Republica di San Marino
We woke up at about 8am. We took a shower and put together a breakfast which Valentina left out for us. There was juice, tea, espresso, croissants, and eggs. It was great. Once we were all set, we hopped outside and started walking. We knew we were headed the right way because we were going uphill. The whole way. Also, it was mostly familiar from the night before, except as we got approximately halfway up, we took a path through the woods. Valentina had mentioned one, but not very specifically. So we thought it might be the shortcut she had referenced. It probably wasn’t. But it took us uphill, so it wasn’t necessarily wrong. We got back out onto pavement and walked past the radio station building, and found a path in the back of the parking lot.
We started up the path through the woods and soon found an old stone tower on the edge of the cliff. It was under construction, so we couldn’t enter it. But the views around it were great. We continued along the path, and found another old stone structure. This one was a tower and fortress combined. Inside the fortress, we found a small museum of old weapons and tools. There were hundreds of extremely intricate firearms and swords, all well preserved and documented. We moved upward through the museum, and came out on the roof. We went up the stairs to the top of the tower, and came out on a tiny catwalk with amazing views all around. We imagined what it would have been like to be stationed here several hundred years ago. Or, before that, what it would have been like to have to stack those stones on top of the cliff with probably no support or safety equipment.
We climbed back down and continued along the ridgeline trail towards the largest of the structures. Suddenly, we were surrounded by tourists and little shops selling all manner of goods; fidget spinners, jeans-made-into-handbags, swords, airsoft pistols, emoji coffee mugs, etc. It was really awkward. We tried our best to ignore it. There were restaurants, too. They seemed to really push hot dogs and hamburgers, which we found really odd as well. It was all in the midst of these medieval ruins. We read about the history and restoration of the fortress. We wondered if in another hundred years they might document all the tourist traps that moved in in the 2000s.
We were pretty hungry, so we grabbed a table at a nearby restaurant that actually offered real Italian food. We split a pizza and I got strozzapreti with shrimps. It was all good, and filled our bellies. Contented for the time, we continued back down towards the center, somewhat aimlessly. We saw signs for a museum of curiosities, which seemed awkward, so we skipped it. We saw the staturo di tortura, which didn’t take a card, so we skipped it. We gave the signs a closer look afterward, an it seems like a sort of wax museum maybe? Perhaps we’re crappy tourists. We continued strolling and saw signs for the office of tourism, where we popped in to get visa stamps in our passports. Next, we wanted to find a spot to relax a while, rather than walk all the way “home” just to have to walk back for dinner later. So we found this awesome little spot, Bar Centrale. We split a piadina with Nutella, and we each got a capuccino. The piadina is a local sandwich, I think? It’s essentially a flour tortilla with stuff in it. It’s wicked good with Nutella. We posted a blog for you from their free WiFi. You’re welcome.
Eventually we felt well rested and decided to continue on with our day. We wandered down a few streets and found an empty piazza where we decided to play frisbee. It was somewhat risky as most of San Marino is on a giant cliff but we tried to contain ourselves within the piazza. I had to try a bit harder than Rob as I was never quite sure where the frisbee would wind up after my throw. The piazza remained empty except for us for about a half hour. There was a large group of elderly people that showed up and wandered around where we were playing so we decided to end the game and wander around more. It was about 6pm and we figured we should get some dinner soon. Apparently Europeans really like late dinners. We struggled to find anything that was open. Ristorante Caesar caught our eye and we decided to eat there when they reopened at 7pm.
