Saturday, 26 September 2009

San Marino - a brief visit

Firstly, I should acknowledge Mr Colin Leckey from Lancaster, an who individual took it upon himself to visit the 7 smallest locations of Europe and - in doing this - saved me from a huge headache in having no representation of San Marino during my sojourn in Italy.

Colin's book is a very worthwhile tome if you can find it (Grosvenor House Publishing books are more available online than in Waterstones). His book basically does what it says on the tin - he is an English guy visiting Europe's five smallest states and 2 self-governing territories, and is very eloquent in doing so (although with - perhaps overly-high - English expectations of service!).

As for San Marino.. well, due to a quirk of weather during Colin's visit it remained shrouded in fog and his over-riding impression in the gloom was of a plethora of tourist shops, although he made a spirited attempt to circumnavigate the citidel's towers in the gloom...I note that this was the shortest chapter in the book and get a sense that Coin did not really engage with the place. Which is not a criticism of Mr Leckey - indeed I get a sense from other research that San Marino is not interested in engaging itself with outsiders as a tourist trap as, say, Monaco does...which no doubt explains why its entry in my global trip is restricted to a single chapter in a book by an English foreigner!

I shall leave the summary of this tiny state to Mr Leckey: "The streets of San Marino town are twisting and narrow, and if you were to scrunch up your eyes and allow your thoughts to wander a little, you could imagine life here in medieval times, the landscape not having changed all that much down the centuries. Eye-scrunching and thought-wandering are very necessary, however, as... contemporary San Marino is overwhelmingly the preserve of tourists, shopping for keepsakes from an astonishingly large number of souvenir shops. There scarely seemed to be any other shops at all, just mile after mile of emporia stocking all kinds of tourist tat."

Oh well. At least this account is nearer than I've ever got to the City State in the flesh, and its location within Italy led neatly on to an equally landlocked and locked-off state on my journey: the Vatican City.

Again, Colin never really got anywhere near to this tiny state; but let's face it - that is the experience of most tourists... And his chapter on the City also formed a nice introduction to the "Vatican City: City Of Secrets" book by John Follain.

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