San Marino: the 5th smallest country in the world

Guilty confession: I would have never guessed that San Marino – a nation of 33,000 people – is the world’s oldest surviving republic. It’s said to have been founded in the fourth century by a saint, a Dalmation stone-mason called Marinus, who sought refuge here when fleeing religious persecution. The steep ridge of Monte Titano is certainly a good defensive stronghold. I went in expecting a tax haven similar to Monaco, with only expensive restaurants and unimpressive buildings on relatively flat terrain. I was wrong on all accounts. Instead I saw a glimpse into a world of fairytale castles, views that never get boring and more importantly, how the resolve and determination of a tiny nation helped navigate the complex political battleground to retain its independence.