In Italia we are, after a voyage across the Grecian seas. San Marino was our first haven, before we tracked north to the village of Portico di Romagna, then across the country to our Cinque Terre base of La Spezia. Hold on tight, our Fiat ‘Green Machine’ is quite the swift rolling stone.
An ultra duathlon, consisting of 10 hour ferry (departing at 3am) followed by one hour taxi and six hour drive got us from Corfu to San Marino. Fresh off the ferry, we hailed a cab to get us to the rental car depot. It turned out the ‘driver’ was a regular retiree in disguise, keen to pick up a few extra euro. We ran red lights with no seat belts, stopped four times to ask for directions, and broke down twice (he said flat batteries were the result of satellite interference, pointing with a crooked finger to the heavens), before I eventually spotted Europcar and we slammed the doors on the chauffeured nightmare.
Thoroughly drained but at last making inroads, we sped up Italy’s svelte calf. The temperature dropped to 12 degrees, and a curtain of purpled black clouds closed in, releasing an almighty storm at the junction. We persevered, and as the night got darker and the fog joined too, we wound our way up through the mountains – Maia as operator, me as co-driver, hunched, squinting and hopeful that the next corner would reveal our abode. When at last we arrived exhausted and sodden, we didn’t deny ourselves an R Kelly ‘World’s Greatest’ moment. Cause hey we made it, mmmm.
Oh San Marino, you were worth the journey. It turns out the cheeky place is actually a country, not a region of Italy! Well I never. A UNESCO medieval city, we slept in the sky, high by the first tower. When we woke, we reveled in both the hotel’s exceptional breakfast, and that it felt like we had been floo-powdered into the Middle Ages. 700 years old, San Marino is striking for its solid construction, immaculate maintenance, and also it’s preparedness to evolve. San Marino might have deep roots, but rather than rot into a shell of a fortress, it continues to honor its heritage and grow a small community with schools, arts centres, concerts, and boutiques. This gives the place, frequented by many tourists, an admirable local and authentic vibe. We adored San Marino, it had a full weekend’s worth of things to see and do, and catered for a wide range of people. Beautiful spot (please google image it, as my foggy photos do nothing to capture the splendor).
Our green bug next escorted us to Portico di Romagna (60km SE of Bologna). We drove through gorgeous countryside and arrived at The Shire. Yep, there were communal vege gardens, riverside walks, fences made of tree branches, and even a village festival with brass band going on in this 400 person home away from home. We stayed at Al Vecchio Convento, recommended by the darling Debbie Bradford. From the moment we arrived we felt part of the family run accommodation, and participated in (err, maybe hindered) daily life as much as possible. We went truffle hunting and played with the truffle dogs, hiked the mountains, took a yoga lesson, and learned how to make proper ravioli and tagliatelle with hilarious Michelin trained chefs. The whole family is modest but extraordinary and their talents compliment beautifully to culminate in a full service, personal and wholesome experience. It was a dream to live close to nature and with the locals. We felt so comfortable, welcome and meshed into this beautiful existence that it turned out terribly hard to tear ourselves away. They have a good thing going on and I admire so much their inclusive, family oriented, importance on what really matters, way of life.
Tooting a più tardi to Portico di Romagna, we aimed, fired, and poorly missed our target of La Spezia on the east coast. Lost in Florence and in La Spezia itself, we doubled our trip time to six hours (I see the navigational pattern emerging too, and as co-driver plead lack of GPS). Not to worry because we eventually got to our B&B (oftentimes cheaper than hostels) and rose with the sun to an epic view out over the port, before exploring the Cinque Terre.
The Cinque Terre seaside fishing towns are strung close together on the rocky Italian Riviera and can be visited in a single day by train or boat, or over a couple of days if hiking. Nearly all the pretty settlements are bang on the waterfront, with the characteristic brightly painted exteriors, and many pesto/seafood delicacies on offer. Stretching high up the hills behind are terraced gardens being tended to by bucket-hatted Italians and gorgeous walking trails. The Cinque Terre is understandably popular, and even in autumn there are swarms of visitors crowding the five lands’ narrow lanes. Heading upstairs to one of the bars or restaurants is a lovely way to enjoy a rejuvenating breather watching the tide and world go by.
Tomorrow we adventure to a castle in Chianti, Tuscany, just outside Florence. We’ll be based there for approximately the next week (thanks Dad, we are so looking forward to it!) with day trips to surrounding areas. I’ll be back in touch with more news there. In bocca al lupo (good luck!) til then.
Today’s post is dedicated to our sweet golden mate Louie. We’ve been giving all pups we come across extra love in your name, boy. Run free xxxxx
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