It was a rather classy establishment. We decided to split a bottle of white wine from Valdragone, San Marino which was quite tasty. I ordered the handmade cheese tortellini with mushrooms, tomatoes, and pork, which was delicious. I got a classic four-course dinner which was listed as consisting of typical local style foods. The first plate was a meat and cheese plate, with piadina and arugula. Fun fact – most menus translate arugula to “rocket” in English, for unknown reasons. Before the first dishes came, our waiter brought out a small bowl of something, and said a bunch of words in Italian. It had baked kale and small bits of bread in it, and a sort of brown gravy. It had a sort of fishy flavor, but it was okay. We used it to dip our breads into, and wondered if we were being judged for our terrible etiquette. Or maybe it was an acceptable practice, we have no idea. My second plate arrived while Mandy was still working on hers. It was tagliatelli bolognese and it was quite good. Next, I got a skewer of meats; pork, sausage, chicken, and beef, with some veggies mixed in. This was cooked in the fire that was in the center of the dining room, which was way cool. The flavors were great, although the meats were all cooked the same amount, which meant some were slightly overdone, but it was fine. I shared some with Mandy. The final dish was dessert, which was called “Grandma’s pie, decomposed”, which we obviously reworded to “decomposed grandma pie” because we’re so mature. We laughed a bit too loud in the quiet restaurant. I ordered a chocolate lava cake with salted vanilla gelato that was amazing. Decomposed grandma pie tasted a little better than the name implies, but I wasn’t in love with it. After we polished off the bottle of wine and all our food, we hung out a while longer, as is the tradition, before we paid our bill and left.
We began our walk home. We opted to take a few staircases, in hopes of saving some zigzags on the way down the mountain. Or immediate thought was that we screwed up and went too far, but we plodded on a bit first. We checked the map when we came to a recognizable intersection, and found that we were back on track, and we had saved a bunch of walking. Bonus. We went the rest of the way home, only missing one turn, which we corrected shortly thereafter. When we got in, Valentina was up, and quite chatty. We got comfy on her couch and talked into the morning about all sorts of things. It was awesome to have a real conversation with a real local. We felt like we got a bit better understanding of life in San Marino, which was great. And we covered all sorts of topics from life, love, immigration laws to elephants and everything in between. A bit before 1am, we figured we should probably head to bed because we wanted to get up somewhat early in order to begin our next travel day. Mandy set the alarm for 7am, and we passed out.
Florence to San Marino
We woke up around 7:45 and showered. We had breakfast at the farm again. Again, it was delicious. We packed up all our stuff, and took up Eugenio on his offer to call a taxi for us. It was to arrive in about 15 minutes, so we waited in the chairs on the patio area, baking in the hot morning sun for a bit. When the taxi rolled up, we tossed our bags into the VW minivan and climbed in. We asked the driver to get us to the 23 bus, so he dropped us off at the nearest stop. It was a multi-route stop, fortunately, because we surmised that the 23 was not running that day, after 2 of the scheduled departure times listed came and went with no sign of a 23 bus. So we did a matching game, and saw that the 8 bus hits two stops with similar words as stops on the 23 route. So we hopped on the next 8 bus, and hoped for the best. When we saw a familiar intersection, we hopped off. This was at Sorgane, where we had gotten off a 23 bus the day before. We waited just a few minutes and a 23 bus arrived, continued to the end of the line, and turned around to head back towards the center of Florence. Perfect.
We rode until we felt like we were pretty close to the train station, with the intent to find some lunch before heading to the station. We skipped by a few places, struck out at one (no credito!), and finally decided to order sandwiches to go at a little shop. We got a chocolate croissant also, because why not? The total came in under the minimum for credit, so we got a beer as well. We took our stuff and started walking again, aware of our looming deadline for our train. It was not yet an emergency, but we weren’t totally clear on which way we should be heading. We tried to orient ourselves relative to the Duomo, and the maps on Mandy’s phone (which weren’t loading street names), but couldn’t be certain. We walked a block or two, checked the map, walked again, confused, and repeated this process until we felt like we were legitimately lost. Finally, we came to a large plaza, which Mandy smartly identified as Santa Maria Novella. This allowed us to get a handle on our location on the map, and to walk in a straight line towards the train station instead of wandering hopefully.
