San Marino - Italian Notes

San Marino: Old republic in the heart of Italy

Old fortresses perched on top of mountains and the smallness of the state turns a holiday in San Marino into fairy tale adventure.

Photo of the Golden Sphere Monument in Pesaro

Golden Sphere Monument in Pesaro

Italian artist Arnaldo Pomodoro has left his spheres all over the world. One of them has become the symbol of Pesaro.

Rimini for children

Riccione, Cattolica and other beach resorts in the area between Rimini and Pesaro are extremely popular among families with children, and few places in Italy have so much entertainment to offer this particular group of visitors. If there is a Las Vegas in Italy, it is here.

The five amusement and theme parks mentioned below are just the top of an iceberg that covers all sorts of play grounds, go-cart tracks, jumping castles, trampolines, arcade games, mini golf, horse riding, etc. Not forgetting the beach with its low water levels and white sand ideal for beach volley, beach bats, pedaloni and sand sculpting. Holidays in Riccione come with a guarantee against boredom.

Oltremare is a theme park where you can watch dolphins perform, but trained dolphins are just one of many attractions. Through playground activities combined with spectacular visual and sound effects Oltremare attempts to teach children about the origin of the universe, the survival of the fittest and environmental threats. Most visitors spend 5-6 hours in the park once they have paid the entrance fee of 25 euro for adults (over the age of 12 years) and 18 euro for children between 6 and 11 years. There are plenty cafes and restaurants in the park, but you are welcome to bring your own lunch packet and eat in the picnic area.

Fiabilandia is a Disneyland inspired (no comparison) fairy tale world for very small children with lots of slow rides surrounded by colourful plastic. The park gets a poor score in most internet reviews, but there seems to be general consent about it being toddler friendly though the prices are steep with 22 euro for everyone taller than 130 cm.

Italia in Miniature is a bit like Legoland, with Lilliput versions of major sights. Here you can see the gondolas of Venice, Rome’s Colosseum, the leaning tower of Pisa and Agrigento’s Valle di Templi in one afternoon mixed with amusement rides and driving lessons for children. The price is 20 euro for over 12 year olds and 15 euro for children up to 11 years. Entrance is free for children of less than 1 metre.

Aquafan is the most famous water park in Italy with many attractions for children, teenagers and grown-up. Noah’s ark with four slides, Extreme River and surfing Hill, music shows and discotheques are particularly popular. Entrance fees are 25 euro for two days (the second day is gratis) and 18 euro for children aged 6 to 11 years. An alternative, smaller scale water park is Beach Village, where the pools are filled with sea water. A day here costs 12 euro for grown-ups and 10 euro for children.

For theme park enthusiasts Mirabilandia south of Ravenna takes the prize with some very wild rides and great shows .The park which is among the largest in Italy houses Europe’s second largest Ferris wheel, the Katun roller coaster with vertical loop, cobra and zero G rolls as well as two corkscrews. Great fun for everyone who like to move fast forward with their head hanging down. The price for adults is 31 euro and 25 euro for children below the age of 12 years. All tickets are valid for two consecutive days, as the second day is free.

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Fresh fava beans wrapped up in cotton wool

In northern Europe we are still caught in the depth of winter, but as soon as you pass the Alps signs of spring shoot up and multiply as you go south. The grass seems greener in a purely literal sense, water flows faster in the rivers and cute white flowers adorn the apple trees. Further south, forsythia and mimosa blossom with such excessive exuberance that I – for one – have had my share of yellow flowers for the rest of the year, and pink peach blossoms make part of the Tavoliere look as if it has been covered in beetroot salad. Touring Italy from north to south in the spring time leaves splashes of psychedelic colour on the inside of your eyelids.

Still, it is not the bright vivid colours that constitute the strongest sign of spring in my book, but a rather plain looking bean that is one of the first crops to hit markets and restaurants after a long winter and tastes delicious when eaten fresh from the pod. Broad beans or fave are so easy to cultivate that they lost their attraction in Scandinavia, once people could afford to buy more exotic, imported vegetables, but in Italy and in other countries around the Mediterranean they are highly appreciated.

I still remember the first time a limp, hunchbacked waiter at a popular restaurant in Rimini produced a handful of bright green bean pods from his pocket and threw them on the table along with a slice of pecorino and a drop of the local olive oil. The surprise of opening a long, lumpy bean pod and finding a string of green kidney shaped beans packed in soft cottonwool was pure magic. And the feeling magnified when you started eating the beans that taste like a cross between sweet peas and bitter rocket.

Fresh fave are so much more refreshing that the porrigde prepared from dried fave in southern Italy, where housewives spend hours on plastic chairs outside their houses while shelling fave beans. In fact, their use of fave resembles the Egyptian Ful Medames served the Italian way with chicory rocket salad, but this is an acquired taste you have to be south Italian to really appreciate. Whereas the fresh, crispy and slightly bitter green beans are truely delicious as a pure taste of spring.

Crossing the Rubicon

Drive along the E55 from Venice to Rimini and you will suddenly find yourself crossing the Rubicon.

When travelling in Italy you are constently stumbling over pieces and places of history. Take a drive along the busy E55 from Rimini and Venezia, and you will suddenly find yourself crossing the Rubicon. A small bridge over a placid looking stream, which may or may not be identical with the mighty river the Roman Legions feared to cross, does not look like a point of no return, but 2000 years ago is constituted the northern boundary of the Roman Empire, and any general who crossed the river with an army of men, without permission from the Senate, committed rebellion.

Crossing the Rubicon

In the year 49 BC after careful deliberations, Julius Caesar ordered his men to cross the Rubicon, and said the famous words “alea iacta est” or “the die is cast”. With the act and a gambling metaphore Caesar started a violet civil war from which he emerged as the unrivaled leader of the Roman Empire.

At that time Roman armies were in the habit of making sacrifices to the river god, when crossing a river into enemy country. In this instance, Caesar was said to have set out a herd of horses that were left free to roam along the banks of the Rubicon. Five years later when Caesar was assassinated in Rome, people swore that they had seen these noble creatures refuse to eat and weep mournfully, while standing in their pastures.

Today you have to be extraordinary lucky to spot weeping wild horses, while crossing the Rubicon, and as long as you abide by the traffic rules no one will take up arms to prevent you from going one way or the other. Just remember that there is a nice beach around the place where the Rubicon flows into the Adriatic Sea, so if you are passing in the summer months, you might want to stay a while and think about the time, when men in sandals were not just defending the territory of their beach towel.

After crossing the Rubicon you might want to see

San Marino: Old republic in the heart of Italy

Cesena Italy : Old books and barflies

Rimini for children

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