Where it is
This ancient town is located on an enormous rocky outcropping, which cannot be scaled from any side, just behind the Republic of San Marino and the Rimini Riviera, in the Marecchia Valley.
Why visit it
San Leo, a magnificent art capital mentioned by Dante Alighieri in the Divine Comedy, is the heart of the historical region of Montefeltro and the town that gave it its name. Famed for various historical and geopolitical events, it has been the location for documentaries and films, is a popular tourist destination and a jewel of the province of Rimini.
The UNESCO World Heritage List now includes its evaporites: rocks that have formed over millennia as a result of the evaporation of the marine waters that covered these areas and the concomitant concentration of mineral salts, including gypsum.
This honour demonstrates how unique and representative they are, worldwide.
When to go and what to see
Its extraordinary geological configuration, on a rocky mass with sheer sides, has led to its dual military and religious importance since prehistoric times, as seen by its prize architectural and artistic artefacts.
All of the imposing defensive fort, which can only be reached by a single road carved out of the mountain, seems to extend out of the mass of rock that supports it, up to the highest point of the spur where the Fort by Francesco di Giorgio Martini sits.
Once the town was called Monte Feltro, from Mons Feretus, a name linked to the important Roman settlement built up around the temple dedicated to Jupiter Feretrio. It was constantly a source of fighting, until it was finally conquered in 1441 by the young Federico da Montefeltro, who fought long and hard with the Malatesta family for dominance of the Marecchia Valley.
It has hosted such personalities as Dante and Saint Francis of Assisi, who received the stigmata on Mount Averna here. Taken from the Papal States in 1631, it became a horrible prison where, among others, the Count of Cagliostro (1795) and Felice Orsini (1844) lived out their last days.
Named among the “Most Beautiful Towns of Italy”, this lovely historic town is quite charming in every season.
To this day, the rigour and beauty of the old town have remained intact and it boasts a number of Romanesque buildings like the parish church, cathedral and tower, along with several Renaissance buildings like the Medici Palace, which houses the elegant Museum of Sacred Art, the residence of the Severini-Nardini Counts and Palazzo Della Rovere, now the town hall.
And last but not least, San Leo has a great view of the surrounding mountains, along the Marecchia Valley, all the way down to the sea.