San Marino. My soul. What a beautiful place. Unfortunately, I was there on a Sunday, so everything was closed except what was on the top of the mountain of San Marino City. Hm. To call anything a city in this country might be a little bit of a stretch. San Marino spans 60 sq. km. I’m not sure, but I think that is about the size of Ontario, California, the small city in the dessert outside of LA where I live. And, there are NINE municipalities here.
Pretty much everything to see in San Marino seems to be on top of the San Marino mountain, so I got in the lemon and wound my way over to Guaita, the first of the towers. This is also the area where several of the museums are as well as the Basilica for the city. Most of the roads in San Marino are like—how can I describe them? They look like they were goat paths, paved over when someone in town got a car, but it was unlikely two cars would meet coming from opposite directions. Add to that, these were mountain goats who skipped from peak to valley effortlessly—something my Lemon had to do in first gear. Driving here was a challenge, especially as I got near the top of the mountain and just saw air falling away for several kilometers below. Still, the view was so amazing it was hard not to be overwhelmed with awe.
Parking is a problem on the mountain. I had to park a little ways below. In many places in Europe, you can now pay for your parking with a credit card. Seems a bit of an overkill, but sure is nice when you don’t have the required change. I struck out on both fronts. I didn’t have the correct change, and they wouldn’t take a credit card. So, I started going from business to business asking someone to break a 50 euro bill. I think the favorite word in San Marino is “NO.” But they did it with a sympathetic smile. Someone recommended the bar, so I went in, ordered a cappuccino and a croissant with Nutella, then asked to pay for it with a 50. She grimaced, but gave me the change. “OK, I’ll be right back,” I explained. “I have to pay for my parking.” My breakfast was waiting for me when I got back.
I was sweating pretty hard when I reached the top of the mountain. I stopped and got something to drink before exploring more. I found the Church, quite a stately building. However, when I went to enter, the lady at the door kept telling me something I couldn’t understand. Finally, she took me inside and pointed to a sign in English that says, “No entry during mass.” Presumably that did not include those who were attending to worship, so I sat down to listen to the mass in Italian. I suppose it was Italian. My Italian is not that good.
I made my way up to the first tower, Guaita. I passed a mask shop that had imported beautiful masks from Venice. The lady explained that, since this was San Marino, they were cheaper here. Probably true. No sales tax. I really wanted a mask with gold filigree, but it looked quite fragile and I didn’t think it would fare well in my suitcase. Would have made a nice addition to my office wall. Oh well.
When I entered the tower area, the guy selling tickets asked me, “One tower or two.” There are actually three, but I guess he thought climbing three towers would be too much for a fat American. “Two,” I said. He smiled, “Yes, two towers are better than one.” Well, I never thought about it, but I suppose that is true. So, if anyone asks you, you have the word of a ticket guy in San Marino, “Two towers are better than one.”
The most impressive thing about the tower was the great view of the next tower. Ha. I found my way to the entrance to the tower. Getting up was another thing. There was only one stairway/ladder—I’m not sure which it was really, sort of half and half. Unfortunately, if someone was coming down, no one could go up. When I arrived, a steady stream of people were carefully crawling down. I waited. And waited. Eventually, there was a break in the line and people started climbing up. Some guy and his family cut in front of me, which I didn’t really mind until someone yelled down asking us to wait so someone could come down. Bad idea, I thought. The guy in front of me was kinder than I—probably because he had just arrived—and waited. One person turned out to be two turned out to be about 30. So, we waited and waited. The guy who cut in front of me got testy. Seriously? This was your fault.
Eventually, I did get up. Amazing views. Then, I went down. Someone the lines didn’t seem so hard to get down. I must have arrived at rush hour.
There were about 20 million steps down and up between towers one and two. It was way too hot for all that walking. I stopped to buy a hat. Ugly, but...it kept the sun off my head. I had thought I could buy a ticket for the third tower, but my legs were aching by the time I descended the second tower. All I wanted to was to get a long lunch and rest.
After lunch, I started the trek back to my car. Of course, I had gelato along the way. I had decided maybe a good way to spend the afternoon would be with a drive along the beach in nearby Rimini, Italy. It was a short drive to Rimini. What I didnt’ know was Rimini was the Panama City Beach of the Adriatic Sea. I ended up in a mash of drunk co-eds, bicyles, and middle aged couples wearing swimsuits meant for much younger people. I thought if I just drove down the coast a little, I might actually see the sea. After miles of slow driving, I was overwhelmed with how big this party city was. I gave up and headed back to San Marino. I couldn’t really see beach...maybe a little water. But I saw some parasailers above it.
I found an open pizza place near Valentina’s house, but the pizza oven wasn’t hot yet. I just sat down and watched Spain and Russia in the World Cup. Russia pulled out a tie-breaker to win the game. When things were ready, I ordered a pizza. Ate it. Went home. I was exhausted.
Tomorrow, I head for Monaco.