Day 249 San Marino to Marcialla, Tuscany.

Our campsite in San Marino last night was very pleasant, and we enjoyed a meal in their on site restaurant, and de-fused after our traumas of the ferry. Two placements along from us on the campsite were an English couple in a tent – the first Brits we have come across for a long time. They arrived just before us, and I couldn’t help but laugh at their antics trying to erect their tent. Howard thought that they couldn’t have put the tent up before this trip, since they were spectacularly inept at putting it up, and by the end of it, they were barely speaking to each other. I know it is bad to laugh at other’s misfortunes, but their dialogue had me in hysterics. The point at which the wife was completely submerged in tent fabric, and the husband cheerfully shouted, ‘All OK?’ was priceless! Needless to say, they were eating their breakfast in silence this morning!

We set off early (ish) to explore San Marino. Just as well, since within five minutes of parking up in the old town, the last parking place had been taken. 

San Marino Old town sits aloft a spectacular hill, Mount Titano, and comprises of four forts, which from a distance looks quite impressive, like something from a fairytale. We set off and walked to the summit of Mount Titano and it’s tower, along a scenic path through the wooded park. We then walked along to the first of the forts, which had the most amazing views of the surrounding countryside. We stopped for coffee at a cafe, before continuing on to the next fort, up the cobbled lane. There was a profusion of souvenir stalls, mostly selling tat, but some selling some rather expensive leather bags. We purchased our San Marino flag for Oscar, which was our sole purchase. We were surprised to see that amongst the bag and souvenir stalls, there were also many shops selling weapons – knives, bows and arrows, and many with handguns and rifles. I’m guessing the firearms laws are different, or more lax in San Marino – but they clearly like their armaments.

We walked down to the Basilica, and took a look inside. Olive green columns led the eye up to the ornately plastered ceiling, very effective. We then walked down through the town, before returning back to Oscar.

It was a snapshot visit of this micro-State – a Republic since 301 AD. It was established on a Roman system of democracy, with six monthly elections of Captains Regent, two heads of state for the council, one from each of the opposing parties, in order to maintain a balance. It was officially made an independent country in 1600. Throughout both World Wars, it maintained it’s independence, but was invaded by the Germans right at the end of the war in 1944, but shortly relieved by the British. During the war, it took in 100,00 refugees from Rimini, an extraordinary achievement, since at the time only having a population of 15,000 itself. It is a member of the United Nations, but not of the EU, despite using the Euro as currency. It has largest GDP of any country in Europe, it has no deficit, and a positive balance of payments. It is the only country to have more cars than people (33,000). It has it’s own parliament, and makes it’s own rules. It seems strange that such a pocket sized state of 23 square miles can continue to exist in the 21st century – but it seems to be doing remarkably well for itself. It was certainly well worth the visit, and quite an education.

We continued on our journey, heading towards Tuscany. Howard decided that he had had enough of Italian motorway driving, and opted to take the ‘cross-country’ route. Unbeknown to me, this involved driving directly over the Apennine Mountains.

The route was long and tortuous, but took us through some of the most spectacular scenery that you can imagine. We found ourselves driving along the Mandrioli Pass, through the Alps Di Serra, a hair-raising drive up the mountains, by means of multiple hair-pin bends. This is clearly a very popular biker’s route, since we encountered convoys of biker’s in their leathers, revving their way up the mountainside. The view at the top was quite something – looking back over the odd formations of sedimentary rocks. We then passed through the beautiful Casentino forest in the Casentine National Park, popular with walkers, and peppered with little stone villages.

A little further on we came to the Passa del Consumo, another spectacular mountain pass, not quite as white knuckle as the Mandrioli, but stunning, nevertheless.

As the landscape slowly changed from dramatic mountains to undulating hills, we then found ourselves back into fertile valleys of olive groves and vineyards – the classic Tuscan landscape, and just so beautiful.

We didn’t arrive at our campsite until gone six o’ clock. It is a pleasant site, set on a terraced hillside, with glorious views across the Tuscan landscape. When we arrived, we were told that tonight was ‘Pizza Party’ night, and asked if we wanted to join in. How could we resist, especially since the campsite also has a supply of it’s own wine on tap?

We were also delighted to find that two placements up from ours, is another Acapulco Blue California, from Cornwall – so Oscar has a friend, This is the first Cali like ours that we have seen in nine months. We were also pretty chuffed that Oscar was looking so good – we had cleaned him just before we caught the ferry from Greece, and the owners of the other Cali commented how clean ours was. It was hard not to well up with pride. ‘That’s our boy!” I thought to myself.

So tonight we have enjoyed scrummy pizza and quaffed some very passable campsite wine. What’s not to like about Tuscany? 

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