Capital: San Marino
I love Italy and would have liked to spend a few weeks here but had been out of Canada for quite a while so I travelled non-stop from Malta to Ljubljana so as not to risk loosing my medical insurance. (In case you don't know, all medical costs are covered by our welfare state in Canada provided one is not absent for more than 182 days). Well, almost non-stop, for I did spend a few hours in San Marino which is hard to avoid on the way from Rome to Ljubljana.
San Marino is really unique. It is the world's oldest independent republic (since 1243), and also the smallest with only 61 kmē for 25,000 citizens. Monaco is smaller (1.8 kmē), but it has more people (32 000) and it's a monarchy, while Liechtenstein and Andorra are both bigger (157 kmē for 31 000 and 468 for 71 000).
Monaco lives off its millionaire exiled heads of state and its casino, Liechtenstein lives off banks and tax evasion, Andorra lives off smuggling between Spain and France but San Marino has only tourism. Not only does it survive quite well, it manages to do it with a sense of humor.
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San Marino is perched on the top of Mount Titano shown here. The city's three ancient forts and the basilica appear on the ridge.
I did not loose much time getting here. Arriving in Rome's airport at 2:30 pm after a two hour flight from Malta, I took the 6:00 pm train that brought me to Ancona at 11:00 pm. There, I had a look around and I waited for the 2:30 am train arriving in Rimini an hour later. I slept on a bench in the station and took the first bus going to San Marin at 8:00 am.
Fort La Cesta with the Montale Tower in the background, seen from the main fort called La Guaita. Their eagle nest positions and the ramparts gave them a strong defensive advantage against any troops approaching the town along the eastern ridge.
The main fort, La Guaita, seen from La Cesta, guarding over the walled enclosure of historic San Marino.
First courtyard of the La Guaita Fort. Strong defenses guarding little land might explain the survival of this republic for more than 750 years. It was occupied only twice and for only a few months, by Cesare Borgia in 1503 and by Cardinal Alberoni in 1739.
Borgo Maggiore, seen from La Guaita, at the foot of Mount Titano is part of San Marino's territory. Italy begins not far from the top of this picture.
View of San Marino from la Guaita with the Palazzo Publico, which can be seen again below on the left, and the Basilica which can also be seen below on the right. In the foreground, a couple of cannons that go bang every 15 minutes for the delight of tourists (especially the children).
I admire a job well done and find that these two veterans deserve a medal for the decorum with which they go through with the ritual firing of these old artillery pieces many times a day without looking bored at all.
The country is small but well defended by the Territorial Army which is the main military force, the Guard of Honour responsible for the safety of the government, the "Rocca" Guard in charge of artillery, the Gendarmerie in charge of law and order and the local Police Forces that control traffic and tourists.
These various armed forces all have colourful uniforms (including modern khaki). They certainly do put on a good show when they parade through the narrow streets in full regalia to the music of a military band that can be heard all over town. They do it several times a day so you can't miss them even if your visit is very short (the music helps to locate them).
These people really have got their act down pat. No wonder they do so well on tourism, they have a lovely hillside town, a couple of fairy-tale forts, a tremendous ongoing show and to top it all, some very good restaurants.
It is a lovely place to visit, even though it is quite touristy, because the show is excellent and it's done with a sense of humour. The Disneyland people could take a lesson or two from this place.
See what I mean by a sense of humour?
I had fun and had time to look around Rimini before boarding the 6:00 pm train for Venice on my way to Ljubljana.