You'll Never Guess What the Least Visited Country in Europe Is

Rocca della Guaita, a castle in the Republic of San Marino
Rocca della Guaita, a castle in the Republic of San Marino | © Di caminoel / Shutterstock
Raphaele Varley

Andorra, Liechtenstein, Malta, Monaco, The Vatican – these are likely to be European microstates that you’re familiar with, perhaps even visited, but what about San Marino? Here’s everything you need to know about this unique European spot.

Background

The Republic of San Marino is one of the smallest and oldest nations in the world, and in 2018 received the title of ‘least visited country in Europe’. The 23.6 sq. mile (61.1 sq. km), landlocked microstate can be found on the East coast of central Italy, and sits atop Mount Titano surrounded by dramatic Apennine landscape.

The Republic of San Marino flag

The history

This under the radar country is a living monument to an era in European history when city-states where proliferate. While archaeological finds suggest there was a settlement from as early as the 5th century BC, San Marino was officially consolidated as a political entity in the late 1200s during the Age of the Commune.

In the following centuries, the fortified dwelling was subjected to many invasions, including an attempt by Cesare Borgia in the 1500s and during the 1600s, and again in 1700s, managing to withstand becoming part of the Papal State. The Napoleonic troops that arrived in the 18th century respected the autonomy of San Marino (and even offered it economic concessions) because it was a political body with a republican government.

During the Risorgimento, the mountaintop city became recognised as a place of political refuge, most notably for Giuseppe Garibaldi, which later helped ensure its exclusion from formal Italian Unification in 1867.

A piazza in the republic of San Marino, Italy

Why you should visit

The capital of San Marino (also called San Marino) is a pedestrianised UNESCO World Heritage Site featuring enchanting architecture, from 14th and 16th century convents, to neoclassical basilica, and of course the three fortresses that stand as testament to nation’s resilience and independence. There’s also Mount Titano, which is part of the Apennine mountain range and offers stunning views of the landscape and Adriatic coast. Like many other microstates, San Marino has a tax-free policy so you can shop liberally here – it is particularly appealing for collectors of rare stamps and coins!

Rocca della Guaita, a castle in the Republic of San Marino, Italy

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