There are two independent territories in Italy, the Vatican City and the Republic of San Marino. And then there is the self-proclaimed state of Seborga…

Seborga-Pinterest

Seborga is a tiny village in Liguria that calls itself a separate state within Italy’s borders, just like the Vatican and San Marino. And the cool thing is that locals don’t really care if the Italian government keeps ignoring their claims. They have a flag, a royal family, an army and even their own currency!

What’s the story

It all started in the year 954, when the local counts of Ventimiglia handed the village over to the Benedictine monks of Lerins, a small island off the coast of Cannes in France. Then, in 1079 Seborga became an imperial principality of the Holy Roman Empire, with the monastery’s abbot as its prince.

Centuries later, in 1729, the monks sold Seborga to the King of Sardinia, who, according to the sale act, bought it as a personal property and not as an expansion of his kingdom. As such, Seborga was never legally part of the Kingdom of Sardinia and locals claimed that the act of unification of Italy in 1861 annexed Seborga “unilaterally and illegitimately”.

SeborgaIt wasn’t until the early 1960’s that sovereignty was restored in Seborga thanks to Giorgio Carbone, a local flower grower. After browsing through some historic documents from the Vatican archives, Mr. Carbone started a campaign to prove Seborga’s legal independence and obtain formal international recognition. A local election took place in 1963 and villagers appointed Mr. Carbone as ruler of Seborga, with the title of His Tremendousness Prince Giorgio I. He set up a crown council and wrote a constitution, ruling until his death in 2009. He was succeeded by Prince Marcello Menegatto and his wife Nina, who serves as foreign minister of Seborga.

Seborga

Photo: Principato di Seborga

Although formal recognition was never obtained, Mr. Carbone’s campaign worked magic for tourism. The story of Seborga hit the headlines of international press and prince Marcello and his wife were even formally received by Queen Elizabeth in 2011! Seborga also earned the Italian Touring Club’s Orange Flag, a prestigious recognition of tourism quality and excellence, in 2009.

The Italian government continues to ignore Seborga’s separatist claims and maintains jurisdiction over the village. The Seborghini (as locals are called) pay taxes to Italy and vote in its elections.

What to see

The first thing you see while approaching the village from the road is a wooden sentry booth painted in white and blue, the official colors of Seborga. From this point you are no longer on Italian soil – at least according to Seborga’s 300 inhabitants!

SeborgaAt the entrance of the village stands the XIV-century Oratory of San Bernardo, dedicated to the local patron saint. The heart of Seborga is the tiny Piazza San Martino with the brightly coloured Church of San Martino and the Monks’ Palace. This is a beautiful stony building that was once the ancient residence of the Benedictine monks and home to the old mint.

SeborgaRows of old stone houses squeezed to one another dot the tiny cobbled streets and alleyways leading to the ancient prison and the grotto dedicated to the Virgin Mary

Seborga

Photo: Principato di Seborga

There is also a popular museum of musical instruments displaying over 130 antique pieces from 1744 to 1930. This is the collection of Mr. Fogliarino, who gathered them over 50 years. The museum is open every day (except Mondays) 10am-1pm and 2:30pm-6pm.

SeborgaThe visit can be concluded at the Chapel of St. Giusta, with panoramic views of the village and the Mediterranean sea.

Fun facts

Seborga has its own currency, the Luigino, which started to be minted in 1666 by the Benedictine monks and then restored in the 1990’s by Prince Giorgio I. The name derives from the currency used in France in the XVII century, the louis. It has no legal value but you can purchase some coins at the local shop and use them in the village. Check out the exchange rate here.

Seborga

Photo: Principato di Seborga

The Prince is assisted by nine ministers (five elected by the Seborghini and four chosen by the sovereign) and is protected by a squad of blue-bereted guards called Corpo della Guardia. He’s even opened a series of representative offices abroad, including the US, Argentina, Australia and India.

Seborga

Photo: Principato di Seborga

Seborga has also its own license plates, which can only be used together with the official Italian ones, as well as a national anthem written by Prince Giorgio I (check it out at the bottom of this page). Oh, and you can become an honorary citizen for a mere €2.50, the cost of a Seborga passport!

