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Published: August 26th 2020
San Marino awaits The Giro d'Italia
Did anyone tell them it was cancelled this yeat??
San Marino is only one of three countries in the world surrounded entirely by another country; the others being the Vatican City and Lesotho. At 64 square miles, it is the third smallest country in Europe behind Vatican (again!!) and Monaco however, it does hold the record of being the oldest republic in the world. To cap this off they are 209th
in the FIFA soccer world standings just below the British Virgin Islands and above Anguilla!! Bearing in mind there are only 210 nations listed in the FIFA rankings, it doesn’t take a genius to work out that the only way is up for the men in sky blue and white. And, that’s where we went today; up 657m (or 209 places to the top – in football speak!!) above sea level to visit this tiny nation.
There are only six buses per day to San Marino starting at 07:45. We took the next bus at 09:37 that left opposite the central railway station in Rimini. The journey took approximately one hour. The first 30 minutes or so were uneventful, mainly flat and semi industrial passing several retail parks. That is until we merged with a trunk road (the S752)
and suddenly a mammoth Massif loomed in to view. A rock lacking in vegetation; a monolith on which the mid-morning sun made silhouettes of several turrets and fortifications atop of this medieval strong hold. I was of the impression that San Marino, the country, was tucked away in the hills of the Apennines but only the capital, San Marino City is perched overlooking the rest of the realm. In fact, the lowest point of San Marino is only 55m above sea level!! After our escapade in the Andes of Peru, I don’t think we’ll be reaching for the oxygen on this trip. In fact, some of the areas of Lima, which is a city at sea level, were higher than the lowest point of San Marino!! The bus made several stops in San Marino where some tourists and back packers alighted. We obviously hadn’t done our research as we had no idea where they were heading for. One of these who alighted early was a young lad who had overheard Roisin and I talking at the bus stop. He was a solo traveller and had been touring around Italy by train. He recognised my accent and I his. We lived
only eight miles apart from each other. The bus continued on getting ever closer to ‘the rock’.
‘Were not going up there’,
said Roisin, trying to convince herself that we weren’t.
‘I don’t know,’
I replied, hoping we were as I didn’t fancy hiking it!!
The bus started its ascent. It continued to snake its way up the mountain. For Roisin, the experience wasn’t completely near death as although the bus drove perilously close to the edge, for the most part, a tree line blocked out the sheer drop down. Not that Rosin noticed as she had her head buried in candy crush for the duration missing the beautiful vista of Emilia-Romagna. The switch backs in the road were sharp as at one point the driver had to conduct a three point turn to continue, stopping the oncoming traffic as he did so!! This did nothing for Roisin’s irrational fear of narrow mountain passes. Roisin continued muttering to herself. Although we all learned Our Father
in primary school, I was surprised Roisin knew all the words to Hail Mary
!!! After a long twenty minutes, the road finally levelled out and we pulled into a coach park.
Congratulations to Roisin, Whilst this was my 85th
country (not including another 38 dependencies and overseas territories), this was amazingly Roisin’s 80th
country in only 18 years.
We had no idea where the town was so we followed the rest of the passengers. Some took a three-story staircase to the next level whilst a few waited for an elevator. We took the latter option. Again, people understood social distancing and rather than cram in to the elevator, respected their fellow travellers allowing small groups or individuals up at any one time. We only had to wait a few minutes before we had reached street level.
We entered the cobble streets of the town through the St Francis Gate which resembled a keep of a castle complete with coat of arms and the San Marino flag flying proudly above. Immediately we spotted an information point with a friendly guide providing maps and advice from what looked like the inside of a novelty burger van, you know, the ones that are actually shaped like a hamburger!! The line stretched for several metres but due to social distancing only equated to two people in front. I couldn’t help to notice the
info point was at the foot of the stairs that led to the Museo della Totura; even my poor Italian recognised that as the Museum of Torture. What a strange museum to be greeted with,
I thought. That wasn’t the only curiosity. On receiving our map, I noticed a Museum of Vampires and to add to the curiosity, there was actually a Museum of Curiosity!!!
San Marino Town (although it’s actually referred to as a city!) is quite elongated as the main thoroughfares wind from north to south then after sharp hairpins run back from south to north!! The walk up Via Batilicus was a surprisingly gradual incline as we crossed through Piazza Titano passing the more conventional State Museum. (It was not a museum visiting kind of a day!) This brought us on to Via Eugippo and up to Crossbowman’s Quarry. The quarry was opened in the 19th
century for the extraction of the stone needed for the restoration of the Public Palace. Situated in between two main streets, this left the town planners with a bit of a headache….a bloody big hole in the ground!! Solution: Stick a bit of cladding up the sides of the quarry,
add some flower boxes around the rim and hold an annual tournament for the oldest regiment of the San Marino armed forces, the Crossbowmen. Voila! We have a tourist attraction!!
A short walk further on along the Costa della Arnella and we had arrived at the cable car station, the Funivia di San Marino.
It’s an aerial cable car that runs to a lower station at Borgo Maggiore (lit. main village). The distance is a mere 338m with a total drop of 166m. We’re not too sure what the social distancing rules were when using the cable car. One was just about to leave as we arrived. The cabin holds a maximum of fifty people although there didn’t seem to be more that a dozen in there as the cable car departed. And as there still remained a small line, I’m assuming only a limited amount of people were allowed to travel at any given time. We made it on to a small viewing platform. Hardly any clouds on this gloriously sunny day. One could see as far as Rimini in the distance and the Adriatic beyond. There are three towers along the cliff face, aptly named the first
tower, the second tower and the third tower. These were another twenty-minute walk around the east face. We had decided to take the 12:30 bus back to Rimini as the bus thereafter was not until 15:00 and we had agreed to try out the local dish Piadina for lunch back in Rimini (more about that shortly)
A trip to San Marino would not be complete without a souvenir stamp in your passport. We popped in to the tourist Information building, (all suitably masked up of course!!) a few minutes’ walk from the cable car where, for a nominal fee, a helpful assistant duly obliged.
Our walk back down to the bus stop took us through the more quieter back streets, along the city wall back to the St Francis Gate. Masks on and it was time to board the Bonelli Express back to Rimini where a Piadina with our names on was waiting.
I had never heard of a piadina before coming here and now I saw the signs on every street corner. Most of the town’s restaurants and trattorias include a selection on their menus. Roisin was advised by a very good Italian friend, an activities
manager on MSC cruises, when he heard that we were visiting, that we must try this regional dish. It is a speciality of the region Emilia-Romagna. We even saw speciality kiosks called, what else but, piadineries!!
A piadina is simply an Italian thin flat bread and is usually filled with a variety of cheeses, cold cuts and/or vegetables. It is served warm. Now I’m not normally a connoisseur of food as I’ve usually swallowed it, normally, as I’ve been told, without much chewing that most people do as part of the whole eating experience. Swallowing before I’ve even given a chance for my taste buds to react!! (what few I have left after a lifetime of Vindaloo and Phaal curries!!) However, on my first bite of this new indulgence my remaining taste bud started to do a samba in my mouth (or was it a rumba? I can never tell the difference!!) This was indeed nectar of the Gods. Why hadn’t this replaced the hamburger as the world’s favourite convenience food. I can see it now; hundreds of franchise McMarios to give the Golden Arches people a good run for their euro!!!
Today was a long one, we saw
a lot and walked a lot. Tomorrow, our last day in Rimini, we hope to spend on the beach and meet another of our friends, this time a head waiter for Princess Cruises. I hope something interesting happens otherwise expect a very short blog!!
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