Around the world in 32 days: Country number six.
“Oh you’re going to San Marino?” said the Italian guy on the train from Colombo to Galle. “That’s nice. It’s what we Italians do in the second grade. School trip.”
For the record, that’s not true. They go in middle school.
San Marino, a microstate even smaller than Liechtenstein, sits perched on a mountaintop near the seaside resort town of Rimini, Italy. It’s known for its beautiful farmland at the base of the mountain, and for its stunning views of the countryside from the castle tops. It claims to be one the worlds oldest republics, independent from Italy, but I bet the average tourist would be hard-pressed to spot any differences between the two. There are no borders to cross, and like Italy, they use the euro. They speak Italian, though English and Russian are just as common (Rimini, nearby, is a popular vacation spot for Russian tourist). But who am I to question things? Besides, it gets me one country closer to a hundred, so long live San Marino!
I started the day in Rimini and it’s easy to sea why the town is so popular. The golden sand beach seems to stretch on forever, the food is good –and inexpensive, as Europe goes – and the weather was perfect. It’s clean and people are mostly friendly, though I’ve always felt Italians to be a little punchy, all things being equal. Maybe it’s just me. Maybe it’s them. I had prosecco with a panini and chocolate nutella at lunch; all was forgiven. After all, I had my first cappuccino in Naples, Italy when I was nineteen. It was that day I fell in love with coffee and the soft clinking of an espresso cup against its saucer.
But I digress.
Actually, while I’m digressing, can I just mention how much I hate public restrooms that you have to pay to use? Yeah, I know, the money is supposed to go towards facilities upkeep: cleaning supplies, soaps, toilet paper, a cleaning attendant. There is also something to be said for the barrier a pay toll creates, that it keeps out squatters (HA!), homeless, and other characters who may use the semi-privacy of the toilet for nefarious purposes. Well, you know what? I don’t fucking care. Providing reasonably clean, functional public restroom should a basic public service. Include it in the cost in the ticket, or raise taxes an extra .000001%, or use lottery funds, I couldn’t care less how you pay for it, just figure it out, Europe. The world, particularly the cradle of sophistication, democracy, and class that western Europe thinks it is, should have figured out how to accommodate a basic human body function, without making them scramble desperately across a four level train station for someone to break a 20 euro bill, because things are about to HAPPEN and the machine won’t break or accept a 20 and I pack light and only brought one pair of jeans and there are cameras everywhere in Europe so if I squat on a trashcan it will totally be caught on tape not to mention everyone has an iphone not to mention TOILET PAPER and the last thing I want to do is wait in this line behind a capricious lady ordering a lemon tart, no a cream tart, no make it the cherry tart, when all I want to do it get change but I have to buy something for crying out loud is this what it feels like to go into labor and OH I have a one euro coin in my jacket pocket so I didn’t need change after all.
Is it unexpected that, after chugging two espressos and a café mocha from one of the train vending machines, I would have to use the bathroom? Hell no, it’s not. Where was I? Ah, yes.
After strolling around Rimini, I caught the bus up to San Marino, and did more strolling there. The capital –flying fast and loose with that word here – is actually really fun, if touristy. Every other shop sells perfumes, or sunglasses (the sun must shine brighter here, making people squint and sweat more) or gelato and coffee. The views from the castle are worth the short hike up. On a clear day like today, you can see the hills stretch out into the distance on one side, and the Adriatic Ocean to the other. It’s beautiful, and the castles, though surely remade a hundred times since first constructed, are really fun to scramble around on.
As the day ended, I caught the bus back down, picked up my bag and caught the train up to Milan, where I’ll retire for the evening. Tomorrow morning I’ll catch an early train to Monaco, to try out my best James Bond impression at the casinos.
How I got there: I took the train from Zurich to Rimini*, which cost 149 Euros. The roundtrip bus ticket up to San Marino cost 10 Euros, and the bus stop is across the street from the train station, in front of the Burger King. Tickets are not bought at the bus station ticket booth but at the tourist ticket office to the left of the booth.
Where I stayed: Hotel Card – Great hotel close to the train station.
What I did:
Centro Storico Di San Marino
Toured the Rimini seafront and Piazzas
Roman Arco d’Augusto
San Marino – hilltop capital
Museo di Stato
*The train from Zurich to Milan was gorgeous, and offered the best scenery and ride I’ve ever experienced on a train: waterfalls streamed down mountains frosted with snow, Farms, cottages, burly looking farm animals working alongside burlier looking Swiss farmers, steepled churches perched on the liminal spaces between mountains and rivers. Everything looked verdant, fecund, and I understood for the first time the allure of the Swiss alps.