The Phantom of Freedom: How San Marino has retained its independence since ancient times and reaps dividends from it

Vokrug Sveta found out how the inhabitants of a tiny republic do it

On the second floor of an old building made of rough slabs local limestone, silence reigns. Thick walls reliably muffle the many-voiced hubbub of the crowd creating fuss on the street. There is a cup of coffee with a thin stream of steam on the table in front of me, a thick veil of fog outside the window, not a single light is visible.

The Phantom of Freedom: How San Marino Maintains Independence Since Ancient Times and Reaps Dividends from It

“We often have this weather in the summer,” says Marina Tamagnini, Minister of Tourism, in whose cozy office I enjoy a fragrant drink. “One day it saved us from invaders. In June 1543, the nephew of Pope Julius III, the Tuscan condottiere Fabiano del Monte from Monte San Savino, encroached on the lands of Titano, but the cavalry and infantry under his leadership got lost in thick fog, so the idea failed.

— How often did they try to conquer your country?

“Our barren mountain is not so interesting: no minerals, no fertile land. For centuries, poverty reigned here, so in the first half of the 20th century, many Sanmarinians even left to work in other countries. Until now, thirteen thousand of our citizens live abroad – from France and Belgium to America and Argentina. At the same time, they still have the right to vote and all other privileges of citizens of the state, but often have no idea how life is in their homeland. What can we say about strangers who do not know anything about our republic at all.

Once at passport control, they asked me why I was fair-skinned. The border guard was sure that San Marino was an island in the Caribbean. This is, of course, a special case. More often people just think that we are part of Italy. After all, we are in the middle of it, and even speak Italian. But San Marino is an independent republic, with its own economy, political system, state symbols.

The Phantom of Freedom: How San Marino Maintains Independence Since Ancient Times and Reaps Dividends from It

There is a small two-colored flag on the minister's desk: the upper half is white, the lower half is pale blue, in the middle is the coat of arms of San Marino, on the shield of which three towers on green hills are depicted.

Spirit of the Mountain< /h3>

The oldest document confirming the existence of San Marino dates back to 885. In 1463, the borders of the state were established, which remain unchanged to this day. In 1738, Cardinal Alberoni, supported by papal supporters, captured San Marino. A popular uprising broke out, and in 1740 the pope ordered the liberation of the country.

In 1797, Napoleon became interested in an independent state and declared that “San Marino must be preserved as an example of freedom.” In 1805, the French emperor offered the Sanmarinians to expand their territories at the expense of neighboring Italian regions, but received the answer: “We don’t need someone else’s. The Republic is content with its poor honesty.”

In 1815, the participants in the Congress of Vienna added the name and characteristics of the country to the list of sovereign states of Europe. During the Second World War, the country remained neutral and gave shelter to about one hundred thousand refugees.

Three fortresses

These towers are the main attraction of the country and a magnet for tourists from all over the world. I walk upstairs, following the curves of the street. The fog is lifting, the cobblestone pavements glisten damply in the sun. From the walls of the fortress of Guaita, the road paved with stones becomes clear in the palm of your hand, which winds along the ridge of the cliff to the gates of her sister, Chesta. The medieval tower, crowned with a metal feather, rises from a vertically cut rock, the highest on Mount Titano. In the distance, the third fortress, Montale, is visible. Climbing Guaita, I seem to fall inside the coat of arms of San Marino.

On the coat of arms of the tower are silver, which means combat readiness. Ostrich feathers on the crowns are an ancient symbol of freedom from restrictions. Every element of the coat of arms is dedicated to independence. Above the shield with three towers there is a golden crown, a sign of the sovereignty of the state. From the sides, the shield is framed by oak and laurel branches, the first symbolizes stability, the second – the protection of freedom. At the bottom they are tied by a ribbon on which is written the motto of San Marino – Libertas. Freedom.

It seems that the mighty fortifications, built of uneven pieces of sandstone, are unshakable, that they keep their power and grandeur from the very moment of construction, but this is not so. In the 19th century, due to desperate poverty, the Sanmarinians almost dismantled the walls and towers in order to use stones for the construction of roads and residential buildings.

But at the beginning of the twentieth century, the authorities realized it and began to restore the historical heritage. And by the end of the 1920s, the fortresses were restored, despite the difficult economic situation. And in the 1960s, with the development of tourism, symbols of freedom began to bring considerable income to the treasury. A tiny country that has retained sovereignty over the centuries has become one of the main points of attraction for vacationers on the Rimini Riviera.

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Tour country

Another group of tourists is gathering at the site in front of Guaita. They line up along the ramparts, chatting animatedly, pointing their smartphones at the panorama of green hills and tiled roofs below.

“I love Italy!” exclaims one of the tourists in my ear.  – Neither customs nor passport control is required when crossing the border with Italy. Buses go to San Marino, as to any city in Italy, and some people do not even realize that they have left one country for another, and to the oldest free state in the world!

1/5“Once I was asked at passport control why I was fair-skinned. The border guard was sure that San Marino was an island in the Caribbean Sea.

The country owes its freedom to the Christian hermit Marina, who fled on Mount Titano from the persecution of Emperor Diocletian. The owner of local lands granted the saint the territory of Monte Titano in gratitude for saving her sick son.

Gradually, a whole community of Christians gathered around the Marina, and a settlement arose on the top of the mountain. Before his death, the saint said to his followers: “I leave you free from both people,” referring to the pope and the emperor. Sanmarinians sacredly honor this covenant and still do not recognize anyone's authority over themselves.

