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.
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"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.