And finally, the principality is very active in the promotion of sports, with the creation of an Olympic committee and the establishment of a national football team that plays against other micro-nations (both are unrecognized by the official sport institutions, though).

USEFUL TIPS

  • Seborga lies at the top of a twisty road that sneaks through the Ligurian Alps. It’s just 20km from the French border and can be easily reached by car from Bordighera in about 30 minutes. Alternatively, you can catch a bus from Bordighera train station (line 10, check this website for the current schedule)
  • August 20 is Seborga’s National Day. Locals celebrate their patron saint St. Bernard with a religious procession, a music concert and a parade through the streets of the village that is all dressed up in white and blue
  • Another great event to attend is the annual beer festival called “Seborga Tutta Birra” in late September, with barbecues, live music and lots of craft beers
  • There are a number of cute restaurants and trattorias in Seborga, with Marcellino’s being the most glamorous option (it was opened by Prince Marcello himself)

 

Until next time,

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17 Comments

Vanessa 21 February 2018 at 22:24

Wow I’ve never heard of this city and have pinned this story for my Italy trip! Great read 🙂

    admin 22 February 2018 at 09:01

    It’s a tiny village with big dreams, I love it! 🙂

Agness of a Tuk Tuk 22 February 2018 at 14:07

This is the first time I am hearing about Seborga and it seems like an exceptional place to explore. Your pictures just whet my appetite, Val!

    admin 22 February 2018 at 14:38

    For me it’s a must-see if you are in the area Agness, the story of this picturesque hamlet is so interesting!

Miranda Knudtson 22 February 2018 at 20:16

Italian history is immese; I love it! I never heard of this principality, so I loved the background story. I’m curious: how large is this principality, and how many people live here?

    admin 22 February 2018 at 20:37

    It’s very small and with just about 300 inhabitants… tiny but dreaming big! Ahahah

Alexander Popkov 23 February 2018 at 00:34

I never knew about Seborga. Mini-countries are kinda fun to visit and compare them to their neighbours 🙂

    admin 23 February 2018 at 09:06

    Yes and getting to know their fascinating history is fantastic!

Brianna 23 February 2018 at 15:24

This is super interesting. I did not know about Seborga at all. It would be cool if you could get a passport stamp there! 😛

    admin 23 February 2018 at 20:31

    And maybe by the prince himself! Ahah 🙂

WhodoIdo 23 February 2018 at 19:59

I would love to visit this cute little town Seborga. In love with the small cobbled streets and beautiful stone buildings. I bet the food is amazing and a visit to Marcellino’s is a must! It’s amazing that they even have their own army and currency too.

    admin 23 February 2018 at 20:30

    So happy that you enjoyed this article! I think Seborga is a truly great place to visit, tiny but with such a fascinating history! And you never know you may even stumble in the royal family! 🙂

Medha 24 February 2018 at 17:47

The most amazing thing is that they have their own currency! I have never heard of Seborga and this was such an interesting read for me. And you can become an honorary citizen with a Seborga passport at just euro 2.5?! Wow, so cool.

Melody Valene 24 February 2018 at 20:05

Oh wow I actually had no idea. I thought it was the Vatican only. Thanks for this!

Much love from a fellow #gltblogger

Xo Mel

    admin 25 February 2018 at 10:19

    Hey Mel, happy to see you here 🙂
    xx

Becca Talbot 26 February 2018 at 13:23

I’ve only been to Italy once, about 8 years ago – and I went to Rome, Pisa and Siena. It’s a beautiful part of the world, and I’d love to go back and explore more. I had never even heard of Serborga until reading this article! x

    admin 26 February 2018 at 13:33

    Time to come back and explore more off-the-beaten-path areas 😉

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Ciao! I’m Val

Ciao! I’m Val

Ciao! I'm Valentina, an Italian blogger with a huge passion for my country, its culture and traditions. My Italian Diaries is the online space where I share my expert knowledge of itineraries, activities and off-the-beaten path places to help you experience the best of Italy like a local.

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