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September 17, 2008

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Where's Mike?                                          Rimini, Italy

 



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Destination: San Marino and Rimini
History and unparalleled scenery abound in these beautiful regions of Italy.
By Mike Manna

Welcome back to part two of my tour around Italy's northern region. When we left off last week, I had visited the walled city of Urbino, Verruchio and San Leo. But as you'll see in this week's story, there's much more to this area to discover!



THE MOST SERENE REPUBLIC OF SAN MARINO
I was excited to have the opportunity to visit not just one but two countries on my trip. Completely surrounded by Italy, The Most Serene Republic of San Marino is a landlocked country in the Valmarecchia. Founded in the year 301, the small country is the oldest constitutional republic in the world. The European microstate is similar to Monaco and Vatican City, functioning as an independent nation with its own postage stamps and military. The population of approximately 30,000 Sammarinese live in nine communes or castelli and the republic boasts the third highest GDP per capita in the world, with 50% of that stemming from tourism. Although not a member of the European Union, San Marino does use the euro as a currency.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF SAN MARINO
The history of San Marino dates back to the third century, where a stone mason by the name of Saint Marinus left the island of Rab, (now in modern day Croatia) and went to Rimini to escape persecution by the Romans for his Christian beliefs during the infamous Diocletian Persecutions. Later, he would become Bishop of Rimini until an insane woman accused him of being her estranged husband. Seeking solitude, he fled to nearby Monte Titano, where he built a small church and thus founded one of the world's oldest surviving republics, Serenissima Repubblica di San Marino, or The Most Serene Republic of San Marino.

BORGO MAGGIORE
My trip to San Marino began with a deluge of unwelcome rain. With hopes that the sun would shine through, the rainy day didn't deter me from taking a tour of castelli Borgo Maggiore and soak up the spectacular views from atop the peaks of Monte Titano. The Borgo Maggiore is accessible by road but the gondola or aerial tramway will make the trip more enjoyable. The gondola runs every 15 minutes between San Marino and Borgo Maggiore and provides aerial views of the valley below. The gondola costs 4.50 for a round-trip ticket and 2.80 for a one-way trip.

RESTAURANTE TITANO
With the rain continuing to pour, it was time to head for cover and what better place than lunch at Restaurante Titano? The restaurant, located in Borgo Maggiore, introduces its guests to an assortment of delectable dishes. The enclosed terrace overlooks the valley and provides stunning scenery to accompany a truly amazing dining experience. The menu presents an excellent introduction to the renowned cuisine of the region and the wine list offers a variety of reds and whites and contains a selection of spumante and champagnes. Formally attired waiters are pleased to offer their guests a wide selection of seasonal menu choices from tasty homemade pasta dishes to succulent meat dishes. Be sure to try the assortment of the regional cheeses, in particular the Parmigiano Reggiano.

After a satisfying lunch, the clouds slowly began to dissipate and the sun finally made a welcome appearance. The highlight of Borgo Maggiore is the piazza in front of Palazzo Pubblico, where the famed Guards of the Rock, soldiers of the San Marino military, stand guard. Stationed in their colorful green and red uniforms, the guards take immense pride in serving their beloved San Marino.

The scenic views and medieval buildings and fortifications made this abbreviated trip to San Marino wonderful but what truly made it unique was the opportunity to visit a country within a country and relish being in the world's oldest republic. For more information, visit: sanmarinosite.com.

GETTING THERE: By car, take the A14 Expressway Bologna Ancona (exit Rimini Sud) and proceed for 22 kilometers along the Rimini-San Marino Highway. Bus lines connect San Marino with the city of Rimini train station.

IL BACIO: THE TRAGIC LOVE STORY OF PAOLO AND FRANCESCA
You might be thinking: If you've seen one castle, you've seen them all. But nothing could be farther from the truth, especially after witnessing Gardara. Sitting on a hilltop is the impressive Gardara castle. Built in the 12th century, the fortification was the scene of the continuing conflict between the Malatesta and Montefeltro families.

Romance seems to permeate throughout this fabled town where the classic story of Il Bacio finds its origins. The story is about Francesca da Rimini and her husband's brother Paolo, who had committed adultery and died a violent death after Paolo's brother caught the two engaging in a now infamous kiss. Dante poetically depicts the tragic love story of Paolo and Francesca in Canto V in The Divine Comedy. He writes: Those overcome by lust are punished in this circle. They are the first ones to be truly punished in Hell. These souls are blown about to and fro by a violent storm, without hope of rest. This symbolizes the power of lust to blow one about needlessly and aimlessly.

But it's high from the town walls where the more current story of this place seems to filter through. As I walked the perimeter of the town walls, I noticed a few of the locals relaxing with a dolce fa niente mindset, allowing time to sweetly pass by. Quietly, they were admiring the countryside of olive tree groves and vineyards that outline the fertile landscape. Embracing one of life's simple splendors, they were enjoying the true essence of being. The light started to grow fainter as the setting sun slowly disappeared behind the foothills of the Apennines, bringing an end to another magnificent day. This was Italy at its finest and I was delighted to have had the opportunity to explore historic Gardara.

