One of my colleagues told me - in fact, possibly more than one, but Willem in particular was effusive - that Bologna is the greatest city on earth for food. So it’s in some ways apt that the only thing I did there was have breakfast. It were nice, too, but fairly standard hotel bufffet fare. More choice than usual though. Eggs, some very nice bacon, sausage, bit of cheese on the side and then y’know what, fuck it, I’ll have two slices of tart ‘n all.
I can’t find an ATM. Bleurgh. Never mind, on each platform I see big vending machines and they take cards. It’s a good job I’ve got so much time, because it takes me about 10 minutes to figure out how to actually buy a drink. What’s more, there’s no diet coke anywhere, only full fat or zero. Why no diet coke, Italy?
Ah, look, here’s my train.
I’m at entirely the wrong end of the platform, of course. Like a twat I bought a first class ticket, but much to my surprise the platform is absolutely heaving and thousands of people get off the train ‘n all, like it’s a clown train or summat. I get about 2/3rds the way down the platform but still not to the first class carriage but it’s about to go so I jump on.
The door between carriages doesn’t work. Never mind, it’s not actually that busy and the seats are roomy and comfortable anyway, and there’s a power socket, so I sit where I am.
A couple of minutes later, people go through the door between carriages, in the opposite direction. Huh. So a little while later I make another attempt at reaching the first class carriage, and again the door fails. Ah fuck this, I give up. I’m pretty happy sitting down listening to podcasts anyway, until I also want to charge my phone and god fucking damn motherfucking new iPhones can’t charge and listen at the same time (my headphones are using the adapter, not bluetooth). Grr.
With about 15 minutes to go I finally see a member of train staff, and then suddenly remember I didn’t validate my ticket. You have to validate your tickets. Presumably this means my ticket is invalid. Oops. But he doesn’t come along anyway, and I get off in Rimini without having my ticket looked at once. I’m glad I didn’t suffer dual “you didn’t validate your ticket and you’re sitting in the wrong place anyway, you daft tourist arse” ignominy.
Anyway. Hello, Rimini. I could use a map to find my hotel but using the force is more fun. How hard can it be? Weather’s nice and here’s some big old church thing.
The hotel is indeed easy to find. They have a fetish about the letter M, which a capital everywhere. The doors are weird. The room is a bit funky. Apparently I have breakfast for free tomorrow, and there’s no mini bar but rather an “honesty bar” in a lobby area on each floor. There’s a big porthole window into the bathroom above the bed, and a needless corridor.
But anyway I can’t hang around long. It’s about 1240 by the time I’ve thrown my stuff on the bed, and I’ve got to disappear already because there’s a bus at 1310 and I still don’t have any currency to even pay for a ticket.
Rimini’s pedestrianised area is quite cute, and differs from most pedestrianised areas in that apparently vehicles are still allowed, so even in the middle of a weekday it’s not without peril if you’re unprepared, like me. But I narrowly avoid being hit by bikes and get back to the station in one piece. Finally there’s an ATM, and it’s out of service. Bleurgh. But there’s a second one and I’m of keen enough mind to get out an amount that ensure I’ll get at least one note smaller than a €50.
The bus driver asks if I have anything smaller than the €20 I give him. Damn. But it’s OK, he hands me my €15 change and I grab a seat at the back of what is a fairly enormous coach, tatty ticket in hand. I’m on the last leg of my journey to country number 57. To San Marino, andiamo!
I’m way too scared to walk the probably-not-precarious pathway to reach the third tower. San Marino has three towers, see. That’s, like, the main thing about this city.
Up on the way to the second and third towers there was a restaurant/bar which was, remarkably, open. So after getting out of breath going up the ludicrously steep hill, I pop in on the way back down. I’m the only punter; there are three very friendly San Marinese fellas who are only to happy to serve me some local beer while I sit on the terrace and look out towards the sea. It’s alright, this.
I think about getting some food but decide against it. It’s not exactly late, but I still do want to go get the cable car, and apparently there’s somewhere good to get beer in the town at the bottom ‘n all. So off to the funivia I go.
It’s €4,50 for a ritorno which is good because I have exactly that much in coins. Alex would be proud of a European “wallet zero” moment.
When I arrive there’s only one other person there, a woman having a conversation so loud on the phone I think she could probably have just stood outside on the deck and whoever she’s talking to could have heard her without having to make a call. Eventually a bunch of other people turn up, and then so does the cable car. I’m the only person buying a ticket, everyone else already has them, which I think means I’m the only tourist.
It’s not a long ride. Seriously it takes about 75 seconds or so. But it’s fun enough, and there’s an old car at the bottom. Apparently the ones in service were only made this year, which feels on the one hand safe, on the other hand new and unproven.
Down in Borgo Maggiore there is next to fuck all, and what there is is shut, except for the pharmacy and the cafe/restaurant and tat shops in the cable car building itself. My phone tells me the bar I wanted to find isn’t open anyway, so bollocks: back up to the top I go.
I’ve not got a huge amount of time left, as I’ve decided to get the 1645 bus. They’re only every 75 minutes and I don’t think I could kill that much time if I tried. So, I wander around a few more streets I’d missed earlier, and there’s a lot of Christmas in evidence.
Also more gun shops, of course. I pop into a supermarket, much to my surprise, and buy a whole bunch of chocolate and a bottle of coke zero, saying mi dispiace as I break my €50 for a €6,50 purchase. Apparently it really is no problem. Nice.
I leave the city gate and the arm-pointing police has had a shift change; this one shouts prego before I even get a chance to say grazie, making this a fairly hefty passive-aggressive exchange in my book. I’m back at the bus stop 20-odd minutes early. It’s cold, and almost dark now. The bus isn’t here yet, the only thing to do is observe the chain-smoking woman in a hi vis jacket who works for the bus company and by christ has a terribly boring job.
Anyway. The bus turns up, driver has a comfort break and then we’re off. €5 back to Rimini per favore. I’m in a shitty mood now; despite having had a great day and ticked off a country ‘n that, I’ve lost my headphones and associated lightning<->3.5mm jack, which is apparently not cheap to replace. I can’t remember when I last had them; I’m reasonably sure I took them off and put them in my coat pocket just as I got off the bus. Bleurgh. Very annoyed. In a stupid fit of “will fate be nice?” I deliberately pick the same seat as on the way out, but the headphones aren’t there. Bah.
After a while I’m back in Italy, wondering if it’s the only country in the world with another two whole states within its borders. It’s a dark and boring trip back to Rimini, punctuated only by a stop next to a shop that sells spy equipment and, er, bitcoin. Eh?
I almost kill my phone battery by trying to find somewhere to get good beer in Rimini. Off the bus, back to the hotel to drop off my chocolate and put to rest my vain hope that perhaps I hadn’t brought my headphones with me on the bus, and I was misremembering taking them off on the train earlier? Nope, they’re not in my room. Bollocks!
Back out and into the main faux-pedestrianised bit of Rimini. It’s nice, all Christmassy and stuff and there’s loads of people about. It’s not that cold. The off licence called Grand Cru is easy to find, and astonishingly good. Here’s half of it.