Pop Quiz! What’s the world’s oldest Republic?
Nope, it’s not the United States with its youthful Constitution from 1787. The world’s oldest is also the world’s smallest. Its population is just over 30,000 and its Constitution is from 1600.
Still can’t think of it? Here’s another hint: it’s here in Italy, just a couple of hours drive from where we live in Arezzo.
It’s high up in the Apennine Mountains, overlooking the Adriatic Sea – as you can see I paid a Euro for Lulu to gaze out upon.
Okay, give up? It’s the tiny country of San Marino, or “The Most Serene Republic of San Marino” as it is often referred. Well, it’s not IN Italy, of course, but it’s surrounded by Italy on all four sides.
It was fitting, then, that Lulu and I – along with our great friends Pavlina, Francesco and their son David – visited yesterday – on Italy’s Liberation (from WWII) Day.
“Libertas” is San Marino’s motto and somehow it has managed to remain free and neutral since its founding by Saint Marinus of Arba, a stone-cutter who apparently set up shop here waaay back in 301 AD. The republic is now marked by three ancient castle-like fortresses – made of stone.
Two, which are connected by the mysterious “Passo delle Streghe” or “Way of the Witches.”
But it’s no mystery now that, because of its tax-free status, San Marino welcomes lots and lots of tourists every year.
They can explore the towers and the perfume, leather and clothing stores that line up alongside the stone walls and its rather merry Museum of Torture.
No, we didn’t go in there. We largely stayed out of the tourist traps. We chose a piadina café instead.
After which, followed the obligatory visit to the nearest gelateria.
Lulu’s blue-colored flavor was labeled “Puffo.” That’s what they call a “Smurf” here in Italy, er, I mean in San Marino. Yes, the language is still Italian. Meno male!
We hiked up and around the ring of mountain-tops admiring the incredible views.
It’s a magical place. That makes you wonder about its residents and its history.
Peering through the old defensive key-holes –
– it’s no wonder San Marino is still renowned for its crossbow contests. They have had more than a millennium of practice.
San Marino’s Crossbow arena
And while not for nearly as long, Lulu is still very practiced at a special piercing talent: Cajoling me into souvenir shops to “buy me something!” On our way leaving the independent republic and duty-free haven, I finally ducked into a tiny store.
And emerged with Lulu clutching a pink “Peppa Pig” plushy.
After, 1,700 years, San Marino remains its own country, with its own laws, flag, stamps…. and tchotchkes.
With love from San Marino,
Gina and Lulu
P.S. Every visited a tiny place? Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, Lego Land? Let me know how it went!
For more adventures in Italy and elsewhere, please, pretty please, go and check out, my new book – “Because I’m Small Now and You Love Me” available worldwide (even in San Marino) on Amazon!