Montale Tunnel – San Marino, San Marino - Atlas Obscura

Montale Tunnel

The San Marino-Rimini railroad was short-lived but this tunnel once provided shelter for hundreds of refugees during World War II.  


Anyone who visits San Marino City would not be surprised that getting a railway from the coast into San Marino’s mountaintop location would be difficult. Yet in 1932, a narrow gauge electric railway service was opened from Rimini on the coast of Italy to San Marino City. The railway operated the Italian one-meter gauge, typical of narrow gauge railroads in Italy, with a gap of three feet (950 millimeters) between the inner edges of the rails (1,000 millimeters between rail centers).

The winding track required the construction of 17 tunnels within the Republic of San Marino. The amazing achievement of this railway was that it utilized subtle civil engineering rather than a brutal mechanical response, such as a rack and pinion, to maintain the traction on the rails. Power came from overhead electric cables supplying electricity at 3000VDC.

The line was closed during World War II after about 12 years of operation and never reopened since improved road transport to the city displaced it during the war years. Much of the infrastructure was damaged during the fighting in the area.

Tunnels on the line once housed thousands of refugees. During the war, a motive power unit was left stored underground (in working condition) in the final 500-meter-long tunnel. In 2012, more than 2,000 feet of the line through the Montale tunnel was reopened for tourists and the city has committed to further extensions. The train runs only occasionally, but the public is free to walk through the tunnel most of the time.

At the tunnel entrances, visitors will see info boards giving details of the wartime use of the tunnels as shelters for locals and Italian refugees.

Know Before You Go

Many people claim it is hard to find but if you walk south from the old railway station along Via del Voltone you should see it on the left just before Via della Tana. Easier to miss when traveling north. Google Maps will put you on a road which is one street east of where you need to be.

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