Everybody knows about Italy’s fan-favourite destinations; the winding canals of Venice, the ancient charm of Florence- but did you know that Italy actually has two micro nations inside its borders? San Marino and Vatican city are two of Europe’s smallest countries, both bursting with ancient Italian history and culture.
Potentially the less famous of the two Micro-nations is San Marino, located in North-central Italy. One of the world’s oldest mini-counties, this 8-mile long hidden gem is brimming with classic Italian architecture and killer views. But why does it exist? The vast majority of San Marino is built atop of large hills, giving it true mountain fortress status. Because of this, they were left alone during most major European conflicts, helping to retain their independent status and preserve their incredible towns.
Okay, but why should you visit? Aside from the novelty of visiting a different country for the day on your trip to Italy, the big drawing point to San Marino is the views. Being so high up in the mountains makes for some incredible landscapes, and should be on any photographers bucket list. Public transport into the country leaves from nearby Rimini multiple times a day with easy train and air links available to the main station there from multiple major Italian cities.
Vatican City (Holy See)
The Vatican City is easily one of the world’s most unique tourist hotspots. Famous for the Sistine Chapel- the home of the Pope and one Michaelangelo’s most famous works, this tiny micro-nation is actually the smallest country in the world at 0.17 miles square.
The Vatican has 850 inhabitants, with only 400 of those counting as actual citizens. Why so low? The only way to become a citizen of this beautiful city is to work for the Catholic Church and be appointed by the Pope himself. Each person who moves to the Vatican is given a diplomatic passport on entry and has their citizenship revoked when it is time for them to leave.
‘How easy is it to visit the Vatican?’ I hear you ask. It’s actually super simple! The entire country is situated within the popular tourist city of Rome, which has amazing transport links by rail and air from all major Italian cities and European destinations.