Where are the longevity? In the oldest country in Europe

  • A stonemason founded San Marino in 301 and fulfilled the dream of freedom
  • High incomes, empty prisons, fairytale castles and peace: living on top of Monte Titano

One of the smallest countries in the world is actually the oldest in Europe. San Marino is so small that the distance from north to south amounts to 12 kilometers – about as much as from the center of Sofia to the airport. And the number of inhabitants, 33,785 people, is the same as the population of the Viennese district of Wieden. It is completely surrounded by Italy and extends over an area of ​​only 61 square kilometers. For a country with such a small territory, it has beautiful architecture, amazing views and an impressive history. IE..with duty-free trade, which makes its economy resistant to crises.

The emergence of the republic is connected with an interesting legend, according to which its founder was a simple stonemason Marin from Dalmatia (now the island of Rab, Croatia). He was subjected to religious persecution for his Christian beliefs and in about 300 he was forced to flee to the Apennines with like-minded people. For a time he reconstructed the walls around the city of Rimini, destroyed by the Liburnian king Demosthenes. However, Marin considered spiritual self-denial and self-sacrifice as his mission, as well as the creation of miracles. In search of solitude, he built a small cell on top of Mount Titano (Monte Titano) and then completely isolated himself from worldly life. His fame spread far and wide in the area and many of his followers settled around him and built their own dwellings. This is how a peculiar mountain monastery was formed, named after Saint Marina (in Italian – San Marino). This settlement declared independence on September 3, 301, and political independence only in the 6th century, when Italy broke up into different territories.

The history of San Marino from then to the present is as curious as

the republic withstood through the centuries the raids of the enemies.

During the first five centuries of its existence, San Marino was under the influence of a more powerful neighbor – the Duchy of Urbino, which was its protectorate. The republic gained full independence only in 855. Following the model of the consuls of Ancient Rome, posts of captain-regents with the functions of a collective head of state were created in San Marino, but they did not last long.

The mighty walls of the monastery of St. Marinas were a refuge for their inhabitants, from where they defended themselves against the Saracens and the Magyars in the early Middle Ages. In 951, Duke Berengar II also took refuge in the mountain monastic monastery, persecuted by Emperor Otho.

At approximately the same time, the territorial formation of the state took place. San Marino acquired small plots of land from neighbors and expanded with great vigor. As a result of this “expansion”, the republic found itself between two fires. On the one hand there were the possessions of the count family of Montefeltro, and on the other, the lands of Rimini. Both neighbors had political enmity with each other as the former supported the Ghibellines and the latter the Guelphs. San Marino made his choice and entered into an alliance with the Counts of Montefeltro. This decision enraged Pope Innocent IV and he cursed the small country.

The hatred of the popes for the freedom-loving republic, which began with the curse of Pope Ennocent IV on the small country, repeatedly echoed around its inhabitants, but they defended their freedom. The greatest threat came during the reign of the condottieri Malatesta family in Rimini. To protect the republic, the family made an agreement with the Neapolitan king Alfonso V of Aragon. Thanks to this alliance, San Marino acquired the castle of Fiorentino. In 1462, the republic again expanded its territory, the villages of Faetano, Serravalle and Montegiardino were added to it. This happened after Pope Pius II, who had fought against the rulers of Rimini, turned to San Marino for help.

After all, the Roman pontiffs have not managed to lay hands on San Marino. In 1543, the papal army planned to invade the city under cover of night, but the soldiers, 500 strong, got lost in the gorges of Monte Titano. The citizens of San Marino still celebrate this victory, which they won without a single casualty.

The year 1600 gave the Constitution of the State, and in 1631 the Duchy of Urbino became part of the Papal State and became an enclave. The Holy See, represented by Pope Urban VIII, recognized its independence and exempted it from customs duties on imports of goods from its territory. But later, San Marino’s relationship with the popes became very strained, as it provided refuge for fugitives from papal possessions.

By some miracle, San Marino survived the era of revolutions

The French emperor-invader Napoleon Bonaparte also did not touch the republic, even offering it allied relations. Nor did the Congress of Vienna affect her sovereignty. Since 1831, political migrants have found refuge in this mountainous country. Among them were 32 deputies from the former Roman parliament, as well as Garibaldi, the leader of the Italian nationalists.

In the second half of the 19th century, Pope Pius IX decided to take advantage of the instability in the republic and annex San Marino to his dominions. But thanks to the intercession of Napoleon III, the republic was able to maintain its independence. San Marino also survived the unification period of Italy, concluding a treaty of good neighborliness with it.

Military sovereignty turns out to be a winning card for the state. During the First World War San Marino acted as an ally of the Entente, but in the Second World War it declared its neutrality. However, she was unable to avoid a 14-day occupation.

Today’s image of San Marino came at the beginning of the 1950s, when the Republic decided to acquire a powerful television and radio station and build a large casino. Italy countered this by declaring an unprecedented blockade of the Republic and San Marino retreated. But at the expense of this, it receives its greatest advantage today – the status of a free economic zone with a preferential tax system.

