Italy’s borders are already home to two microstates – San Marino and the Vatican City. If the village of Seborga had its way, it would become the third.
Overlooking the microstate of Monaco from a hilltop on the Italian Riviera is Seborga. The tiny village has a big ambition: to become an independent nation like the one it overlooks. “The lawyers are working on it,” says Her Serene Highness Princess Nina, “that’s why I got elected Princess.”
The Principality of Seborga already has its own flag, national anthem, passports, stamps, currency and monarch. Since the 1960s, it has been seeking legal recognition of its sovereignty. Until that moment, it is just a pretty village of slightly more than 300 residents covering roughly eight square kilometres.
The monarchy is not hereditary. Instead elections are held every seven years. The current head of state is Princess Nina – the first woman to occupy the throne. Born in Germany, Nina Döbler Menegatto was living in Monaco when she discovered the village 15 years ago. She moved there with her ex-husband and former prince, Marcello I, who abdicated in 2019.
The first Prince of Seborga in the 20th century was Giorgio Carbone. While researching the town’s history, he discovered an anomaly. In 954, the Benedictine monks received the town as a donation. They then sold it in 1729 to the Kingdom of Sardinia. Sardinia in turn became part of the Kingdom of Italy.
However, there is no historical record of the sale which, according to Carbone, means Seborga was never legitimately part of Italy. It is that avenue that the town has pursued ever since.
Both the Italian Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights have previously rejected Seborga’s request, but the princess is not discouraged. Lawyers are “one the job”.
As befits a monarchy, there have been various claimants to the throne. In 2016, Nicolas Mutte, a French citizen, proclaimed himself the new prince while the royal couple was abroad. The local press described it as a coup d’etat.
Mutte is just one of a few laying claim to the throne. The Principality issues a list of non-legitimate social media profiles and websites, which often try to sell goods or coins of the would-be state. The Seborgan government says it does not grant nobility titles.
The government of Seborga
The government consists of only nine ministers, as well as a council of people born and raised in the town. They make their own laws, but so far they have no legal value. The real power is in the hands of a regularly elected official.
There is nothing illegal in the Principality’s activities. The passports issued are just for fun. The local currency, Luigino, is accepted in stores in the city, but it is essentially a souvenir, says CNN.
What is legitimate is the positive impact the town’s claim has on business. Seborga is now firmly on the tourist map, aiding the local economy of flowers and olives. Before the pandemic hit, the city attracted tourists from Japan, fascinated by the town’s history.
Seborga may not have the glitz and glamour of nearby Monaco, a religious leader as the Vatican city does, nor the history of San Marino, said to be the world’s oldest surviving republic. What it does have is tranquillity, beauty and a little touch of magic.