14 April 2011

What is a Sammarinese?

What is someone from San Marino called? Why, a Sammarinese, of course! Plural: Sammarineses, or - in Italian - Sammarinese, the same as the singular. It's a strange moniker, and sounds a little like a garbled form of what you would expect them to be called... Our first few days, we were saying "San Mariner" and "San Marinite." These young Sammarinese were fixtures at a bar we frequented in Seravalle - usually they ordered their drinks separately, but one night they got a bucket of Aperol spritz. They drank it with long straws and had a grand old time.
The license plates here are rather quaint, namely because they aren't the typical European style. In fact, the microstate isn't even a member of the EU or a signee of the Schengen agreement, though they use the euro and have an open border with Italy (their only neighbor).
Saint Marinus was, of course, the original Sammarinese and the namesake of the country - a whole floor, practically, of the state museum was dedicated to paintings of the saint, many of them depicting him like this, holding up a miniature Monte Titano.
It's a prosperous country, with the lowest unemployment rate in Europe, a budget surplus, no national debt, a wealthy populace and subsidized lunches for workers. We aren't sure, exactly, how the lunch program works. The economic wellbeing is clearly made possible by the tourist industry - over three million people visit every year, and their spending accounts for more than fifty percent of the GDP. Because there are lower income taxes here than in Italy, it's quite difficult to become a resident and there are very few immigrants.
Even though its military is tiny, there are six separate divisions within San Marino's armed forces, plus the police force. There are: the Guardians of the Rock, the Guard of the Council, the Crossbow Corps, the Gendarmerie (not to be confused with the police), the Army Militia and the Military Ensemble. This last division is really just a marching band, but they are probably more important to the republic than the others. Each group has its own set of uniforms - one of our favorites is this yellow outfit, complete with marigold gloves. This man officially keeps watch on one of the main gates to the old town, but really just directs traffic and looks aloof.
There isn't much flat ground in the country, and, although the Adriatic is visible from the eastern part of Mount Titano, it is completely landlocked. There is a lake, though, and this is it. I would call it a manmade mudhole, personally, but it's marked on the maps and is mentioned in much of the tourist literature. It's primarily used for fishing (it's stocked, of course), the purpose it was built for. We took a long walk in the sun on the hottest day of our stay, hoping to find the water more inviting than it was. It's been hard not to cross into Italy and head down the long slope to the shore - this was, needless to say, a disappointment.

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