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Published: December 3rd 2007
San Marino summit
Beautiful garden and surrounding views from the top of the city.
San Marino is a fascinating stopover in the centre of Italy. I took a train from Florence, and then jumped on a connecting bus that gradually wound up to the summit of a hill where the tiny fortified republic lies. This tiny country swarms with tourists strolling the cobblestone streets packed with quality shopping, gorgeous cathedrals and stunning views of the surrounding Italian countryside from the citadel walls. San Marino is easy to get to, and definitely worth a visit if you are in the region.
To recap from the previous journal, dear reader, I've been a busy adventurer since leaving Rome. I caught a train to Naples, which is a bustling city in southern Italy. The traffic is quite chaotic, and travellers really need to be alert when stepping out onto the streets, as the cars and mopeds fairly whizz past. I checked into the superb Hostel of the Sun which is close to the top of the world rankings as listed in hostel world, and justifiably so. The staff are super friendly and a little bit crazy too, and the hostel proved a perfect base for three days while I explored this historic and beautiful area of Italy.
A beautiful resort town on the Amalfi coast.
On the first day I caught a local train to the Pompeii ruins, the doomed city of wealthy Romans that was completely overwhelmed in AD 79 during the cataclysmic eruption of Mount Vesuvius, along with the nearby city of Herculaneum. Exploring the streets of Pompeii is an extraordinary experience; it is a city truly frozen in time, and it's easy to imagine the lives of the Romans in the town nearly two thousand years ago. I wandered the cobbled streets, strolled down the tunnel and into the stadium imagining I would soon be facing Russell Crowe as a gladiator! There's also the open air theatre to explore, and various monuments and villas. Some of the walls in Pompeii feature the earliest recorded graffiti in human history, and others have perfectly maintained paintings on the walls. Pompeii also features the gruesome attraction of viewing some of the victims at their moment of death, as they were overwhelmed by the destructive flows pouring out of the volcano during it's two day eruption. The bodies have been cleverly maintained by pouring plaster of Paris on the outlines of the bodies.
On the next day I took a bus to the beautiful
Ponte Vecchio Bridge, Florence
This gorgeous bridge features jewellery shops and cafes.
Amalfi coast, which winds along the cliff face and features stunning views of the coast and the brightly coloured buildings of it's inhabitants. The tourist town of Amalfi is gorgeous, and gets jam packed with tourists in the summer months, yet it's definitely a must see travel destination. The hostel crew back in Naples were very relaxed and friendly, and the staff laid on a free pasta meal for the guests on my second night there. The beautiful island of Capri lies just off the coast in the Bay of Naples, which has been famous for tourism since the days of the Roman empire, but my planned trip was washed out due to heavy rain.
Then it was on the train to Florence, the city that is a shining light of artistic endeavour and the birthplace of the renaissance. And what a beautiful city it is, paying a visit to Florence was a real joy! I checked into a tourist house and shared a room with a Spaniard on holidays from his job in Barcelona, and had a wonderful three days in the city. The Uffizi gallery houses the greatest collection of renaissance art in the world, including masterpieces
Leaning tower of Pisa
Truly an extraordinary sight juxtaposed against a building not tilting at such a crazy angle.
from Botticelli, Michelangelo and Leonardo. The Uffizi is wonderful and Florence is also home to Michelangelo's David housed in a separate museum. The city is spectacular, and we spent wonderful days exploring the Duomo (cathedral), the piazzas with their wonderful carvings, and the world famous bridge the Ponte Vecchio. The bridge stretches over the Arno river, and features jewellery shops and cafes.
We went to Pisa on a day trip, which is only one hour from Florence on the train. The most famous tower in the world is the leaning tower of Pisa, situated in the main piazza with other historical buildings. The tower was finally completed in 1360 and has been recently stabilised, as the lean was close to an unsupportable angle. The Pisa tower is wonderful, and it may be an optical illusion but to the naked eye the lean definitely seems more pronounced when your focus is closer to the ground. Pisa is a gorgeous little Italian city and well worth a visit.
I farewelled my travel friend, then caught the train and bus up to San Marino, which was the final destination of this journal. Italy overall is a wonderful country; not too expensive
and featuring fantastic cuisine, world famous tourist sights and remarkably calm and friendly locals, especially considering the never ending tourist hordes. I'm loving Italy and recommend that, basically all of you should be here now!
At least in my field I can hold my own. In fact, like Daisy the cow, I am out standing in my field." Star
As I continue my travels, until next time it's signing off for now
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