San Marino and San Leo

We went to San Marino today, a country within a country, an independent republic in the heart of Italy.  San Marino gets a lot of bad rap from tourist websites and tour advisors for being too touristy and having too many establishments hungry for your money.  I disagree.  Touristy places are touristy for a reason.  People flock to beautiful and interesting places making them touristy.  Fortunately, we came to San Marino off-season.  Unfortunately, we came to San Marino on a Sunday.  It was crowded but not mobbed.   I found San Marino well worth a visit.  The views of and from the three castles on the cliffs are breathtaking and the little old town is lovely.  Yes, the town is full of souvenir shops, but they are not trashy and the merchants are polite and respectful.  In a pizza shop, we bought a slice of pizza with something we couldn’t identify and the pizza shop owner didn’t know the English word for.  So he told us to try it and if we didn’t like it, just trash it and then come back for a free slice of another type of pizza.  I know, it doesn’t cost him hardly anything, but it’s still very sweet, and a matter of principle.  Also, almost anywhere else in the world, prices on everything would be triple in a touristy spot like this, but not here.  Food prices were the same as elsewhere in Italy.

So we had a very pleasant walk in the town and between the castles.  The town is presently holding an open air exhibit of huge mutoid sculptures.  They were stationed in the squares, sitting on the ramparts, and standing in the parks and gave a whimsical  air to the ancient town.

Interesting, that we couldn’t get any directions here or in here on googlemap – it just didn’t exist as far as it was concerned.

From San Marino we went back to Italy, to a hill town of San Leo.  The drive to San Leo was as scenic as they come.  No industry in this part of Emilia Romagna – just farmland, vineyards, quaint towns, farmhouses, and occasional mansions.  In addition, this part of the region is not flat like most of the area.  It is seriously hilly, even mountainous.  The hills here are not rolling, but rather craggy, which gives this bucolic scenery a slightly edgy look.

San Leo turned out to be a castle, which seemed to grow out of an almost vertical rock.  The approach to San Leo lay on a treacherous-looking road clinging to the rock.  It looked so ominous that we almost considered not to drive up, but the castle above us on the ragged cliff was so enticing, we braved the fortunately short drive to the town under the castle.  And the town was just adorable!  Another fairly tale village with breathtaking views of the valleys and ragged cliffs in the distance.  There was some semblance of a Renaissance fair going on with actors dressed in medieval garb, and several representing some fantastical creatures, roaming around, staging battles, conversing, listening, waving weapons, dying, reviving, – it was cute.

The castle was still above us – this was a huge rock!  The walk up to the castle from the town was short but steep and arduous, and then the castle was towering still above us another several meters, but it was enough climbing for today.  Back to our lovely La Gaiana for our last night here.

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