There are three countries in the world that are completely surrounded by one other country. Vatican City and Lesotho are two, but what's the third?
And the answer: San Marino.
With a population of around 33,000 people, San Marino is a tiny country in central Italy. In 1797, when Napoleon invaded Italy, he respected the independence of San Marino and even offered to extend its territory. To this day, it remains an independent micro-state.
San Marino is the fifth-smallest country in the world, the oldest sovereign country in the world, home to the oldest constitution in the world and, finally, is the smallest republic in the world (impressive for such a tiny country, no?). At just 24 square miles, San Marino is sometimes called the "most serene republic" with its central limestone mass of Mount Titano located in the Italian Apennine mountains.
San Marino was founded by a Christian escaping religious persecution in the Roman Empire. Soon after founder St. Marinus escaped to the mountains, other persecuted Christians followed suit, and a fort was established. It is said that a Roman noblewoman named Lady Felicia gifted the land to St. Marinus to thank St. Marinus for curing her son of illness.
On his deathbed, St. Marinus delivered his final words: "I leave you free from both men." Taken to mean the pope and the emperor, the people of San Marino used his words as the driving force for their sustained sovereignty, and soon after drafted their constitution (sometime in the 16th century). Today, it’s the oldest in the world.
About half of San Marino’s economy is based on tourism. Thanks to its gorgeous hillside, attractive churches and thousands of years of history, there’s plenty to see.
Learn more about San Marino below.