The relics of the saint are stored in the Basilica of San Marino, spacious and strict, made in the neoclassical style. Wide steps lead to doors shaded by a portico with two rows of columns, the frieze is inscribed in Latin: DIVO. MARINO. PATRONO. ET. LIBERTATIS. AVCTORI. SEN. P.Q, – which means “Saint Marin, the patron who brought freedom. The Senate and the People. In the altar part of the basilica there is a marble sculpture of Marina, under the altar there is an urn with his relics. The main shrine of the temple was moved here about three hundred years ago.

Until 1713, the remains of Marina rested in the chapel of St. Peter, to the right of the basilica. You can’t get inside: the entrance to the chapel is closed with a protective net, through which you can see the beds of two saints carved in limestone – Marina and his companion Leo.

“The left bed belonged to Marin,” Sarah points out.

— Well, this is not customary, still a cultural monument, but I heard that you can negotiate with the caretaker of the basilica if there are few people.

From the main temple of the country, the road leads in a steep zigzag down to the narrow Freedom Square and the Government Palace built of light stone. In front of him, on a high pedestal, stands the snow-white statue of Liberty: clutching a spear, with a helmeted head, she looks like a warlike Athena. A car with the number 001 is taxiing into the square.

The Phantom of Freedom: How San Marino Maintains Independence Since Ancient Times and Reaps Dividends from It

—This is one of our two captains-regents, explains Sarah, while the car parks nearby to the clicking of cameras. -They are chosen every six months, on April 1st and October 1st. In such a short time, the captains do not have time to get used to the power and privileges that it gives. In addition, they are always from two different political parties, so they must find a compromise when making decisions.

In choosing the heads of their small and free state, the Sanmarinians demonstrate, among other things, independence from stereotypes. The country leads in the number of young elected heads of state in the world. Seven of the captains regent since 1900 have been under 30 years of age. Three of them are women. The youngest of the Captains Regent was Maria Lea Pedini-Angelini, who was 26 years old at the time of her election in 1981.

Twice captain-regent became Mirko Tomassoni, since 1999 confined to a wheelchair. Thanks to him, ramps and elevators appeared in the country, allowing people with disabilities to easily get to any point on Mount Titano. The streets of San Marino are too steep and cobbled.

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< h2>Market Day

One of these streets goes down from the Freedom Square. It is full of shops. Here, behind a massive wooden door, leather goods of all colors of the rainbow; there, a jewelry store window plays in the sun. Here a perfume boutique exudes aromas, behind it a shop with Venetian masks grins with many faces. Taxes in San Marino are much lower than in Italy, which is good for both sellers and buyers. Many come here to profitably buy something made in Italy. San Marino has few own goods.

The tiny shop is quiet and cool. Silver and gold coins and medals gleam in the window. Sets of stamps on a variety of topics, from Japanese-style paintings to portraits of David Bowie, add color to the exhibition. San Marino has its own stamps and coins, the State Autonomous Enterprise for Philately and Numismatics is responsible for their production and distribution.

In the store attached to the office, I wait for the director, Joy Giardi, and before she arrives, I look at the merchandise on display. The eye lingers on the familiar depiction of the Titano with three turrets, and I request that a set of stamps be obtained so that I can examine them more closely. Joy finds me doing this.

– These are my favorites – she smiles. – A Japanese once told me: “Your stamps are small ambassadors of San Marino , they tell about your towers all over the world.”

1/6 Despite everything, philately and numismatics continue to generate income for the state treasury

Until the end of the 19th century, the Sanmarinians sent mail through Italy. Every morning the postman picked up the letters and packages and went to Rimini to post them and pick up the arrivals. The stamps were also glued Italian, and the only indication of San Marino was a stamp with the name of the country: the postman himself stamped the envelopes and packages. On August 1, 1877, the first state stamp was issued, on which the coat of arms of San Marino flaunted. To release it, we had to conclude an agreement with the Italians.

– We do not have our own printing house, – explains Gioia. – Now we are cooperating with Italy, France, Germany. Whom to give the order to, we decide depending on the prices and materials.

Sanmarinians also mint coins abroad. Mostly in Italy, but since 2017 some silver coins have been cast in Austria. Joya had to seriously delve into design issues, because the images on the Sanmarine euros are different from each other. In addition to ordinary coins, the country issues commemorative coins every year in denominations of two euros. In 2019, they are dedicated to Leonardo da Vinci.

— The designer who develops the coin must have a special specialization. It's one thing to create a work of art on a tiny piece of metal, another to comply with the strict regulations of state banknotes, – explains Joya. – You have to take into account many subtleties, from the thickness of the coin to the font. If a good graphic designer can draw a beautiful stamp, then a coin can only be entrusted to the mint designers with whom we cooperate.

The state autonomous enterprise for philately and numismatics arose after the Second World War, when the first tourists began to come to the country. But long before that, collectors from all over the world were hunting for stamps and coins of San Marino.

— It is believed that it all began in the XIX century. A German businessman came to San Marino. Among his correspondents was a philatelist. It was he who drew attention to the unusual stamps on the envelopes – a rarity. Later, other collectors learned about the stamps. Unfortunately, the time of philatelists is running out: our regular customers are aging, the current generation is interested in gadgets, not stamps. My father worked here as a director before me and was a real expert. The head of the Italian branch of Volkswagen even instructed his father to take care of his collection.

I learned everything from my father: I went with him to the annual stamp exhibition in Riccione, studied his catalogs, books. But my daughter is not interested at all. Once I visited her in Spain, where she studies, and I forgot my credit card there. My daughter did not know how to mail it to me, she had no idea why mailboxes were needed and where to put the stamps!

Despite everything, philately and numismatics continue to generate income for the state treasury. Stamps and coins are the most popular local souvenirs.

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