Within the borders of Italy resides an ancient and fascinating secret, depending upon who you ask. The landlocked Republic of San Marino, the world's fifth-smallest country, is a sovereign microstate preserved in time. It may be the least-visited country in Europe, but what this tiny country lacks in size, it makes up for with pristine landscapes, medieval architecture and national pride. Spending a day in San Marino is as straightforward as just showing up and exploring the old town, but there is more to this nation than meets the eye. Take a closer look at this serene land and its heritage, and see for yourself what makes San Marino one of Europe's most rare and precious gems.

01Take the Cable Car Up to San Marino City

Cable Car at Titano mountain, San Marino. Horizontal shot dvoevnore / Getty Images

The first step in planning your trip to San Marino begins with choosing your mode of transportation. There aren't any train stations or airports in this mountainous country, but you can drive the winding road in a rental car or take the bus from Rimini in Italy. The 40-minute trip takes you to Borgo Maggiore in San Marino, where you can purchase a cheap ride on the aerial tramway. Most tourists opt for the cable car ride, which provides spectacular views of the landscape as it slowly ascends to the walled City of San Marino. Afraid of heights? You can stay on the bus from Rimini as it winds its way up the mountain, or take the steep hike at your leisure as you marvel at the views.