Discover an entire state, which, as a matter of fact, is the oldest existing republic on earth! On top of that, you will see the sea in another state the same evening, happily cruising on board a nimble Vespa. Impossible, you think? Not at all, just choose the right destination!
(Den deutschsprachigen Text finden Sie in der aktuellen Ausgabe des WIENER!)
„Benvenuto sulla Terra della Liberta“ the huge letters on a structure errected just for that very purpose greet the visitors. It marks the stateboundary of San Marino at the four lane highway connecting the tiny republic with the rest of the world. Here it´s the wellknown holiday resorts along the Adria from Riccione to Catolica, legendary seaside holiday locations of the german speaking (petit) bourgeosie of the nineteenseventies in particular.
At the very spot, where that Highway leaves the Strada Statale 16, aka „Adriatica“, the Aeroporto Federico Fellini – Rimini welcomes guest from allover. His hometown did justice by naming it´s airport after the great director, who definitely did enjoy more success than the aerodrome. However, once arrived, the Vespa deffinitely has to be the favoured means of transport forsure.
First of all you do look better on such a cute scooter, but moreover you actually get moving around, whilst even the first days of june streets along the coast allready are congested by tourists eager to chill of in the Adriatic. Fortunately Italians are well aware of the supremacy of twowheeled motorvehicles, so no danger of beeing blocked deliberately when wiggeling through the queues at trafficlights. On the other hand, they will show you how to accelerate sportivo raceing up the mountain towards San Marino, and it is climbing up rather steeply, while you get youre first look of the city on the mountaintop allready from the distance. Well, of the fortifications with it´s three towers that is, while the rest of the city is hidden in the back of the cliff. Which might explain, why the tiny country successfully kept all enemies outside it´s boundaries for the better of 1700 years. Which makes it the oldest existing republic in the world, you can´t blame them proudly announcing that amazing fact!
It is impressive indeed, that no more than thirty thousand San Marinesi at best managed to keep their integrity against the appetite of Romans, Franks, Venetians, Crusaders and the Pope´s troops. It is easier understood when you look at the La Guita Castle high on the sharp crest of Monte Titano with nothing but blank, vertical rock underneath. What´s more, no matter if you try to pass the rock to it´s left or right, it want get you anywhere, there´s no strategically significant pass to take beyond San Marino, which might have helped in keeping potential occupiers under control, as even in the city itself there was not much worth the hassle as well.
Quite the contrary, from Marinus´, the first inhabitant of the mountain, times on, anything he needed to survive had to be hauled up. He had moved from the croatian island of Rab to aspiring Rimini in order to make his career as a stonemason. Being one of the earliest christians that was denied to him, fleeing to Monte Titano he was accompanied by like-minded people. The 3rd of september 301 is assumed as the founding date for their faith community, after Emperor Galerius edict of toleration in 311 Marinus was appointed Bishop of Rimini, a noble lady that had converted to christianity later donated him the mountain. His last words were taken as a mandate by the habitants to recharter the order as a republic.
Since that time the ascent has become a lot more convenient by the aid of a cable car that wafts up from the borough of Borgo Maggiore. Which, as one of the nine Castelli, i.e. comunities, together with Serravalle accomodates the majority of factories and officebuildings of San Marino. The latter quite vacant since the monetary union and bilateral treaties barred the previously lively stream of black money flowing into the states nine international banks.
Having lost many of it´s direct charter flights to Rimini from Russia does not help the cause either, as Alice Mina, Secretary of State for Tourism lays out. She´s chatting with a souvenir vendor in one of the narrow alleyways in the historic center sitting on her Vespa when i meet her, does she alwyas use the scooter, i ask. „Oh no, usually i take the cable car. But i´ve learned, you want to explore our little that way!“ Correct, but where to go, within the walls it is, in the strict sense, forbidden to drive unless you are a resident. She points out the Castelli Fiorentino, Aquaviva and Chiesnuova to me, all of them in the hinterland, if you may. Over the centuries, she explains, the republic has acquired farmland in order to feed it´s hungry soldiers. And still, crops, fruits and olives are raised, as well as some surprisingly excellent wine. From our lookout on the square in front of the Palazzo Publico she points out the boundaries of her state, which in fact is entirely visible from here.
How it feels, to be a citizen of such a particular country, i want to know from her, before she clatters off again on her Vespa. „Very proud and special, indeed. Although we do speak italian and live within the italian culture, we at any time are aware, we do enjoy a privileged rank!“ And let me give you some important advice at this point, in order to find yoursel in an embarassing situation in a conversation with a Sanmarinese: never address them as Italians or say „here in Italy“. Never!
Unless you do so, people her generally are extremely friendly and hospitable, like the Capitano of the Guards, who invites me to have a look at the state room in the seat of government when he identifies me as a photographer. And does excuse himself very courteously for the fact, that the changing of the guards this year has not yet begun, our fault, my sir, scusate. And the salesperson in one of the countless gunshops does not hesitate to explain the plethora of such establishments. „All during our long history, we did have to defend ourselfs, as you can tell by the halberds and lances still on display nearly everywhere. But these days we do most of our business with paint-ball-guns, all over Italy cusomers know we do have the largest assortment by far!“
In general, daily visitors seem to form the majority of visitors, be it italian schoolclasses, unmistakebly quacking in front of the gelateria waiting for their reward for listening to the teacher on the arduous sight-seeing-tour. Or the groups of ambitious amatuer bike racers from northern europe sweetening their personal hilltop stage win with some prosecco. They do take advantage of the rarely used small streets in the scarcely populated backcountry of San Marino, while down by the sea at the adriatic coast the bustle on the streets is rather unpleasent. That goes for the scooterist as well, so i leave the last roundabout of the city behind and steer my Vespa out through sleepy villages into the flowering meadows and fragrant fields. Until, without really realizing, you cross the state border, only to be noticed by a slight change in colour of the road pavement, which turns from poor to not that much better. Still, it´s perfect for relaxed landscape-surfing through the Land of Liberty!
Den deutschsprachigen Text finden Sie in der aktuellen Ausgabe des WIENER!