• 2023.06.01
  • Micronations
There are at least two independent nations located within Italy, which to me was quite a strange phenomenon coming from the unified island nation of Japan.

You don’t have to pass through immigration to enter these micronations, so you won’t know when you cross over their borders. The people also speak Italian and use the euro for currency. But technically, you’re still in a “foreign country”.

One of these is Vatican City, known as the smallest country in the world.

Located in a section of Rome, this city-state has an area of just 0.44 square kilometers. Despite the fact that it is its own nation, Vatican City has no president or prime minister, and is instead governed by the Pope. Why does this tiny country exist? Put simply, after ongoing disagreements and estrangement between the Italian government (including the Italian king) and past popes, the angered pope responded by shutting himself in the Vatican. When Prime Minister Mussolini suggested that the pope just create his own country, the proposal was accepted. Relations immediately improved, and this curious nation—the world’s smallest country—was born.

A second independent nation in Italy is San Marino.

San Marino is the world’s oldest republic. You don’t have to show your passport or go through any other procedures to enter—just wind your way up the mountain road to the top of Monte Titano and you’ll arrive at the ancient city. Because San Marino has no taxes, Italians often visit to go shopping for highly-taxed goods like cigarettes. You can guess that the country’s area is small since it’s located on a mountain peak, and although it is larger than Vatican City, it’s still only about 60 square kilometers in size. The bluff was a hideout for a stonemason named Saint Marinus and his friends, who were fleeing the Christian persecutions in Rome. The nation was born when Marinus set up a republic and began living his life here. Today, San Marino is home to just 34,000 people, though it was probably only a few dozen when it was founded. Still, it was recognized as a sovereign nation and certainly has a unique history. I don’t know the story on this, but the first Japanese Shinto shrine in Europe authorized by the Association of Shinto Shrines was built in San Marino in memory of the victims of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. I doubt that people in the West know much about the Shinto faith, but San Marino Jinja explains that Shinto is characterized by a deeply quiet and modest philosophy.

Seborga, located in the region of Liguria, is a self-proclaimed micronation that calls itself the Principality of Seborga. I didn’t know its history when I visited, but I do remember admiring the little medieval village with its small, beautifully-constructed cobblestones when I arrived there after driving from the Ligurian Sea up a sloping road for five or six kilometers. It turns out that becoming a sovereign nation is a lot more complicated than simply declaring yourself one, however, so Seborga remains no more than a “self-proclaimed” principality.

And while it is not an independent nation, a more extreme case than Seborga is Mapsulon in Tuscany. Mapsulon made its mark as a self-proclaimed nation when it prohibited vehicle traffic and tore up all its asphalt, leaving dusty gravel roads throughout the area. It also banned television on the premise that its base content was a bad influence.

The more you look, the more you’ll find independent (or self-proclaimed independent) republics in Italy.


  • Yuriko Mikami
  • AgeDog (INU)
  • GenderFemale
  • JobMusician

A cellist based in Milan. Performs as a soloist also with some ensembles. Has a wide range of genres from classic to pop. Actually plays in a band on an Italian comedian's TV show.

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