San Marino country profile - Overview
- 10 February 2015
- From the section Europe
Landlocked San Marino is one of the world's smallest countries. Surrounded by Italy, it is an echo from an era when city-states proliferated across Europe.
Mount Titano, part of the Appennine range, dominates San Marino's landscape. Three defensive fortresses perch on Titano's slopes, looking out to the Adriatic coast.
San Marino is said to be the world's oldest surviving republic.
Tradition has it that the country was founded in the fourth century AD by a devout Christian stonemason called Marinus, who took refuge there and set up a small community. Its rugged isolation helped the enclave to develop and keep its independence.
An 1862 friendship and cooperation treaty with Italy, which has since been revised and expanded, reinforced San Marino's independence.
Tourism dominates the economy of the 61 square kilometre (23.6 square miles) republic, which plays host to more than three million visitors every year.
Postage stamps and coins - keenly sought by collectors - are important sources of revenue.
As one of Europe's tax havens, San Marino has traditionally attracted a large inflow of cash from non-residents, but in the wake of the global financial crisis of 2008-9 this status has come increasingly under threat, and the republic has pledged to make its banking system more transparent.
Unlike Italy, San Marino is not part of the EU, but it maintains an open-border policy with the bloc, is in a customs union with the EU and uses the euro.
San Marino's political parties are split on the issue of full EU membership. A referendum motion on joining the bloc narrowly failed to pass in 2013.