Sep 032013
 

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This day in 301 is taken as the official date of the founding San Marino, also known as the Republic of San Marino (Repubblica di San Marino), or the Most Serene Republic of San Marino (Serenissima Repubblica di San Marino). San Marino is an enclaved microstate surrounded by Italy, situated on the Italian Peninsula on the north-eastern side of the Apennine Mountains. It is just over 61 sq km (24 sq mi) with an estimated population of over 30,000. Its capital is the City of San Marino. San Marino has the smallest population of all the members of the Council of Europe. San Marino claims to be the oldest surviving sovereign state and constitutional republic in the world, as the continuation of the monastic community founded by stonecutter Marinus of Arba. Legend has it that Marinus left the island of Rab, then the Roman colony of Arba, in 257 when the future emperor, Diocletian, issued a decree calling for the reconstruction of the city walls of Rimini, which had been destroyed by Liburnian pirates.

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San Marino is still governed by the Leges Statutae Republicae Sancti Marini, a series of six books written in Latin in the late 16th century, that dictate the country’s political system, among other matters. The country’s economy mainly relies on finance, industry, services and tourism. It is one of the wealthiest countries in the world in terms of GDP (per capita), with a figure comparable to the most developed European regions. San Marino has a highly stable economy, with one of the lowest unemployment rates in Europe, no national debt and a budget surplus.

According to tradition, Saint Marinus left the island of Arba, in present-day Croatia, with his lifelong friend Leo, and went to the city of Rimini as a mason. Because of Diocletian’s continued persecution of Christians, he moved to nearby Monte Titano, where he built a small church and thus founded what is now the city and state of San Marino. The official date of the founding of the Republic is 3 September 301.

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By the mid-5th century, a community had formed which, because of its relatively inaccessible location and its poverty (until recently), has succeeded, with a few brief interruptions, in maintaining its independence. In 1631, its independence was recognized by the Papacy. The advance of Napoleon’s army in 1797 presented a brief threat to the independence of San Marino, but the country was saved from losing its liberty thanks to one of its Regents, Antonio Onofri, who managed to gain the respect and friendship of Napoleon. Thanks to his intervention, Napoleon, in a letter delivered to Gaspard Monge, scientist and commissary of the French Government for Science and Art, promised to guarantee and protect the independence of the Republic, offering to extend its territory according to its needs. The offer was declined by San Marino, fearing future retaliation from other states.

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The government of San Marino made United States President Abraham Lincoln an honorary citizen. He wrote in reply, saying that the republic proved that “government founded on republican principles is capable of being so administered as to be secure and enduring.” During the later phase of the Italian unification process in the 19th century, San Marino served as a refuge for many people persecuted because of their support for unification. In recognition of this support, Giuseppe Garibaldi accepted the wish of San Marino not to be incorporated into the new Italian state.

During World War I, when Italy declared war on Austria-Hungary on 23 May 1915, San Marino remained neutral and Italy adopted a hostile view of Sammarinese neutrality, suspecting that San Marino could harbor Austrian spies who could be given access to its new radiotelegraph station. Italy tried forcibly to establish a detachment of Carabinieri in the Republic and then cut the Republic’s telephone lines when it did not comply. Two groups of ten volunteers did, however, join Italian forces in the fighting on the Italian front, the first as combatants and the second as a Medical Corps operating a Red Cross field hospital. The existence of this hospital later caused Austria-Hungary to suspend diplomatic relations with San Marino.

From 1923 to 1943, San Marino was under the rule of the Sammarinese Fascist Party (PFS). During World War II, San Marino remained neutral, although it was wrongly reported in a New York newspaper article that it had declared war on the United Kingdom on 17 September 1940. The Sammarinese government later transmitted a message to the British government stating that they did not declare war on the United Kingdom. Three days after the fall of Benito Mussolini in Italy, PFS rule collapsed and the new government declared neutrality in the conflict. The Fascists regained power on 1 April 1944 but kept neutrality intact. Despite that, on 26 June 1944 San Marino was bombed by the Royal Air Force, in the belief that San Marino had been overrun by German forces and was being used to amass stores and ammunition. The Sammarinese government declared in response that no military installations or equipment were located on its territory, and that no belligerent forces had been allowed to enter. San Marino accepted thousands of civilian refugees when Allied forces went over the Gothic Line. In September 1944, it was briefly occupied by German forces, who were defeated by Allied forces in the Battle of San Marino.

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San Marino is the world’s smallest republic, although when Nauru gained independence in 1968 it challenged that claim, Nauru’s land mass being only 21 sq km (8.1 sq mi). However Nauru’s jurisdiction over its surrounding waters covers 431,000 sq km (166,000 sq mi), an area thousands of times greater than the territory of San Marino.  San Marino became a member of the Council of Europe in 1988 and of the United Nations in 1992. It is not a member of the European Union, nor of the Eurozone although it does use the euro as its currency.

Not surprisingly, Sammarinese cuisine is strongly similar to Italian cuisine, especially that of the adjoining Emilia-Romagna and Marche regions. However, although partly based on a typical Mediterranean diet, it also draws on a richer eclectic cuisine and has a number of its own unique dishes and products. Local savory dishes include fagioli con le cotiche, a Christmas bean and pork rind soup; pasta e ceci, a chickpea and noodle soup with garlic and rosemary; nidi di rondine a baked pasta dish with smoked ham, beef, cheese, and a tomato sauce; and roast rabbit with fennel.

There is also a dish called a piadina. Piadina is a flat bread that is sold by street vendors stuffed with your choice of fillings such as cheese, sliced meat, and vegetables.  It is also common to have them spread with Nutella and filled with sliced fruit. Ideally you should use the flour that is used to make pizza dough to get the right flavor, but all-purpose flour is all right.

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Piadinas

Ingredients:

4 ½ cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
? cup lard or vegetable shortening, chilled
1 ½  cups water (or mix of water and milk)

Instructions:

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

Dice the lard into small chucks and put it into the lard into the flour. Use your fingertips to work the lard into the flour until no large pieces remain.

Make a well in the center of the mixture and pour in the water. Stir with a spatula until a rough dough is formed. It does not have to be completely mixed at this stage.

Turn the dough out on to your counter and knead the dough for 8-10 minutes, until it forms a soft and uniform ball. This step is essential to develop the gluten in the flour.  You can use dough hooks if you wish.

Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl, cover, and let it rest for about 30 minutes.

Divide the dough into 6-8 pieces depending on whether you want large or small piadinas.

Shape each piece of dough into a ball and cover with a tea towel.

Heat an ungreased iron skillet over medium high heat until water droplets skitter when they hit the surface. Roll out one piadina as thinly as possible into a circle about ? inch thick. Transfer to the skillet making sure it rests flat on the surface. Prick the piadina with a fork to prevent bubbles forming.

Cook for one minute on each side, or until you start seeing toasted brown spots all over the piadina.

Transfer to a warm plate and cover.

Continue preparing the rest of the piadinas in the same way.

Makes 6 large or 8 small piadinas

Serving:

Piadinas are conventionally folded over a filling rather like a soft taco.  Filling choices are as varied as you wish. These are common:

Prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, and arugula (my favorite).
Fresh tomato slices, grilled zucchini, and fried onions, with basil leaves and drizzled with olive oil.
Grilled eggplant and ricotta (or goat cheese).
Nutella and sliced figs.

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