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Phespirit goes to Italy
Cattolica     May 2007

The whole point was to visit San Marino. Early in Phespirit's planning he realised that, instead of trying to accommodate his 6' 4" frame within the world's smallest republic, he would do better to find a hotel in one of its neighbouring Italian towns. He consulted his atlas and selected Cattolica: a well-established seaside resort on the Adriatic Riviera, cheaply and cheerfully accessible via Rimini ..... and Rimini is the gateway to San Marino (getting to Rimini would prove a harder task, but that's another story.)

Having picked out Cattolica, Phespirit found that not only did he have a base from which to tackle San Marino, but also one within easy reach of other cities that had been on his mind for years: Rimini itself, Ravenna, Bologna and Urbino. Reliable rail and semi-reliable bus timetables downloaded from the web enabled Phespirit to plan a journey to each destination. He applied more detailed consideration to his routes around their streets. In Italy, where so many public buildings close between noon and 3:30pm (give or take half-an-hour), it is vital to ensure that arriving at a place coincides with its opening hours.

It would be over-selling Cattolica to describe it as anything more than a dignified seaside town. It has the easy charms and cheerfulness of a 19th century English bathing resort, modernised and commerical but not overwhelmed by tacky excesses; it is decidedly more fish than chips. To the north, Rimini is much the same but on a grander scale, with the scattered legacy of two thousand years' history.

Phespirit's delusional expectations of Bologna were similar to those he once harboured for Florence. He had hoped to find a time-locked oasis of serenity, beauty, art history and architecture, but Bologna - like Florence - is a big city, and big cities are noisy, busy, crowded places with torrents of people and traffic that rarely pause long enough to give peace a chance. By contrast, Ravenna carries the burden of modernity with discretion and calm. It's old, very old, but the Dark Ages were never so illuminated as in Ravenna. Its finest years had just three digits. Ravenna is also home to the tomb of Dante, and Phespirit does appreciate a bit of Dante. He spent much time loitering around the tomb, but was dismayed to find the Museo Dantesco closed for some major overhaul. Purgatorio!

Phespirit had expected Urbino to be small but perfectly formed, and he was not disappointed. In all truth, there was never much chance of him being disappointed by this unique nation of such immense history. How strange it is, then, that he only came here to see a small speck at its interior: San Marino.

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