Two Places Where Italy Isn’t Really Italy After All

Did you know that Italy’s borders encompass two separate, independent countries? Most people are familiar with Vatican City as being one of them, but the other has escaped my attention until just recently. Because of my curious nature, I did a bit of research about these two countries and discovered how uniquely different they are from each other.

The picturesque little country of San Marino, Europes third smallest country after Vatican City and Monaco, has a population of just over 32,000 spread out over its 24 square miles of hilly land. Founded in 301 AD, it sits high on a mountaintop in north-central Italy toward the Adriatic side and is popular with tourists. San Marino is the oldest republic in the world and has a parliamentary government based on rules written in the late 16th century. Although not part of the EU, it uses the euro as currency like Vatican City.

Fortress of Guaita, San Marino (photo credit

San Marino has managed to keep its independence for a long time mostly because of its hilly terrain. In the 1800’s many supporters for the unification of Italy found relief from persecution in these hills. As a result, a friendship treaty was signed by the Italian state that would guarantee San Marino’s independence permanently.

Borgo Maggiore, San Martino (photo credit

If you find a chance to visit San Marino, be sure and climb the historical towers for gorgeous views of the town and countryside. The Centro Storico di San Marino is a great place to discover the heart and soul of its people. If you like a private local tour guide, you can contact Tours by Locals. They have several options, and the personal touch can be very enjoyable.

The flag of San Marino displays a coat of arms with three towers on three peaks of Monte Titano. White stands for peace and blue for liberty.

Vatican City, a semi-walled city-state inside Italy’s capital city of Rome, is ruled by The Holy See, the central government, of the Catholic church and is the centre of the Roman Catholic Church. As a monarchy, it is lead by the pope. Vatican City is also the world’s smallest country on only 100 acres and owning a population of 800. As one of the most powerful countries on earth, it is also, unsurprisingly, one of the richest.Each of the two countries has their own flag, anthem, stamps, coins, and licence plates. Both countries are internationally active, including U.N. memberships, but they are not entirely in line with the Italian government and politics. San Marino has a parliamentary government based on rules written in the late 16th century.

St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City (photo credit

Have you ever wondered how someone becomes a citizen of Vatican City? To begin with, unlike any other country, acquiring citizenship in Vatican City has a due date. It is temporary and only for people directly working in the Vatican which can include their close family. Cardinals resident in Vatican City or Rome, diplomats of the Holy See or people residing in Vatican City because of their office or service all comprises the body of citizens. However, it is only the last category that requires an actual grant of citizenship.

Pretty exclusive, wouldn’t you say?


Vatican City flag displays the Keys of St. Peter, one in gold which signifies spiritual power, and one in silver for worldly power. The Papal Tiara can also be seen.

There is much to see inside of St. Peters Basilica and Vatican City. For tours through its extensive museums, the Sistine Chapel, or the underground, visit Vatican Tours.

Gardens of the Vatican City (photo credit

While touring Italy, take a couple of short detours into these little countries. They have a lot to offer anyone seeking to understand and enjoy another region. Of course, they are very Italian, but they also conduct their lives and affairs as proud independents.





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