470e88961a.jpgThe history of the republic is preserved at every step and is a magnet for tourists who tour the many architectural monuments and other sights. In 2008, the historic center of the capital – the city of San Marino – and the famous mountain Monte Titano were included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. The country, inhabited by 32,000 people, is divided into 9 regions, which are equally popular because everywhere the climate is subtropical and Mediterranean with long sunny summers and warm rainy winters. On average, up to 3 million tourists visit San Marino and its abundance of castles. Almost the entire population of the country lives in small castle towns (Aquaviva, Serravalle, BorgoMaggiore, Faetano, Domagnano, Fiorentino, Montegiardino and Chiesanuovo), which have survived almost in their original form. A large part of the settlements are so picturesque that they constantly serve as a kind of scenery for historical films.

The most iconic sights of San Marino are

the three medieval towers that have looked down from the top of Monte Titano for centuries

and are symbols of the freedom and independence of the ancient republic. Guaita or the First Tower is the most picturesque and beautiful medieval tower of San Marino. It was built in the 10th century on a rocky base without any foundations. The tower was strengthened in the 15th and 16th centuries. It is crossed by two rows of battlements with battlements and small towers at the corners. The stone baroque coat of arms dates from 1600 and was previously on the facade of the town hall. Cesta or the Second Tower – located on the highest peak of Monte Titano and built in the 11th century. It was used as a watch tower and prison until the 16th century. Now there is a museum of ancient weapons. Montale or the Third Tower – built in the 13th century and is the smallest of the three. Around Montale you can see large boulders of very ancient rock set in a primitive wall shape. An old prison is also preserved here.

397f5bc3d3.jpgThe Palazzo Pubblico or TownHall is the main building in Liberty Square. It was built in the Neo-Gothic style by Francesco Azzurri at the end of the 19th century. The facade is decorated with the coats of arms of the republic and four municipalities. Freedom Square is one of the centers of city life. Several times a day, the changing of the guard ceremony takes place here.

The Basilica of the Saint is the main church of San Marino, where the relics of the founder are kept. It was built in the 19th century and is a neoclassical building with Corinthian columns. The interior is in the classic basilica style with a long nave and two side aisles. The current church was built on the site of an ancient religious building from the 4th century. This is a serious loss to history, as one of the first pre-Romanesque Christian monuments in Italy has been destroyed.

The Church of San Francesco was founded in 1361. It is currently the oldest religious building in San Marino.

af3057a533.jpgBesides the fact that San Marino is the oldest republic in the world and the only surviving micro-state on the Apennine peninsula whose area has remained unchanged over the centuries, there are also facts that are less known. One of them is that

power is in the hands of two presidents

– captain-regents who change every 6 months and rule together for a year. They are elected by the Parliament of San Marino.

If you think Italy has the most cars per capita. Each resident of this micro-state owns an average of 1.3 vehicles, because incomes there are also among the highest. For comparison – in Switzerland, half a car is available per person. In Luxembourg, there are 681 cars per 1000 people, in Italy – 663 cars per 1000 people, and in Cyprus – 645/1000.

It’s not just free citizens who live in one of the best places in Europe. The prison of San Marino, housed in one of the wings of a former monastery, has had a single prisoner over the years. He felt like he was at a free resort as food was brought to him from a nearby Tuzara restaurant. For comparison: the hundred prisons in Switzerland are overcrowded with 7,000 prisoners.

One of the most profitable businesses is the sale of postage stamps. It constitutes as much as 10% of the gross domestic product of the country.

Tranquility, high incomes and clean mountain air make San Marino residents among the longest-lived. Average life expectancy is 81 years for men (a European record alongside Iceland) and 85 years for women.

Interestingly, San Marino uses its own calendar that begins with the founding of the Republic. Therefore, while walking through the streets, you will see two different years or two different dates for historical events. So in addition to two presidents, the republic also has two calendars. The change of head of state is a big attraction every 6 months, because the presidential cars are always parked in front of the presidency, but on the last day of his term, the president gets out of the car and walks to show that he is becoming an ordinary citizen again.

The country uses the euro as a member of the European Monetary Union, but is not part of the European Union. At the same time, San Marino minted its own coins.

The country does not impose any physical borders, but immigrating here is very difficult. It also does not recognize dual citizenship.

Some call the locals Italians. This is a great insult to them because

9ba915624d.jpg80 percent of the local population are Sanmarinese, with a sense of pride above all else. They are even offended when foreigners praise Italian wines without knowing that San Marino exports wonderful wines to Italy. Perhaps the only thing that San Marino has happily provided its neighbor is the hosting of the Grand Prix. Due to the mountainous relief, the race is in Imola.

San Marino has never qualified its football team for the European Championship. One of the reasons is that the national sport in the country is crossbow shooting. The competitions are held in the glamorous stadium, created especially for this sport.

Of course, San Marino has an impressive collection of museums, including the Cesta Fortress, the San Marino National Museum, the Museum of St. Francis, the Vampire Museum and the Wax Museum, etc. The biggest attraction, however, is in the Torture Museum of San Marino. A device with which in the past they crushed the knees of the condemned is on display there. As if to remind that freedom must be defended even in the most freedom-loving country.


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