Tag Archives: Italian Unification

Travels in Italy, The Independent Micro-State of San Marino

San Marino Tower

Thirty years ago or so I had an aspiration to visit all of the countries in Europe.  In 1990 this was not such an ambitious target as it is now because there were a lot less countries before the break-up of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia. Today there are fifty countries in all and as European boundaries keeps changing and new countries are being created I am sorry to say that the moving target has eluded me.

The last time that I visited a new country was in 2010 when I travelled to Montenegro in the Balkans.  In 2013 I nearly made it to Andorra but it was such a long and arduous drive through the Pyrenees that I gave up at just about the half way point and turned back to Catalonia.  Catalonia might be an independent country itself one day and I have been there already.

Now I am not nearly so ambitious and there are some countries that I realise that I really have no need to visit, Albania springs to mind, so I am sticking to the obvious places in Europe simply because there is so much that I haven’t yet seen of Spain or France or Germany or of course Italy.

Europe in 1990…

Cold War Europe

… and Europe Today…

Political Map of Europe

So now we were in Italy, the first European country that I ever visited, in the city of Rimini on the Adriatic Riviera and only twenty miles or so away from the independent country of San Marino and it seemed rude not to visit so one sunny morning we walked from our hotel to the bus station and purchased our tickets.

San Marino is the fifth smallest country in the World (it is .0008% the size of Australia) and the third smallest in Europe, with only Vatican City and Monaco being tinier. It is also World’s smallest Republic.  I have been to the Vatican City but not to Monaco.

Nearly fifty years ago at University I studied the ‘Unification of Italy’, it was my specialist subject, but I don’t remember it ever occurring to me to wonder why San Marino is an independent State (perhaps that’s why I didn’t get a First) and not simply a part of greater Italy because Italy is one hundred and sixteen thousand square miles of territory and San Marino is only twenty-three (.02%).  Visiting the country made me belatedly curious.

One explanation offered is that during the wars of Italian unification Giuseppi Garibaldi (he keeps cropping up) in 1849 was on the run from Austrian, French, Spanish and Neapolitan troops and sought refuge for himself and his small army in San Marino where he was given welcome and refuge.  In recognition of this support Garibaldi accepted the wish of San Marino not to be incorporated into the new Italian state and in 1862 a friendship treaty guaranteed its continuing independence.

Garibaldi Coin

In 1944 neutral San Marino again offered refuge to over one hundred thousand refugees and Italian Jews displaced by the Allied advance and fierce fighting in Northern Italy at the battle of Rimini.

In preparation for travel I carried out my usual research and used my favourite benchmarks to try and understand the country that I was visiting.

This didn’t take very long. Being so small it doesn’t even get a mention in the Human Development Index or the World Happiness Index although I imagine that if it was included that it would do rather well in both on account of its affluence and wealth.

Being landlocked it obviously has no Blue Flag Beaches.

San Marino has participated in the Eurovision Song Contest nine times and its best performance was to finish twenty-fourth in 2014.

None of this may be very impressive you may think but for a small country (a very small country) it does have UNESCO World Heritage status which is awarded for the entire country. According to UNESCO, “San Marino and Mount Titano are an exceptional testimony of the establishment of a representative democracy based on civic autonomy and self-governance, with a unique, uninterrupted continuity as the capital of an independent republic since the 13th century. San Marino is an exceptional testimony to a living cultural tradition that has persisted over the last seven hundred years.”

San Marino used to have a Formula 1 Grand Prix but it is no point looking for the circuit because that was in Imola in Italy because this was a way that the Italians managed to get themselves two race meetings every year when other countries only had one.

San Marino Bus Queue

Because this was Italy there was of course no queue at the bus-stop, just a disorderly crowd of people that was steadily getting larger and more excitable as we waited.  Eventually it arrived and my worst fears were realised when any semblance of order was completely abandoned and the crowd surged forward like a river breaking its banks into a flood.

