Monday, April 5, 2010

Italy Again

April 3-4
By Claire
We woke to a perfect blue sky—how is it we are always so lucky? I feel as if we are in a completely new part of our journey, almost as if we are starting over but with all the knowledge we’ve gained from the previous 7 months of travel. I think we have both completely settled into this life. Today was a day of high expectation. We drove through the Italian countryside to the Republic of San Marino, a tiny, separate country of 24 square miles.

We set Susannah to find the city center, a trick that works well for us to get us there with the idea that we can take over at any time. Today, she was splendid. Not only did she take us to the old city high up on the top of a hill, but we were able to find parking for campers.

In fact, we have seen hundreds of campers—most with Italian plates. San Marino was crawling with Italians. I don’t think I heard another language the entire time we were there.

In spite of the touristy nature of this place, we really loved it. Maybe it was the beautiful weather, maybe it was just being around lots of other happy people, or maybe it was because it was such a stunning location with 3 castles! It was a long hike up from where we parked but so worth it. We started with the San Marino basilica, a completely beautiful church, the inside in lovely shades of pale green and white. It had such a clean look about it. We’ve seen so many ancient ruins that it was a nice change.

The Basilica of San Marino

Working our way up and up, we stopped for the view—there are views everywhere you turn.

Naturally, we had to have a cappuccino and we found a perfect little place right on the edge of the cliff overlooking the valley below. Chuck insisted on ordering the BIG cappuccinos.

Revitalized, we headed up to Guaita Tower. We climbed around the ramparts and the towers and toured the prison. I found the graffiti in one of the cells, dating from the mid-1800s, very interesting. In 1848, San Marino was the first to abolish the death penalty in the Western world.

Cesta Tower was even more interesting and included an armory. We spent quite a bit of time here, even climbing up very steep stairs leading to some rungs that took some acrobatics to make it into the room above. Looking back at the view of the Guaita Tower was spectacular, not to mention the views east across the valley to the Adriatic Sea.

Guaita Tower

Cesta Tower

We had a picnic lunch on a stone bench in the sunshine with the Cesta Tower and ramparts surrounding us. Of course, a piccolo (small) gelato was in order, a real deal at €1 each.

San Marino may be touristy but we loved everything about it. We had planned to see it back in October but the rain hit and we decided to head south to Rome at that time. I’m so glad we made it back.

Driving back in Homer, we passed this Italian grandpa and his grandson in the bike lane along the road. I love Italy.

Grandpa biking

Easter Sunday we drove to Padova to see the university and to just stroll around. We knew everything would be closed but we also knew that it would be a good day to put some kilometers on in our quest to get to Vienna and beyond. The day was gray but the roads were clear and almost empty. However, the campground was expensive, €32.90, and it was packed cheek by jowl with families (and an occasional screaming baby) celebrating the holiday.

We drove into Padova but were greatly disappointed. Not only was everything closed, even the botanical gardens, but it wasn’t pretty or interesting at all. Just a large, busy city. We drove back to the campground to get our money’s worth and read in comfort. We will leave tomorrow for Austria.

Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey. ~ Pat Conroy


Karin said...

Hello you two! You had us worried as no blogs for a few days, but happy to receive 3 all at once! Glad your trip across to Italy went smoothly....I loved your pictures of San Marino....the views are truly stunning. The picture of the Grandpa and the little boy are so sweet! So now we wait to hear about Vienna! (Chuck will be in Hog Heaven - with all those konditorei to visit!) (is there a plural to this word?) Well..., I just looked it up and lo and behold - What did I discover? That you have a lovely Austrian Pastry Cafe and Konditorei right there on 5th Avenue in your home town! Ha, ha! Now is your chance to get busy Chuck! :):)

Karin on Paros

Chuck and Claire said...

Surely you don't believe that Chuck would live in a town without a Peets Coffee House and a Konditorei?