“On that damp and lonely Thursday years ago” – Jarvis Cocker.
When I look back on my early travel adventures, I forget how many obscure and ridiculous cities I was crackpacking through. Quite simply, I never wrote about lots of them on here. I have all my notes and folders still and will get them all covered – every town, village, sight, city, country, boozer, cafe, train journey, border, visa, football stadium, hotel, hostel – they need to be covered. One day I’ll forget I was even here.
And so it was on another football trip with friends we had 2 days in San Marino in 2009. It was almost 9 years ago, a staggering fact and this country was one of the first truly unrecognised or less understood countries in the world. Oddly it is officially the world’s oldest republic!! San Marino claims to be the oldest extant sovereign state as well as the oldest constitutional republic, with documents existing in the 16th century, when countries and borders weren’t really commonly used, nor were backpackers cracking it and Instagramming it. Yet it didn’t have a national football team until 1986 (they lost 1-0 to Canada in their first ever unofficial match). In their first ever “official match” they lost 4-0 to Switzerland in 1990, in Serravalle. The country joined the UN in 1992.
“Oh they’ll pass you by glory days” – Bruce Springsteen.
So San Marino is now a full member of the United Nations, of FIFA and of course it makes it onto my own whackpacker’s list of top 627 countries to tour. This was a short trip 5 days that saw myself and my friends at the time visit Pisa, Firenze (Florence) and Rimini briefly before a two day ordeal in San Marino for the San Marino v. Northern Ireland football match.
The match was played in the town of Serravalle but we chose to stay in the country’s lofty capital – San Marino City. This was some adventure as I recall we were almost snowed out and we thought the match would be cancelled and that we would never make it to San Marino City. The road up the hill to San Marino City was particularly slow and winding in the cold San Marinarian winter of 2009. Our bus broke down and we had to get a replacement bus.
I was with Jono, Ollie, John, Graham and Alan. The six of us booked the hostel rooms between us in the Affitta Camere Franciosi Hostel on the corner of a hill over San Marino City. This was an excellent place to stay for the night. All I remember about it was this top 5:
1.Local San Marino Family Ran It
We were in the heart of the capital city and this hostel/hotel/bed and breakfast was run by a local family. We were greeted by a San Marino flag at the entrance and shown to our room.
2.Superb views from the Mountains
The views out our balcony window were amazing. You could see Italy in the distance as San Marino is basically a country on a hill anyway. The snow in the winter here was stunning. Only really Antarctica and my winters in Poland and Tajikistan can top this for gorgeous snow!
We were the only Northern Ireland fans staying here and I remember it was great value as six of us shared the two rooms. It worked out around £10 per person which is good when you consider the prices of Italy at the time. I was a cheap budget backpacker then and I’d do the same again today if I returned.
How cosy should it be for 6 guys sharing? Well actually it shouldn’t be. But after a 3-0 away win for Northern Ireland, a lot of singing, some pizza and a few too many drinks in the bars of Serravalle and Sammy Reno, it was time for a decent night’s sleep and we got it.
5.Good Location to Explore
This wasn’t really a sightseeing trip to be honest but San Marino is a very under-rated country. With no shortage of churches and views plus a World Heritage UNESCO Site, it’s a great place to see. This is why I’d recommend staying at least a night here and exploring. Plus, you can call into the Post Office and get your passport stamped. I love that sort of thing. Here are some photos of my time in San Marino including the night out in the bars and the football match, which was the reason for my trip.
San Marino was my 33rd country on the journey back in February 2008. Here I am 9 years on sitting on a global count of 159 on a countdown to the double century. I often wonder if I will ever be back in San Marino City, or in Serravalle. The truth is, we often never return to such places. But I’m happy to lock them into my beautiful corridor of history. San Marino was quite beautiful. We came in and out of the country by bus – it has no airport or train station. Crossing from Italy to San Marino.
Here are the details for booking the Backpacking in San Marino: My Stay at the Affitta Camere Franciosi Hostel, San Marino City:
Hostel: Affitta Camere Franciosi
Address: via Sentier Rosso, 9 , 47890, San Marino
Telephone: (+378) 0549995483
Here are some videos from my time in San Marino: