Okay, I’ll be the first to admit that trying to see an entire city state in the time it takes to watch a sitcom is not ideal. However, when I looked at our route from Venice to our villa in Tuscany and saw that it passed quite close to the world’s oldest independent republic, I couldn’t resist a quick visit.
We picked up our rental car in Venice and got on the road without a hitch, traveling by the modern Autostrada as far as Rimini, then heading inland for about 20 km to reach San Marino. By the time we’d made the steep climb to the imposing castle at the top of the hill, though, we realized that we only had about half an hour to spend in the city itself if we wanted to get to our destination by 6 pm as planned.
The kids were also hungry after three hours on the road and finding food was a priority as well, so we found a cafe just outside the entrance to the fortified city and I sat down and ordered while my husband took the kids around the wall to take pictures and look around a bit. They got back to our table a few minutes after our food arrived and I left them there to wander up the main street and take a few pictures myself. I arrived as they finished and that gave us just enough time for a bathroom break before we loaded the car back up and headed out.
Not the most ideal visit, I have to admit. San Marino might be one of the world’s smallest countries, but we definitely did not to it justice in such a short time. On the other hand, we had to stop for lunch somewhere, so why not add another country to the list while we were at it?
Stopping in San Marino also gave us a chance to get off the bland Autostrada and see a bit more of the Italian countryside. There are no major highways running east-west in that part of Italy, so the only way to get to Tuscany from San Marino was to take the winding back roads over the spine of the country. Our rental car quickly acquired the nickname, “Betsy the Gutless Wonder” as we chugged our way up and down the hills. But she got us there and right on time, too.
I thought San Marino was beautiful, but it’s probably not that much different from many other beautiful hill towns in that part of Italy. Some people would find it strange that we made a two hour detour just to check another country off our list. I would admit that it was a bit silly to go there just for a quick lunch, but I would also argue that we may never get such a good chance to see it again, so why not?
So now my kids have been to six countries in their lives, with a few more yet to come on this trip. And now I’ve seen 36 of the 50 countries in Europe. And we’ll have to see where Betsy the Gutless Wonder takes us next!