The Vatican City is the smallest country on Earth. It is 44 hectares large and has a population of 842, according to current statistics. It is surrounded by another country which makes its location unusual too.
Students of history will know that Italy has existed as a single country for just over a hundred years. Before this, the Italian peninsula was a collection of states that were almost constantly at war with one another. The Papal States were ruled from Rome. Their influence changed with the amount of territory occupied and battles won.
The Vatican City today is not related to these Papal States. When Italy was unified, the issue of what to do with the centre of Christianity arose and was referred to as “The Roman Question”. King Victor Emmanuelle III solved this problem by signing the Lateran Treaty with the Pope. This treaty established the territory of the Vatican City. It specified relations between the two, and sorted out compensation for land stolen from the Papal States.
Today, the Vatican is well-known as the centre for the Roman Catholic religion. It has a symbiotic relationship with Italy, which it relies on for many things. (The official currency is whatever the Italians have, for example) It is one of the few states without any border controls at all.
It’s a little odd, as countries go, which might be why it attracts so much attention. (Da Vinci Code fans will recall the events from that book’s sequel, Angels and Demons, that are set in Rome and the Vatican.). It’s main claim to fame should be how spectacularly beautiful it is as a continuous work of art. This is a country you could spend days in without even scratching the surface.
Have you visited the Vatican?