The Most Serene Republic of San Marino (its official title) is entirely surrounded by Italian territory, a small sovereign country in the Apennine mountains 220 kilometres north of Rome. The capital is San Marino, a picturesque town on Monte Titano, the highest mountain (755 metres) with three peaks; on each peak is a tower, dating back to the middle ages and is a feature on San Marino's flag. The total area of the republic is 61 km² and it has a population of around 30,000 people, with about 4,500 living in the capital.
San Marino may be small, but it is the world's oldest constitutional republic. It was founded as a monastic community on 3 September 301 by a stonecutter named Marinus, who came from the island of Rab, in Dalmatia (present-day Croatia). In the year 257 he sailed from Rab (then called Arba, a Roman colony) to Rimini, on Italy's Adriatic coast, to work as a mason, obeying a decree by the future Roman Emperor Diocletian to reconstruct its city walls, that had been destroyed by pirates. He was a Christian, preaching sermons, which brought him into conflict with Diocletian, who persecuted Christians. Marinus fled to Monte Titano and built a small church there; this became the core of a little community, the republic that would endure until the present day. He was declared a saint, Saint Marinus (San Marino in Italian), giving his name to the state.
Although dating back to 301 CE, the earliest authentic reference to San Marino appears in an 8th Century text mentioning a castle on the mountain. The small settlement that grew up around it was at times under the protection of the papacy and the Montefeltro dukes of Urbino. To protect the growing city of San Marino, a tower, Guaita, was constructed in the 11th century; this made it impenetrable, discouraging attacks on the city. During the time of the Crusades in the 13th century, it was felt necessary to construct a second tower, Cesta and a century later the third tower, Montale, was constructed on the last of the summits of Monte Titano. When the city's population increased, a few kilometres of territory was added over the years, by purchase and treaties; apart from the capital, there are now eight other small municipalities making up the republic. Numerous attempts have been made to terminate its independence, but each time it was protected by the uneasy balance of power among the Italian states. In 1862, San Marino concluded a treaty of friendship with the Kingdom of Italy, that had been united as a single state the year before; the treaty has been renewed several times. San Marino remained neutral in both World Wars but was damaged by Allied bombing in World War II, when it was briefly occupied by German troops.
San Marino's constitution dates back to 1600, making it the oldest constitution in the world; still in force, an electoral law of 1926 also serves some constitutional functions. San Marino had the world's first democratically elected communist government, which held office between 1945 and 1957. The popularly elected 60-member Great and General Council serves as the legislative body, from which two captains-regent are elected as executives to 6-month terms. The Congress of State serves as the cabinet. The republic has been governed by a Christian Democrat-led coalition since 1988 and in 1992 it became a member of the United Nations. It is a popular tourist destination, receiving around 3 million visitors a year. Apart from the historical buildings there is the Maranello Rosso museum in Fulciano, showcasing two iconic Italian car brands: Ferrari, the legendary sports and racing car company, and Abarth, the "speed factory" best known for its fast and nimble sports and racing machines built on Fiat- and Simca platforms; all cars in the museum are modern works of art.