Within the country of Italy, there are two independent states, Vatican City and San Marino. The Vatican operates as its own entity because, as the head of the Catholic Church, it is its own government. However, what’s the deal with San Marino?
Located in northern Italy, the Republic of San Marino is about 24 square miles, with a population of about 33,000. It is situated between the regions of Emilia-Romagna and Marche. The area was founded during the 4th-century when St. Marinus and other Christians arrived to escape persecution.
Over the centuries, Italy was often invaded by various forces from the French and Austrian-Hungary empire, yet, San Marino maintained its independence. In fact, when Napoleon invaded in the late 1700s, he allowed San Marino to continue as it was and even offered to make their territory bigger. One of the few times the republic was invaded, was in 1944 during World War II by the Germans.
Historians attribute the area’s long-held independence to its location. San Marino is situated in a mountainous area and is isolated from other nearby cities. They also had powerful allies during the 15th-century that allowed them to remain unconquered throughout the Renaissance.
Although San Marino is not apart of Italy, they had no qualms with getting involved when the unification movement was building. Early on, they offered refuge to unification supporters who were fleeing persecution. Later on, after the Kingdom of Italy was established, the two sides signed a treaty allowing San Marino’s continued independence.
As an independent state, San Marino is governed by the Great and General Council, made up of about 60 elected officials. They also have a national defense force with only 50 people.
San Marino citizens are known as Sammarinesi and makeup about four-fifths of the population, with the rest being Italian. All residents receive free education and medical care. The state also provides employment for citizens who cannot find work in the private sector.
The economy currently thrives on tourism, with about 100,000 visitors arriving every year. Some of the most popular attractions include Rocca Guaita, an 11th-century fortress, Mount Titano, and the Basilica di San Marino. They also have a Wax Museum and a Museum of Curiosities.
San Marino is an interesting place. It could have easily succumbed to conquerors or assimilated into Italy when they unified. Instead, they have maintained their status and continue to preserve their homeland for future generations.