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San Marino: Three Towers of San Marino

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Three Towers of San Marino | San Marino | Europe

[Visited: June 2012]

As soon as the bus started driving towards San Marino, ahead of us a steep wall appeared, rising out of the ondulating landscape: Mount Titan. On top of the three peaks of the ridge, I could see three towers, that seemed always more impressive the closer we got. After installing myself in a small hotel in the old city, I was almost automatically drawn to the ridge; the First Tower, or Guaita, appeared ahead of me, dominating the city, higher than the basilica. The sun was still burning high in the sky, the narrow streets full of visitors, so I decided to wait on a small platform with exceptional views towards the Mediterranean, that suddenly seemed very close. The stream of tourists - most of whom were in San Marino for just a couple of hours - became a trickle, and when it finally all but died down, I moved on. Now that I was standing right below them, the walls of the 11th century Guaita seemed huge; once inside, I realized that the First Tower is more than just a tower: it is a small fortification, with the inevitable cannons, but also a chapel, a small green lawn with flowers, a walkway along the crenellated walls, and several towers to climb. There were free views in all directions; the Second Tower or Cesta, the sea, the hills surrounding Mount Titan, villages dispersed in the landscape, fortresses right on top of lower hills: I took time to take it all in, realizing that this was obviously a perfect, strategic spot to build a defensive fortification. Below me, especially on the sea-side, vertical rocks made the Guaita at almost 800m above sea level look like a spot impossible to conquer.

Picture of Three Towers of San Marino (San Marino): Late afternoon view of Cesta, the Second Tower

On the way to the Cesta, or Second Tower, I looked back to the Guaita; from this vantage point, I could now really appreciate the daring construction right on top of vertical cliffs. The 13th century Cesta, also called De La Fratta, appeared a little smaller than the Guaita. Standing on the small courtyard, a chapel appears on the right with a nice bell-fry, while the main tower stands on the left. Again, the Second Tower is more than just that: another, smaller fortification in defence of the small state. Like the Guaita, the Cesta is heavily restored; still, walking the wooden stairs, sometimes carefully climbing a ladder brought about romantic ideas of medieval castle life. From the top, there are perfect views of both the Guaita and the Third Tower, or Montale. The sun had now really started to sink towards the horizon, making the towers look always better. On the way to the Third Tower, I saw a trail to the left, and decided to follow. Two men were climbing up the vertical rocky cliff with ropes, and the trail seemed to continue down - but I decided to walk back to the main trail and to the Third Tower. Unlike the Guaita and Cesta, the 14th century Montale is really just a tower; unfortunately, also the only one that cannot be entered, so I just walked around it, enjoyed the views of the Cesta, and walked back to the old city centre.

Picture of Three Towers of San Marino (San Marino): Guaita or First Tower seen from below the stairway

The next morning, I woke up before sunrise - to find the door of my hotel locked. No one could be found, I did not find any other door, so I decided to look around the frontdesk, where I found a few keys; one of them was actually able to open the front door. Instead of walking the trail I had seen the day before, I decided to walk to the far west, and downhill from there. Reaching Borgo Maggiore turned out to much faster than I had anticipated, and from there, I took the road running right under the cliffs above. Despite the early hour, there was already quite some traffic, and when I reached a roundabout, I turned left, until I reached the started of a trail. The sun had just started to shine on the face of Mount Titan, with grey rocks and trees - and above, the easily recognizable three towers that I now knew quite well. The gravel road I walked had fantastic views of the mountain behind, and I was looking back all the time. Then, suddenly and unexpectedly, a deer ran away from me. Still thinking about it, I saw another one on my right, then one on the left, and then some more. Every one of them caused excitement in me, and I wondered if there were no hunters around. Later, I would find signs informing that hunting was strictly prohibited. Before I turned a corner, I had a last look at Mount Titan; the Three Towers now looked smaller than before, but were still visible. Ahead of me, I now heard dogs barking; the closer I got, the more I heard, until it seemed like I heard more than I ever heard before. I even considered if I could continue, and was already looking for sticks and stones to defend myself. But when I saw a high fence, I knew I was safe, then, I realized that behind the fence was a dog asylum, and indeed, hundreds of dogs producing an overkill over barking. I walked around the hill, and back up towards Mount Titan, with the Three Towers still basking in the morning sun. It was inevitable to walk a busy road to the southernmost point of the mountain, where I took a trail and walked through the forest to Montale: I was back on familiar territory. From here, the walk to the Cesta and Guaita was particularly pleasant; the sun was still not too hot, I was alone, and the light on the towers, coming from the east now, made them stand out against the landscape.

Picture of Three Towers of San Marino (San Marino): The Three Towers of San Marino clearly visible on the crest of Mount Titan
Picture of Three Towers of San Marino (San Marino): Inner courtyard of the Guaita, or First Tower
Picture of Three Towers of San Marino (San Marino): Guaita: the main building of this most important of the Three Towers
Picture of Three Towers of San Marino (San Marino): Chapel and bell-fry inside the fortification of Cesta, or Second Tower
Picture of Three Towers of San Marino (San Marino): View of the Cesta, or Second Tower, from the Guaita
Picture of Three Towers of San Marino (San Marino): The First Tower or Guaita is biult right on top of vertical cliffs
Picture of Three Towers of San Marino (San Marino): Bell-fry of the Second Tower, or Cesta
Picture of Three Towers of San Marino (San Marino): The Montale, or Third Tower, rising above the trees on top of Mount Titan
Picture of Three Towers of San Marino (San Marino): View of the First Tower, or Guaita, with the Mediterranean in the background
Picture of Three Towers of San Marino (San Marino): Guaita, dominating the northernmost part of Mount Titan
Picture of Three Towers of San Marino (San Marino): The Guaita, or First Tower, seen from below in the early morning
Picture of Three Towers of San Marino (San Marino): Guaita, or First Tower, seen from the entrance
Picture of Three Towers of San Marino (San Marino): Looking up the wall of the crenellated Second Tower

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