Kim is much better in these crowd tsunami situations than I am and she soon left me well behind as she elbowed her way forward through the people as though she was in a rugby scrum and she was on the bus a good five minutes before I was able to squeeze myself through the door and flop exhausted into the seat beside her.

Eventually the vehicle was full and fit to burst at the seams and it pulled away from the bus stop and I began a journey to my thirty-first European country – as things stand only another nineteen to go.

San Marino Landscape

Advertisements

More Garibaldi – Giuseppe in Florence

Piazza Mentana Florence

Florence was very briefly between 1865 and 1871 the capital of the United State of Italy before, much to the relief of the taxpayers of the city, the privilege and the expense was transferred to Rome when it eventually became part of Italy in 1870.   

I was looking for the inevitable statue of Giuseppe Garibaldi but didn’t find it but but did instead come across the Statue of the Battle of Mentana  of 1867 which depicts a Garibaldi freedom fighter during the Third Italian War of Independence when with the secret complicity of the Italian government Giuseppe led a private expedition into the Papal States but which ultimately failed when defeated by French troops protecting the Papacy.  Florence had to wait another four years before transferring the capital status to Rome.

Read the full story…

More Garibaldi – Giuseppe in Venice

Garibaldi Venice

“Let us unite, let us love one another,
For union and love
Reveal to the people
The ways of the Lord.
Let us swear to set free
The land of our birth:
United, for God,
Who can overcome us?”

Italy National Anthem

As we walked further east we arrived at Via Giuseppe Garibaldi and in the Giardini pubblici di Venezia we came across the inevitable statue of the greatest of all Italian romantic heroes.

Read the full story…

More Garibaldi – Giuseppe in Pisa

Garibaldi Pisa

Outside it was still raining so without walking too far we turned left and walked along a busy road until reaching a hospitable looking bar in a square with the inevitable statue of Giuseppe Garibaldi in what turned out to be the student district of the city.  If we had walked on only a little further there was a lively little district with more choice but it didn’t matter, this place was agreeable and we only really wanted a nightcap so we found an empty table near the window with some precariously high chairs that wobbled alarmingly on the uneven floors and had a glass of red wine – and then we had another and the chairs wobbled a little bit more.

Read the full story…

Italy and Puglia, The Inevitability of Giuseppe Garibaldi

Giuseppe Garibaldi Molfetta Puglia Italy

Garibaldi is the only wholly admirable figure in modern history.”                 A.J.P. Taylor (English Historian)

It was the last full day in Puglia and our plan was to stay at the hotel garden and swimming pool for the morning and then go sightseeing in the afternoon.  It was Monday and I guessed that the garage shop that was closed yesterday would be open today so I ventured out again onto the dangerous road and carefully negotiated the short walk and bought some wine and beer to see us through the last day and evening.

There were even fewer guests at the hotel today than there had been the day before so finding a perfect spot to sit and read presented no problem at all and we let the morning slip away in virtual solitude.

An hour or two of sitting on a sun bed doing nothing is quite long enough I find so shortly after midday we left the outdoor terrace, changed into our walking about clothes and called for a taxi.  It was cheaper than yesterday at only €13 but I still resented paying out such a huge sum as the driver dropped us off at the central train station.

Our intention now was to take the train in a westerly direction and visit the fishing port of Molfetta a few kilometres along the coast.  So far on these travels the Italian trains had been completely reliable and punctual but this time there was a fifteen minute delay and although the station address system provided some information in English I couldn’t understand a word of it as it crackled horribly through the overhead speakers.

Finally the big electric engine hummed into the station and after a few moments we were upstairs in a double-decker carriage and on our way through the untidy industrial zones of the city and out towards the coast and we arrived in Molfetta after about a thirty minute ride.

We didn’t have a map of course but we were fairly certain of the right direction towards the harbour and we confidently set off in our chosen direction and within a few moments came upon a leafy square and the inevitable statue of Italy’s great hero, Giuseppe Garibaldi who we have come across previously in (no exaggeration here) every town and city that we have visited in Italy.

