LOCATION: San Marino
LANGUAGE: Italian; Romagna
RELIGION: Roman Catholicism
The tiny nation of San Marino is located completely within the borders of Italy. It is Europe's third-smallest country and its oldest independent republic. The people of San Marino are called Sammarinese.
San Marino had its beginnings in AD 301, when a Christian stonecutter named Marinus founded a monastery at the top of Mount Titano. He later became known as Saint Marinus (San Marino in Italian). For hundreds of years, the tiny country remained independent, aided by its strong walls and towers and its mountaintop location. In 1862, the newly formed Kingdom of Italy signed an agreement guaranteeing its neighbor's independence. The two nations also have a free-trade agreement through an arrangement called a customs union.
San Marino lies completely within the country of Italy. It is located in the central Apennines, on the summit and lower slopes of Mount Titano. San Marino has an area of 23 square miles (60 square kilometers). It is about one-third the size of Washington, D.C. The tiny republic is only 8 miles (13 kilometers) long, and 5.5 miles (9 kilometers) wide at its widest point.
In 1992, San Marino had a population of 23,700. The Sammarinese are mostly of Italian ancestry, and most new residents of the country come from Italy. The capital city of San Marino is also called San Marino.
Italian, the official of language of San Marino, is spoken by all its people. However, the Italian of the Sammarinese is distinctive, with certain words and phrases unique to San Marino. Many Sammarinese also speak the regional dialect of Romagna, the part of Italy where San Marino is located.
Mount Titano, on which San Marino is located, is named for the Titans, characters from Roman mythology. They tried to overthrow Jupiter, the supreme god, by piling one mountain on top of another in order to reach the sky.
Roman Catholicism is San Marino's official religion and the faith of almost all its residents. Ceremonies marking many official occasions are held in the country's churches.
The Sammarinese observe the standard holidays of the Christian calendar, including Epiphany (January 6), Easter and Easter Monday (in March or April), Ascension Day (in May), Assumption Day (August15), Immaculate Conception (December 8), and Christmas (December 25). Legal holidays in San Marino include New Year's Day (January 1), Labor Day (May 1), an August Bank Holiday (August 14 to 16), and All Saints' Day and Commemoration of the Dead (November 1 and 2).
San Marino also has five national holidays that mark important historical or political events. February 5 marks an important 1740 military victory. The Anniversary of the Arengo, observed on March 25, commemorates the date of the country's first democratic elections. April 1 and October 1 are the two days of the year when San Marino's Captains Regent, its joint heads of government, take office. On September 3, the feast day of its patron saint (Saint Marino), the republic celebrates the anniversary of its founding.
San Marino is a mainly Catholic country. Many of the rites of passage its young people undergo are religious ceremonies, such as baptism, first communion, confirmation, and marriage. In addition, a student's progress through the education system is marked by many families with graduation parties.
The Sammarinese show the same basic openness and friendliness found among the neighboring Italians. This quality has been important to the success of their nation's busy tourist industry.
Respect toward the elderly is an important social tradition.
Nearly all dwellings in San Marino have electricity and indoor plumbing. All Sammarinese are covered by a national health-care plan. In 1992, the average life expectancy (average number of years that people live) was seventy-seven years.
San Marino's government provides financial allowances to families with children. Until 1982, Sammarinese women who married citizens of other countries lost their San Marino citizenship. In 1973, women won the right to be elected to any political office in the land.
The Sammarinese wear modern Western-style clothing like that worn in the other countries of Western Europe. However, colorful ceremonial costumes are connected with some of their traditions. The young members of the flag-bearers' corps wear brightly colored tights, black boots, and loosely fitting colored shirts with black belts. The honor guards for the nation's leaders, the Captains Regent, wear black uniforms with gold trim, including a gold stripe down their trousers. They wear high, plumed hats with blue and white feathers.
Homemade pasta is one of the most popular foods eaten by the Sammarinese. Fagioli con le cotiche— a hearty bean soup with bacon rind—is a special holiday dish traditionally eaten at Christmastime. Nidi di rondine, whose name means "swallows' nests," consists of hollow pasta filled with ham, cheese, and a meat-and-tomato sauce, and then baked in a white sauce.
A popular dessert is zuppa di ciliege, cherries soaked in red wine and sugar and served with a special bread. Another favorite is bustrengo, a traditional holiday dish made with milk, eggs, sugar, raisins, corn flour, and bread crumbs.
San Marino is known for its wines, especially a red wine called Sangiovese.
San Marino's educational system is based on the system of Italy. School is compulsory (required) between ages six and fourteen. San Marino has no universities of its own. However, its high school graduates may attend colleges and universities in Italy if they pass a qualifying examination.
The Valloni Palace houses many of San Marino's cultural treasures. Its famous paintings include Saint Philip Neri and Saint Marino Lifting Up the Republic, both by Guercino, and Saint John by Strozzi. The fourteenth-century Church of St. Francis, an architectural treasure, houses more historic paintings.
San Marino's national anthem is probably the oldest of any country in the world. It is unusual because it has no words and is played rather than sung. San Marino has a military band that performs at ceremonial events.
Farming provides a smaller proportion of San Marino's income than it did in the past. However, many Sammarinese are still farmers, growing barley, corn, vegetables, grapes and other fruits, and raising livestock. Most other jobs are in tourism or manufacturing. San Marino has very low unemployment.
The traditional national sport of San Marino is archery. Two other favorite sports are pistol and rifle shooting. San Marino's location near Italy's coast on the Adriatic Sea allows its residents to enjoy water sports including swimming, sailing, and deep-sea diving. The Italian sport of bocce, lawn bowling with heavy metal balls, is a popular pastime. The Sammarinese also enjoy soccer, baseball, tennis, and basketball.
The Sammarinese enjoy socializing at cafes and attending movies, concerts, and plays. In addition, they may view painting and sculpture in their museums and churches.
Pottery is created in a variety of styles. The region's white sandstone has been carved into statues, building stones, and other objects since ancient times. Other traditional crafts include painting, jewelry, wood carving, tile work, leather goods, and textiles.
Like Liechtenstein, another tiny European country, San Marino is famous for its stamps. They are designed by respected artists and provide the republic with an important source of income. They are known for their wide variety of themes: there has even been a Walt Disney series with such cartoon characters as Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Goofy. San Marino's coins show the same artistic creativity as its stamps.
With its small size, low rate of unemployment, and extensive social programs, San Marino has relatively few of the social problems that effect other modern nations.
Catling, Christopher. Umbria, the Marches, and San Marino. Lincolnwood, Ill.: Passport Books, 1994.
Carrick, Noel. San Marino. New York: Chelsea House, 1988.