Monday, September 22, 2008

San Marino

This morning, the woman working at the front desk of our hotel, Acasamia, was showing someone around and didn’t realize our room was occupied. Luckily, we were already awake and dressed, and we had warning with key fumbling noises at the door, but she was totally embarrassed when she whipped the door open on us. The unwelcome surprise may have been an omen for the day ahead.

Aside from the beach, the real reason we came to Rimini was so we could go to San Marino for the day. It’s off-season right now so 2 buses come to a stop outside the train station each hour, and that’s it. This bus trip was a true nightmare. We got to the bus station about 15 minutes ahead and the buses were already pretty much full. It seemed like people with some type of ticket were still being allowed on, but everyone else got turned away. We decided to try our luck on the bus an hour later. In the mean time we asked at the tourist office and the ticket office about getting tickets, and were told you buy them on the bus. So we planted ourselves at the curb so we’d be at the front of the line for the next one.

Well the next bus comes and the crowd starts crushing forward. We figure we’re at the front, so we should be okay. As we go to get on, the guy tells us we need tickets! Turns out about 5 minutes before the bus, some old lady comes wandering down the street, lays out her gear on the garbage can and starts selling tickets. She yells stuff so you know she’s there. In Italian. So everyone at the back of the line sees her and figures out what’s going on, but if you’ve waited an hour at the front and only speak English, you’re screwed. There were quite a few of us that missed 2 sets of buses, so the public outrage began. Eventually the ticket lady got on her phone and called for another bus, so we only had to wait about 20 minutes rather than the full hour. We met some very nice Irish people during the riot. They said they resorted to hair pulling to keep people from cutting them in line. It was a real Amazing Race experience.

Happily, San Marino was totally worth it. San Marino was the 3rd country on this vacation as it's a republic separate from Italy. It was founded in 301 by Marinus, a Christian fleeing religious persecution by the Roman Emperor. San Marino is the oldest constitutional republic in the world with the world's oldest written constitution, from 1600. It's at the top of the Apennine Mountains. I knew about it because they used to hold a Formula 1 race nearby at Imola.

There are 3 towers still standing on the cliffs. We kept taking pictures of the awesome view only to spiral up higher to an even better spot and have to do it all over again. We saw the towers, basilica and the main palace guarded by colourful military guys called the Guard of the Rock, learning for free as we went. I bought a second purse and found some Ferrari series San Marino stamps for my brother. He wanted something Ferrari from Italy that was cheap, but anything with their brand is super expensive. Ugly screened t-shirts are often €80 and toys are at least €60. It only gets worse if you want something nice or useful. Although I was tempted, I refrained from buying a cane that had a built-in bicycle bell and booze holder. I'll have to come back at retirement age.

We didn’t want to press our luck by taking the last bus and getting stuck hotel-less in San Marino, so we only stayed a few hours. This gave us some time to walk downtown Rimini and view more assorted historical sites.

When we got back we had some wine in the room before dinner. I ended the day by throwing my plastic purse from Canada in the garbage. The leatheresque paint was starting to chip off.

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