Sunday, April 4, 2010

First bike trip abroad

Easter weekend promised a bit of a mixed bag of weather, but Saturday looked the better day. We therefore decided a trip was in order. We'd thought about heading up to the top end of Lake Garda, but actually the weather to the north of us wasn't as settled, so we decided on a trip south-east to the Republic of San Marino. Abroad, in effect! It's pretty much straight down the Via Emilia to Rimini, then head off inland south-west. We don't like to use the motorway because it's boring and I find myself nodding off.

The trip down took us through some lovely scenery with all the fruit trees coming into blossom, and everything turning green at long last. The few swallows we saw told us also that summer wasn't far away.

On the way we passed through Imola, home of the erstwhile, ill-fated San Marino Grand Prix. At a distance of around 100km, I was wondering if Michael O'Leary (Ryanair CEO) had a say in the naming of the race... We saw quite a few bikers on the way but none funnier than the beefy biker we saw in Imola with his rear end hanging out of his too small jeans. Must have been chilly that, but at least we had somewhere to park the bike. Ewww!! Still, onwards and upwards towards the lofty heights of the Republic.

San Marino, or more accurately, The Most Serene Republic of San Marino (Serenissima Repubblica di San Marino) is an enclave in Italy, on the border between the regions of Emilia Romagna and Marche. Its topography is dominated by the Apennine mountain range, giving it a somewhat rugged terrain. The highest point in the country, the summit of Monte Titano, is situated at 749 m (2,457 ft) above sea level. With an area occupying just over 61km2 (24 sq miles) San Marino is the third smallest country in Europe, with only Vatican City and Monaco being smaller.

We parked up the bike and set off to have a look around the main town. You have to have strong legs around these parts since all the streets are perched on the top of a hill. A lot of the shops were a bit tacky and touristy, but the most outstanding thing was the number of shops selling fake firearms. I'm talking fake Lugers, AK47s, revolvers, you name it. It was horrendous. Alongside that lot you could also buy all manner of knives and swords, camouflage gear, in fact anything the budding terrorist or bank robber could wish for. All of this in the name of "liberty". You see, San Marino likes to call itself "The Land of the Free". Hmm... reminds me of somewhere else that also calls itself the land of the free and has a fondness for guns, but I digress...

We had a rather mediocre lunch on the Palazzo Pubblico. From here we could see the green and red clad Guard of the Rocks. In their role as Fortress Guards they are responsible for guarding the Palazzo Pubblico in San Marino City, the seat of national Government. They are also a front-line military unit in the San Marino armed forces and state border patrol, with responsibility for patrolling borders and defending them.

One of the best things about San Marino is the views you get from the top. Out across the republic and over towards the resorts of Rimini, Cattolica etc., on the east coast.

After another walk around, we decided to head down to Rimini for some bracing sea air before going home. Bracing it was indeed and a bit bleak. Still, it was nice to see the sea.

Homeward bound then. The journey took us about three hours, an hour less than Google Maps had told us it would take. This is with every single set of traffic lights the full length of the Via Emilia being on red. We also don't go that fast, unlike some of the street bikes we saw. One clever dick pulled a wheelie away from the lights with girlfriend clinging on at the back. Must have been nice for her (not), especially since neither of them were wearing any protective gear whatsoever. Off they roared at about 100 miles an hour... Still, we made it home pretty much unscathed despite the best efforts of some of Italy's finest car drivers. So three times "Ma che cazzo fai???!!!" was shouted, with the appropriate hand gestures, and we were home by 7.15pm.

km 360
Beefy biker backsides: 1

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