In Europe, 76 destinations off the beaten path
Looking beyond Rome, Paris or London? Consider Europe's lesser-known destinations, such as Monschau, Germany, a town so quaint you can hardly believe it isn't a theme park or San Marino, one of Europe's oldest and smallest countries (drive through it slowly).
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San Marino( Susan Spano / Los Angeles Times )
"Go slow. There isn't a lot to see," an attendant at a tourist information office told me when I drove into the Most Serene Republic of San Marino. Her candor was, I soon discovered, just one aspect of the wee country's singularity.
Set on an outcropping of the Apennine Mountains, it is the world's oldest republic, based on its founding in the early part of the 4th century. At that time, a Christian stonemason named Marinus (Italianized to Marino), forced by agents of the Roman Emperor Diocletian to work at the Adriatic seaport of Rimini, escaped to 2,500-foot Mt. Titano about 10 miles west. The little settlement that collected around him was apparently too poor and remote to be worth Roman reprisal, so Marino (who was eventually canonized) could say to his compatriots on his deathbed, "I leave you free."
-- Susan Spano
Read more: A trove of tiny treasures
Pictured: Guaita Tower, one of three crowning Mt. Titano, overlooks the city of San Marino below.