Open the photo gallery >>

On this day we planned to spend the morning exploring San Marino before heading off down for our next night in Bologna.

The breakfast in the hotel was nice, if limited in choice. There was a decent selection of fruits, cereals, pastries and breads and all of them were nicely fresh and being consumed fairly rapidly. We checked out of the hotel and wheeled our one suitcase uphill to the car, and then we continued uphill to have a pop at the Three Towers of San Marino that sit right on the cliff edge at the top of Monte Titano. The towers are accessed by walking uphill along the main street. Kas had been out for a somewhat challenging run first thing, and sort of knew what to expect in terms of terrain.

After the last switchback you exit the permanent buildings and there’s a collection of temporary retail locations in wooden buildings alongside the path up to the first tower. Our eyes got hijacked by a nice collection of leather goods and ultimately we all ended up buying a new wallet/purse apart from Izzy, who never keeps hold of money long enough to need a purse.

The old wallet had to be opened at the first tower (Guaita) to pay a nominal entry fee. It’s well worth the time and the money to go into this one. The views are spectacular and the climb to the highest part is quite entertaining, including a dodgy little bit of ladder up through a trap door. We walked the length and breadth of this fortress before deciding to move on. Second up is Cesta tower, which is on the highest point of the mountain. We decided not to go inside this one but we did muck about a bit doing a couple of geocaches.

The walk on to the third tower (Montale) is an unpaved path through trees, and it is somewhat less trodden than the paths around the first two towers. There’s not a lot at Montale as it’s basically just a single tower. When we got to it, we discovered that it doesn’t even have a door, or at least it doesn’t have one at ground level. There’s one about a dozen feet up that would require a ladder to get to. I guess that’s the point.

After completing the three towers we took a leisurely stroll back and grabbed a drink on the way back past where we’d parked the car. From here we descended a couple of flights of steps onto a quite broad road. There was supposedly an earthcache there, but on reading the description on the GPS it turned out that the earthcache has a half a dozen waypoints to visit, half of which were back up at the top of the mountain. As we’d not collected the requisite information I decided to leave that one. So we just walked along the flat until we reached the very far end, passing through San Marino’s rather compact government district.

When we ran out of town, there was a geocache in the wall of an old fortified gate, which was found easily enough. From here we returned to the government district and climbed upwards towards the Basilica and the Palazzo Pubblico. Further climbing got us to the upper end of the cable car and then eventually to the top of the main street where we’d started off first thing in the morning. There were still two restaurants up there, and we went into the one that wasn’t the one we’d been in the previous evening. And today we also didn’t have any chips with our drinks. They must have been someone else’s.

After all this walking we made one final trip to the umm-ing and ahh-ing shop near the hotel, and essentially bought one of everything. The girls both more or less emptied their wallets buying Lord of the Rings branded (and also some locally made) jewellery. And while we were at it, some more of those were purchased as Christmas presents. That particular shop must have loved us.

Back at the car, Kas volunteered to drive. After one hair raising moment driving into something that appeared to be pedestrianised but actually wasn’t, we found ourselves on the dual carriageway that snakes down the base of the mountain into Italy. A little way past the border we took a short diversion to complete a geocache in the Province of Rimini. After joining the motorway towards Bologna similarly short stops were made in the provinces of Forlì-Cesena and Ravenna before we arrived on the outskirts of Bologna.

Violet managed to get us to the hotel painlessly, but the same can’t be said of the hotel’s car park. The entrance off the main road felt very small and at the end of it there was a tight turn down a steep ramp into an underground park. We had to call reception to get them to open the doors to the garage, and space inside was a bit tight.

The hotel in question was the very modestly named Grand Hotel Elite, which is on the outskirts of the city centre about 2km from the famous Two Towers. Our room was ready for us and was suitably large, but had been prepared only for three people not four, so we were short one set of bedding and one towel. The room itself was pretty big, containing a double bed in one half and a sofabed plus extra mattress in the other half. It also had an entrance hall with a kitchen area and bathroom. And finally it had a lot of wood. I think this was the “Grand” part of the name. everywhere in the room was floor to ceiling wood panels, which were quite dark and probably made the room look half the size that it actually was. It’s a design feature of the place, I guess. It took multiple attempts to get them to bring up the necessary bedding and towels though.

One of the reasons for coming to Bologna was that Izzy wanted to eat spaghetti bolognese, that well known non-Italian dish. Surely it couldn’t be too far to find a restaurant that served it. The hotel seemed, though, to be in a restaurant-free area. We ended up walking quite some way towards the town centre before finding a restaurant that looked tolerable – the Restaurante Ma Gusta, close to Porta San Felice. The kids both had tagliatelle alla bolognese. I had an escalope which had “bolognese” in the name, but it wasn’t a meat-based tomato sauce. Kas went a bit off-piste and ordered something that didn’t have “bolognese” in the name. The restaurant had good beer too, and puddings.

Kas was suffering a bit after damaging an ankle while running in the morning, so she wanted to head straight back after dinner. So there we were. The end of our eleventh day in Italy. At least when we got back to the hotel room they’d finally brought us some extra bed sheets and towels.