Destinations Magazine

Small but Not Too Beautiful

By Stizzard
Small but not too beautiful

THE top of the Spanish Steps in Rome is as good a place as any to appreciate the strangeness of Europe, for it is perhaps the only place from which to survey three sovereign entities. Most of the view is, of course, in Italy. But in the distance is the dome of St Peter’s in the Vatican, a separate city-state. And, just below, a large red-and-white flag billowing above Rome’s glitziest shopping area signals the presence of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta.

Once the Crusaders’ medical corps, the order governed a series of Mediterranean islands before being kicked off Malta by Napoleon. It may no longer own any territory, bar a couple of buildings in Rome and another on Malta. But the order still maintains diplomatic relations with more than 100 states and permanent observer status at the UN.  

 Europe is littered with such idiosyncrasies, leftovers from Europe’s consolidation into nation-states. There are seven states with a population of under 500,000. Add Britain’s crown dependencies and Denmark’s autonomous countries; throw in Gibraltar and Britain’s sovereign…

The Economist: Europe

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