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The biggest little nation on Earth

Rome also is home to the world’s smallest sovereign state. Blink and you could miss it. But this tiny country does big things on the world’s behalf.

Next time you’re in Rome, just for grins, you should check out the world’s smallest country. It should only take about 30 seconds, just long enough to snap a couple of “here I am” selfies in front of it.

Officially, Vatican City, nestled within the urban footprint of Rome, is the world’s smallest sovereign state. Technically, however, there is one even smaller.

Much smaller.

This country doesn’t have a capital. It has a street address: Via Condotti, 68. That’s because the entire country consists of one building.

If your kitchen table has four chairs, you could have the entire population nation over for dinner. That’s because officially, this “nation” has only three citizens.

This country goes by several names. One of the better known — and shorter — of them is the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, aka the Knights of Malta.

It’s a Roman Catholic Church order that claims the status of a sovereign entity — and is officially recognized as such.

This sovereign state actually has two buildings. The other, fittingly enough, is on the island of Malta.

If you put this entire sovereign state together in one spot, with all its citizens and associates, you could probably fit it all inside a single Walmart.


As with many other institutions you’ll find within the walls of “the Eternal City,” the Order of Malta, which includes many more than three people, maintains a lot of traditional pomp and ceremony. If you’re into European antiquity, you’ll no doubt find some of that fascinating.

But what hooked my attention was what these modern-day knights are up to in today’s world. These folks, who tend to be either rich or super-rich, have made “giving back” their life’s work.

Hospitals for the poor. Disaster relief. Refugee aid. Services for the elderly and disabled. Training for first responders and emergency service workers.

And they do all that in 120 countries.

They don’t care where you come from, what you look like, whether you’re Christian, Muslim or something else. They don’t care about your politics.

And they say they’ve been rolling this way for more than 900 years.

So if your rambles around Rome puts you in the vicinity of the Knights of Malta, pause for a moment and check it out.

And if anyone ever asks you where to find the world’s smallest country, you not only can tell them, but you can give them the address.

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