GABBICE MONTE
After a long day of sightseeing I was famished and it was time to head to the town of Gabbice Monte for dinner at Posillipo Restaurant. The restaurant invites its guest to savor seafood dishes while viewing the picturesque Adriatic coast. The restaurant is part of Hotel Posillipo, a four-star hotel where the rooms also provide stunning views of the Adriatic. After dinner, it was time to place the foothills of the Apennines behind and to head for the beach resort town of Rimini.

RIMINI
I was looking forward to a change of scenery and was thrilled to be heading to the resort town of Rimini on the Adriatic. The city has over nine miles of beaches lined with lidos, decorated cabanas and colorful umbrellas. Attracting a festive Italian crowd of teenagers and twenty-somethings, people come to Rimini seeking nightlife and la dolce vita. When the sun sets, Rimini comes alive along The Marina Centro and Lungomare Augusto, a district filled with many nightclubs, entertaining the masses with partying and dancing throughout the night.

Not merely a beach resort, Rimini has a history dating back to the first century BC with impressive monuments such as the Arch of Augustus and the Tiberius Bridge, which nicely captures old Roman grandeur. Rimini also serves as an ideal location to establish a home base while exploring the surrounding area. The city's train and bus station serves as a hub to many of the regions locations.

Every summer, Italians seeking sun and surf invade the Rimini coast in droves and stay at the many hotels that line the shore. But the area is not just limited to fun in the sun. Other tourist destinations within the area are Italia in Miniatura or Italy in Miniature, a theme park where 272 Italian architecture scale reproductions represent Italy's regions and well-known landmarks; and the Marenello Rosso, a museum dedicated to the life and legacy of the celebrated Enzo Ferrari.

TRAVEL TIP: Staying connected with family and friends can be easy when traveling abroad. Prior to your departure, contact your wireless phone carrier and request that they unlock your phone. When you reach your destination, visit a store that sells SIM cards and insert the card into your phone. You are now ready to go. With an international number, you don't have to pay expensive roaming charges and most plans offer free incoming calls.

THE RIMINI GRAND HOTEL
The Rimini Grand Hotel lived up to its name; it epitomized true grandeur. I stayed for two luxurious nights. Situated along the Adriatic coast, the historic five-star hotel is a protected national monument. Located on Parco Federico Fellini, the renowned property recently completed a major renovation, just in time to celebrate its 100-year anniversary.

Outside the hotel there's a large terrace surrounded by grass and blooming flowers with a water fountain serving as a centerpiece, creating a tranquil setting. In attempts to recapture the glory of days gone by, the lobby has soaring windows, Corinthian columns and massive chandeliers in the grand lobby. Red and beige carpet covers the lobby floor and adjoining staircase and fine paintings adorn the walls. It's no wonder Federico Fellini took residence here. He immersed himself in the lifestyles of the rich and famous, took note of the intriguing guests and at times incorporated those anomalous personalities into future characters of his well-known movies.

The Grand Hotel has 117 spacious rooms. My room had wood parquet floors and was decorated with French and Venetian antiques. It had a large walk-in closet and a restored chandelier that has retained its luster over the years. The tall balcony doors led to a small balcony and provided scenic views of both the Adriatic and the hotel gardens. The Grand Hotel is the only hotel on the coast that has a private beach and during the summer season, provides a spa for its guests. For more information, visit: grandhotelrimini.com.

ARRIVEDERCI RIMINI
Trekking through the enchanting hill towns of the Province of Rimini was such a pleasure as I admired the medieval castles situated in the Apennine foothills. It comes as no surprise that legendary artists have been inspired to create timeless masterpieces after visiting and living in this scenic region.

One of the things that brings the most happiness to my life is traveling to Italy and having the opportunity witness the countless historic treasures it possesses. It's not just the sheer beauty of this place that captives me; it's the Italian way of life ... a relaxed attitude and cheerful outlook on life. Here, happiness is a priority and the people embrace life to its fullest. They are full of a passion that filters into every facet of their lives and radiates in virtually everything that they do. From a simple evening passeggiare to a lively conversation about their beloved national soccer team, being Italian is passion captured.




*Please tell us what you think of this week's newsletter!

All information presented here is accurate at the time of publication but prices, dates and other details are all subject to change. Please confirm all information before making any travel arrangements.

Note: This trip was sponsored in part by Alitalia and Italian Tourism.

Pictures From

The Trip

 

Legendary Castles Walls

 

The Ancient Hill Town of San Leo

 

Tasty Provincial Products

 

Fortified Walls of San Leo

 

MDXXI

 

Serenissima Repubblica di San Marino

 

Views Atop the Peaks of Monte Titano

 

San Marino Gondola

 

Restaurante Titano

 

The Guards of the Rock

 

The Impressive Gardara Castle

 

Romantic Walks

 

High From the Town Walls

 

Posillipo Restaurant

 

The Beach Resort Town of Rimini

 

Arch of Augustus

 

Tiberius Bridge

 

Italia in Miniatura

 

Marenello Rosso

 

The Rimini Grand Hotel

 

Refreshing Water Fountain

 

Passion Captured

 

Italian Countryside

 

Scenic Rolling Hills

 



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