After the creation of the Kingdom of Italy in 1861 the state worked hard at making sure Garibaldi would be perpetually remembered and the number of streets, piazzas and statues named after him makes him probably the most commemorated secular figure in history.  Such was the romance of his story of revolutionary heroism and daring-do that Garibaldi was at one point possibly the most famous man in Europe.

In London in 1864 for example people flocked to see him as he got off the train. The crowds were so immense it took him six hours to travel three miles through the streets. The whole country shut down for three days while he met the great and the good.  Literary figures including the poet laureate Alfred Lord Tennyson and Sir Walter Scott lauded him as the “Italian lion” and the noblest Roman of them all”.

Statues of his likeness stand in many Italian squares and in other countries around the world.  A bust of Giuseppe Garibaldi is prominently placed outside the entrance to the old Supreme Court Chamber in the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, DC, a gift from members of the Italian Society of Washington. Many theatres in Sicily take their name from him and are ubiquitously named Garibaldi Theatre.

Five ships of the Italian Navy have been named after him, among which a World War II cruiser and the former flagship, the aircraft carrier Giuseppe Garibaldi.

When I went on holiday to Sorrento in 1976 I took a bus ride along the Amalfi Coast the coach stopped at one dangerously precipitous hairpin bend so that the tour guide could point out to us an outcrop of rock in the sea which is said to show the profile of the great man.

Garibaldi Rock Amalfi Coast

The English football team Nottingham Forest designed their home red kit after the uniform worn by Garibaldi and his men and have worn a variation of this design since being founded in 1865 and there is a Nottingham Forest team magazine called the ‘Garibaldi Gazette‘.  Rather interesting that they choose Garibaldi and not Robin Hood in my opinion.  A college in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire is also named in his honour.

The Garibaldi biscuit was named after him, as was a style of beard, a pop group in Mexico and in Italy there is a cocktail drink called the Garibaldi (based almost inevitably on the Italian drink Campari). The Giuseppe Garibaldi Trophy has been awarded annually since 2007 in the European Six Nations rugby union competition to the winner of the match between France and Italy.

Garibaldi Six Nations Rugby Trophy

Other places and things named after Garibaldi include the Garibaldi National Park including Mount Garibaldi, Lake Garibaldi and a Volcanic belt  in British Columbia in Canada; the city of Garibaldi in Oregon, USA; a town and a gold mine near the city of Ballarat in Victoria, Australia and a town in Brazil (his wife, Anita, was Brazilian).

There are Hotels in Naples, Palermo, Venice and Milan, but only a bed and breakfast in Rome. In England there are streets and squares named after him in London, Scarborough, Grimsby, Bradford and St Albans and a hotel in Northampton.  There is a Pizzeria in Memphis, Tennessee and in the Pacific Ocean near California there is a scarlet fish and a marine reef called Garibaldi. There is a museum on Staten Island, New York; stations on the Paris metro and in Mexico City; a café in Madrid, an area in Berlin, restaurants in Vienna and Kuala Lumpur, a Street in Moscow, a Museum in Amsterdam and a block of high-rise Social Housing flats in my home town of Grimsby.

If I have missed anything important out of my list then please let me know.

I have got rather a lot of photographs of Garibaldi statues from my Italian city visits but I took some more here and then we continued our stroll to the old town and harbour.

“We were for centuries
downtrodden, derided,
because we are not one people,
because we are divided.
Let one flag, one hope
gather us all.
The hour has struck
for us to unite.”

Italy National Anthem

  Garibaldi Fish  Garibaldi Metro Station   

Giuseppe Garibaldi Italian Navy   

Garibaldi Oregon

Italy 2011, Rome, The Roman Forum and Italian Unification

Rome The Forum

The tour began from outside the Colosseum and went first past the Arch of Constantine where Silvio explained that this was the only Roman monument that still had its marble reliefs intact because successive Christian regimes in Rome after the fall of the Empire were reluctant to destroy a monument commemorating the first Christian Emperor.  And then we made our way into the Forum and began to climb towards the top of the Palatine Hill stopping frequently to listen to and absorb more information from Silvio.

Read the full story…