Tintine was slowly climbing up the hills of San Marino. Not much pressure should have been put on this car as she had enough of the shocks in the last year or two. The hills around us were rising and soon we found ourselves surrounded by an amazing view. It was San Marino surrounded by Italian regions.

As you can see – San Marino is a picturesque destination. Entirely surrounded by the country of Italy, San Marino is not a town, but a separate country. It is the fifth smallest state in the world. Among which have I already visited: Vatican, Monaco, Andorra

When you visit San Marino, it’s not that obvious you’re entering another country. You won’t need to show your passport; the currency is the Euro as the San Marino is a member of European Union and Eurozone, just like in the rest of Italy; and people speak Italian (though there is a Sammarinese dialect).

It happens to be the oldest sovereign state and constitutional republic in the world, having started out in the year 301. One craft man called Marinus from the island of Rab from nowadays Croatia – the country didn’t exist at that time at all, as the Croatians arrived 3 centuries later – escaped in the Titano mountain. Since then, San Marino has always been an asylum from persecution and despotism. Eventually, a small colony of Christians formed, taking its name from their founder, later to become Saint Marinus.

Thanks in part to their country’s formidable geography and in part to their consistent political neutrality, the San Marinese were able to resist conquest by aggressive neighbors for centuries: the Duke of Montefeltro next door in Urbino, the Pope in Rome, French armies under Napoleon I and, in 1861, the newly united Kingdom of Italy.

San Marino remains the oldest constitutional republic in the world – since the 4th century, almost twice as old as the United States. As Abraham Lincoln was inspired my citizens’ liberties that were mostly coming from French Revolution – few genuine republics endured, and the tide of democracy was giving way to the imperialist ambitions of kings and emperors. Only Switzerland, a federated republic modeled after the United States, and tiny San Marino upheld the republican ideal in Europe. Across the Atlantic, most of the Spanish American republics had either fallen under the despotic rule of military caudillos or were torn by warring factions of conservative landowners and clergy against liberal republicans.

But much more so than San Marino, since its founding the United States had been admired among liberals in Europe and elsewhere as a pioneer in the “republican experiment,” a model — imperfect and unfinished, to be sure — but nonetheless a working example of how a free, self-governing people might live. As the love among the two countries grew – President Abraham Lincoln accepted San Marino’s offer of honorary citizenship.

This withdraw was the best way of making San Marino strong in a modern era. In the following times, turbulent times in Europe, the reason San Marino did not become part of Italy with the unification of Italy led by Garibaldi in 1871 is because San Marino had given refuge to people persecuted for their support of the unification. When San Marino asked to not be included into the Italian state, Garibaldi obliged.

The Three Towers of San Marino are a group of towers since middle ages. On the photo above, behind me is the Guaita – the oldest of the three towers, and the most famous. It was constructed in the 11th century and served briefly as a prison. The other two are Cesta and Montale.

I have to disclose my certain disappointment with this state. Having such a story to tell, I would use it much more to attract the tourists and create the brand. Instead of this, I have seen plenty of the shops and restaurants closed (perhaps because it was February), there was no statue of San Marino – I believe I have managed to take a photo of a mosaic of Marinus – it is on one of the pictures above, but I am not sure if it actually was him.

There was a Museum of Curiosity – I mean, really? – depicting the world curiosities like the woman with longest nails or the tallest man…. I was not impressed. There were many stores of weapon, almost every third. Something I couldn’t understand either…

What kinda saved this country was the wine. The fact they are the fifth smallest country in the world: 30,000 inhabitants over 61 km2 and still having a place to create the wine – is fascinating. In effect, San Marino is the smallest country that produces its own wine.

Having a good glass of wine, it is unique to talk about the political system of San Marino. There are two heads of state: the Captains Regents that are changing every 6 months. One would think in the system arranged this way there is no corruption – wrong. Unfortunately, corruption is everywhere.

The Basilica di San Marino is a Catholic church situated on Piazzale Domus Plebis. It is dedicated to Saint Marinus, the founder and patron of the Republic. It is built in the Neoclassical style, with a porch of eight Corinthian columns. Relics of St. Marino are enshrined in the church.

Perhaps the most interesting part of my day in San Marino was when I visited the State Museum. The museum includes archaeological, artistic and numismatic collections related to San Marino. Let me show you some items that particularly caught my eye:

If you like incredible views, historic sights galore, and visiting one of the smallest countries in the world, then yes San Marino is worth visiting. There is a history and political lesson. The Liberty that guides us to be moral and responsible citizens. Perhaps San Marino was a lesson = after all and not total disappointment.

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