We got into the train station with plenty of time. In fact, our train’s platform wasn’t even listed yet. So we relaxed for a few. A woman approached and asked for a Euro, but we had none, so we apologized. She wandered towards a man with the worst bowl cut ever, who appeared somewhat suspect, but I don’t know why, exactly. Perhaps five minutes later, she approached again, and asked for a Euro. Again, we declined. The bow cut man stood awkwardly close to us, staring at a wall intently. We watched the woman continue through the crowd asking for money, even after she had collected from others. Thoroughly uncomfortable, we left the area until our platform was listed. We were to leave from 17, which is far away from the main platform area. So we walked way down the station, and got seats on the train, and waited.
The train rolled out of the station at Firenze S.M.N. and we headed to Faenza. At Faenza, we moved over one rail and waited about a half hour for our next train to arrive. The train arrived, we hopped on, and waited again. The conductor had to take a smoke break, which is fine, but would become a factor for the rest of our day. The train rolled out about 10 minutes behind schedule. A few stops later, two men moved through our car to the rear of the train, where there is a bicycle storage car. A minute or two later, two police officers moved through in the same direction. We could see them checking IDs and taking notes. At the next stop, the officers removed the men from the train, then sat beside us for the remainder of the ride. Not sure what that was all about. The rest of the ride to Rimini was uneventful.
Once in Rimini, we had to find a bus. Unfortunately, one had just left. We missed it because we were late. So we had about an hour to kill until the next one. We knew we were near the east coast of Italy, so we figured we’d go to the ocean. We walked about 20 minutes until we found the beach. We snapped a couple pictures and then hightailed it back to the bus station to catch our bus. We didn’t want to be late, because it was about an hour and a half until the next one! We arrived with plenty of time to spare, and began to get slightly anxious that we were at the right stop when the scheduled departure time came and went. A few minutes later, however, our bus arrived and we hopped on. We scrambled to connect to WiFi on the bus, in order to figure out which stop we should get off at. When we couldn’t connect, we decided to just make an educated guess. All of the bus stop signs we were stopping at looked identical, so Mandy asked the driver to notify us when we were at Borgo Portici. We hopped off when he called it out.
Now what? We had been instructed by our host to catch an ATI bus, which we think is approximately a city bus for San Marino. Well, since we had been running behind schedule since the train conductor’s butt break, we missed the last ATI bus. We tried asking in a few shops for a taxi number, an to see if they could make the call for us. After striking out there, and unable to access WiFi, we gave up and Mandy activated her cell phone for another 24 hour period (which costs $10USD each time) so we could message our host and see what options we had. While we awaited her response, we tried to get some cash for a taxi from an ATM, which was apparently malfunctioning. We were so ecstatic when Valentina responded to say that it was no problem for her to come pick us up at the bus station. What a relief! She arrived about 5 minutes later; just in time as an old man was approaching us, yelling in a foreign language at apparently nothing. We tossed our bag in and thanked our awesome host a hundred times. We chatted along the ride to her house, and she showed us around.
We promptly dropped our bags and kicked our shoes off. After a quick shower, we asked where we should look for dinner, hoping against hope to actually get to eat, because it was past 8pm. She jumped up and grabbed her keys, and drove us up the hill to the old fortress to drop us off. She said that we’d find plenty of places still open, and just message her when we’re ready to come home. We wandered around the eerily silent streets a while, past door after door, all closed. Eventually, we came across a street that had several open restaurants. Score! We picked La Osteria, and were promptly seated inside. I ordered an Illecita by Birrificio Abusivo, a local brewery. It was pretty tasty! I ordered a rose wine that I liked. I ordered a plate of hand-rolled pasta in a pesto sauce, and a dish of thin-sliced beef with salt and rosemary seasoning. All of it was delicious. I ate handmade ravioli with bacon and tomato. It was really good! After dinner, we figured we’d relied on Valentina enough already, and that we could walk home on our own. The weather was pretty good, and the town was quiet. We set out in the direction we had come by car, as best we could from memory. When we were pretty sure we hadn’t been here before, we used Mandy’s phone to navigate us home. We arrived about 40 minutes later, quite sick of walking. We got into bed after a quick chat with Valentina, and passed out not long after.
"It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to."
- Bilbo Baggins
We're just an adventure-loving couple with a puppy looking to share our stories with the world.