Google Sightseeing: San Marino

The latest Basement Geographer article for Google Sightseeing takes a look at the newly-released Street View imagery for San Marino.  Surrounded entirely by central Italy in the Apennine mountains about 10 km (6 mi) from the Adriatic coast, San Marino is one of the smallest countries in world at a mere 61 km2 (24 sq mi).  It is also notable for being the world’s oldest surviving sovereign state (depending upon how one views what constitutes modern Ethiopia) and the world’s oldest constitutional republic.

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The three castle towers shown on the Sanmarinese flag represent the Three Towers of San Marino, three medieval guard towers that occupy the three different peaks of Monte Titano, the mountain that dominates most of the country and upon whose slopes the capital city, also named San Marino, is built.  Not only do the towers function as the national symbols of San Marino, but they are also the namesake of the national cake, the Tre Monti (five layers of round wafers filled with chocolate and hazelnut cream).  In order, the three towers are the Gualta (dating to the 11th century), the Cesta (13th century), and the Montale (14th century).


Source: R.A. Frantz,  Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported licence.


Source: Radomil, Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported licence.


Source: Alaexis,  Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic licence.

As with another European microstate, Monaco, San Marino may be most famous to outsiders as the titular host nation of a Formula 1 grand prix, the San Marino Grand Prix that existed between 1981 and 2006. Unlike the Monaco Grand Prix, the San Marino Grand Prix was not actually held in San Marino but in Imola, a city more than an hour’s drive away; using the San Marino name was simply a pretense to allow two grands prix to be held in the same country (Italy) without having to use the Italian Grand Prix name twice.  The grand prix, held at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari, is most famous for the tragic 1994 in which legendary Brazilian world champion Ayrton Senna was killed during the race, a day after the death of Austrian driver Roland Ratzenberger during qualifying.

Because of its small population, San Marino holds a rather quirky distinction: the sovereign state with a population closest to a city named for it.  In this case, the city is San Marino, California, with a 2010 population of 13 241 compared to the republic’s population of 32 193; a difference of less than 20 000 people.   Given both the doubling of the republic’s population over the past 40 years, and the rather restrictive zoning laws and very small land area of the California city ensuring its modest population growth remains slow and steady, this gap will increase.  As with the country it was named for, the city seal of San Marino also features the three towers of Monte Titano.

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