Crossbows at dawn, red city at dusk 

Two countries one day……..

We left Assisi and started to make our way to a different country all together..San Marino. San Marino is a principality country that is completed surrounded by Italy. They speak Italian as there official language but they are very proud to be individual as a country so don’t think of them as Italian. 

San Marino

We arrived in San Marino late evening so the sun had already set for the night. We took this opportunity to see what this country looked like when the lights went out, and it was beautiful. San Marino is a small country so has a few towns before you reach the capital, which is named San Marino. There isn’t an awful lot on the outside of the capital so our advice would be just to head straight to the capital and start there. You can tell straight away when you hit this little capital, the buildings change and everything starts to take a step back in time. 

We drove around for a little while and apart from the hills it was a easy drive to do, we we’re glad to get out of any zone traffic areas to be honest. Once we had a drive round we found somewhere to park. San Marino has been the best for doing this, sometimes we can struggle finding a quiet yet safe place to stop at night. There was no worry for this in San Marino – on the outskirts of the city most parking is free so we parked up at a car park at the top of the hill and overlooked the towns below us. This was the first time that we could really just open the boot and stare out at the stars. It may have been a little rainy but it was worth it. 

After a good nights sleep it was time to wake up and check out the capital. We were quite far out of the city and would have took a lot of time to get up to get there, so we opted for getting a car park closer and pay for it. 

We were up early so we beat the crowds when seeing the sights (I will always say do this when your visiting anywhere, especially if you have dogs, it’s makes the day much easier to digest). 

Three towers of San Marino 

Our first stop to visit was the three towers. Over the centuries these have been built at different times and been used for different purposes. We took a lovely walk up the hill to see all three. It was a lovely walk through a wooded area with off shoots for a longer walk if you wanted, at this stage we didn’t because the weather wasn’t treating us to nice at this stage. You can see them up close without many barriers to stop your view. I loved this as it gave you a real closeness to the history around you. You can actually go inside the first two towers (the third has no accessible entrance), with us having the boys we couldn’t do this but would love to come back to see them inside one day. 

San Marino made Abraham Lincoln an honorary citizen

We then made our way back down the hill and towards the centre. There are small streets with shops in every corner. It has a certain charm to it that is difficult to describe to anyone who hasn’t visited. 

Walking from one end of the city to another only takes about an hour, but if you wanted to really explore give yourself a little longer. We took the opportunity to look out onto the country every time we hit the capital walls, it was foggy but we could just make out the tops of the houses. We may not have had the best views on the day but it did give it an eerie feel to the little country. 

San Marino has history that you don’t really know about until you visit, I won’t reveal them all because that will ruin the journey, but it’s little things like Saint Frances made a visit here. And in the centre they have a crossbow area, where they have been learning the crossbow for centuries and they still do today. 

After our walk we made our way back to the car just in time for the rain to start! It then rained a lot! We just hoped when we got back to Italy and to lower ground the weather would improve….

Back to Italy

We made our way down the mountains and back into Italy. Our next stop in Italy would be Bologna. Now if you didn’t know this is where the bolognese was first made, and over the years adapted to fit every household. 

We called it the red city as one of the first things we noticed when driving into Bologna was the colour of the buildings. Europe are known for houses being colourful but in Bologna the houses are deep colours, like your oranges and red. It doesn’t seem like the colours have changed over the years so it gave an extra charm as you entered. 

We packed up and got the boys out. It was late afternoon and thankfully by the time we got here the rain had stopped which made it easier to get around. 

According to Italians, this is the second most beautiful city in Italy, only being beaten by Venice itself. 

This I think built our hopes up to what Bologna was going to look like. So we walked around to get a feel of the place. 

Tombe dei Glossatori

When walked towards the centre, this is the first sight we came across. It is not the most well known sight of Bologna, but something to see all the same. I hadn’t seen anything like it before, as the tombs where propelled high up by marvellous looking monuments. Many of these tombs carry famous scholars. 

Piazza Maggiore

The main sight we saw when enetering this piazza was the Basilica of San Petronio. From all the churches and cathedrals we had seen, this was the most unique. It seemed the bottom half of the church was completely different to the top half. This wasn’t a bad thing and it gave it a edge when your looking at it, as you felt like you could look at it and see two different buildings. 

After we stopped looking at the church we took a look at the rest of the piazza, and it was certainly a beautiful one. Buildings surrounding the full piazza, with little cafes and restaurants surrounding the square to take in the views. 

We carried on to what we were most looking forward to seeing the Fontana di Nettuno, yes it maybe another of many fountains of neptune but they are all unique and show pride of this God in a different way. We turned the corner and we saw it – Scaffolding! Yep scaffolding was covering the whole fountain! Apparently we hit the time the fountain wasgetting necessary refurbishment. Just our luck, so we moved on quickly from this point as there was nothing to see. 

Piazza di Porta Ravegnana

Once we had seen the piazza, we walked down the streets of Bologna for a while. There are lots of shops to keeps you occupied on your visit and side streets for you to go down. 

We approached our next piazza which is where you will find the Torre degli Asinelli and Torre dei Garisenda. These are two towers which you will be able to see at numerous parts in bologna. They are impressive monuments with one being higher than the other. After finding you can only look up for so long without hurting your neck, it was time to move on. 

We really then just spent the time walking around. It was only ever a quick trip so we didn’t get to see everything but what we did see was nice, but the one thing we didn’t do was eat. We just hit the wrong time for eating in Italy, plus we have found it difficult to sit anywhere with the dogs because tables are so close to each other. 

We then made our way back to the car….on thinking about Bologna, I would recommend for people to visit for the genuine Italian experience, as there is less tourism than other cities. However, I do disagree with the Italians in saying it is the second most beautiful city in Italy.


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