th century to those realized between 1925 and 1935 by San Marino native son Gino Zani, have led to the San Marino as it appears today.
The second tower known as Cesta, dates back to the 13th century and stands out against the sea, at the most elevated point on Mount Titano, 2,480 feet above sea level. The name originates from the Latin term cista, referring to a sort of safe or chest holding sacred objects. The cista is said to have resided inside a temple located on the Mount. Currently, the seat of the State Museum of Ancient Arms is housed in the tower.
Montale, the third tower, also an important bulwark during battles with the Malatestas, features a pentagonal plan, while its origins go back to the 13th century.
Among the other buildings in the historic center of San Marino, one rather noteworthy is the Palazzo Pubblico, site of the primary institutional and administrative organs and for official ceremonies. The Palazzo as it is today, in the neo-Gothic style, was inaugurated in 1894. Its façade, with its clock tower overhead, is defined by its grand, arched entryways.
Together with the Palazzo, the Casa Piccola del Comune and the Case Angeli wrap around Piazza della Liberta, open on one side to expose the magnificent view from on high. The magic of the piazza is the harmony of the edifices and monuments with the landscape that seems to transform this place into a living painting of colors, history and the ideas that shaped San Marino’s unique statehood.
Also rather characteristic of the Republic is the Teatro Titano, the State Library and Archive, numerous historic palazzi that belonged to noble families and the Rupe Natural Park.
Religious structures include the Basilica di San Marino, an ancient Romanesque church, Chiesetta di San Pietro; the Convent and Painting Gallery of San Francesco; the Convent of St. Claire, today the University seat and the Monastery of the Capuchins outside the city walls.
A cable car connects the City of San Marino to Borgo Maggiore, a small village that has long had economic and strategic relevance for the Republic since the Middle Ages. Markets and fairs still fill the spaces in this borgo’s typical piazzas and beneath its porticoes, while one market in particular continues to open every Thursday, as it has for centuries.
Standing out in Borgo Maggiore are its bell tower and the porticoes of the market, its large number of wineries, piazzas, Museum of Natural History and two churches of great importance: Chiesa di Suffragio and the Chiesa della Beata Vergine della Consolazione (Blessed Virgin of Consolation), a work by architect Giovanni Michelucci.