Size: 0.17 sq. mi. (0.44 km²)
Population: 783 (2005 census)
Location: Rome, Italy
The size of a golf course, the Vatican City is the smallest country in the world. It’s basically a walled enclave inside of Rome, Italy. It’s so small that the entire country does not have a single street address.
The Vatican City may be small, but it is very powerful. It is the sovereign territory of the Holy See, or the seat of the Catholic Church (basically its central government), which has over 1 billion people (about 1 in 6 people on the planet) as constituents.
The Vatican City was created in 1929 by the Lateran Treaty (which was signed by one of history’s most repressive dictators, Benito Mussolini) and is ruled by the Pope, basically a non-hereditary, elected monarch who rules with absolute authority (he’s the legislative, executive and judiciary all rolled into one) – indeed, the Pope is the only absolute monarch in Europe.
Another unique thing about the smallest country in the world is that it has no permanent citizens. Citizenship of the Vatican City is conferred upon those who work at the Vatican (as well as their spouses and children) and is revoked when they stop working there.
The Vatican City is guarded by the smallest and oldest regular army in the world, the Swiss Guard. It was originally made up of Swiss mercenaries in 1506, now the army (also personal bodyguards of the Pope) number 100, all of which are Catholic unmarried male Swiss citizens. The Swiss Guard’s Renaissance-style uniform was commonly attributed as to have been designed by Michelangelo – this was actually incorrect: the large “skirt” pants were a common style during the Renaissance. Only their uniforms seem antiquated: most of the Swiss Guards carry pistols and submachine-guns.
The official languages of the Vatican City are Latin and Italian. In fact, its ATMs are the only ones in the world that offer services in Latin! And here you thought that Latin is a dead language…
For a country that has no street address, the Vatican City has a very efficient post office: an international mail dropped in the Vatican will get there faster than one dropped in Italy just a few hundred yard away – in fact, there is more mail sent annually per inhabitant from this country (7,200 mails per person) than anywhere else in the world.