After some deliberation and the fact we had some time off, we decided to head away for a few days in July for Nigel’s birthday. After a few searches of Skyscanner.net for what was cheap on the dates we had and a bit of deliberation about destinations we hadn’t been to before we decided to head towards San Marino!
We managed to find flights to Frankfurt Hahn from Stansted for £9.99 each and then later that day Frankfurt to Perugia also for £9.99 each both flights with Ryanair. This meant that we had approximately 6 hours in Frankfurt. We also booked the same route back again with a stop back in Frankfurt for the same price and travelled on hand luggage. We booked car hire for 3 days from Perugia for just over £100 and airport parking through the Holiday Extras app and reserved some accommodation through Booking.com. The plan was to drive from Perugia to San Marino along the coast taking in some of the sights on the way. Off we set at silly o’clock for our 7.30 am flight which was luckily on time.
We arrived at Frankfurt Hahn airport after quite a cramped flight just after 10am local time and made our way outside to find the transfer bus which would take us to Frankfurt town centre. After I booked (but luckily before we got there!) I realised I made a bit of a boo-boo with the Frankfurt airports. The first part of our trip took us to Frankfurt Hahn but the rest of our flights were from the main Frankfurt airport. This meant we had to get a transfer bus from Hahn into Frankfurt which took just under 2 hours. This cost 10 euros each and we had a little wait until 11am before we headed off on the bus. We arrived into Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof at 12.45 and had a few hours to kill before we needed to head to the airport again to get our 18.25 flight to Perugia.
When arriving at the train station there were lockers in which you could store luggage which was handy and we head off in the heat to have a look around. We had never been to Frankfurt before and didn’t know what to expect but were surprised at how commercial it was; both of us were expecting more traditional style buildings but it was clear it was a commerce centre. We did manage to stop for ice cream, a beer and of course we had to have a Frankfurter in Frankfurt before catching the train to the airport.
The train to the airport was quite pain-free although expensive (we would learn why on our return trip!). It took 15 minutes on the train to get to the airport; a vast improvement on the 1hr 45 from Frankfurt Hahn and we got there in enough time to chill before our flight. The flight to St Frances of Assisi Airport in Perugia took an hour and a half and we arrived just after 8pm.
We were pretty tired by now and ended up joining a queue for collecting the hire car before driving the short distance to our hotel. We arrived at the Perugia Park Hotel at 21.15; checked in, had a beer and chilled out!! The hotel was quite nice and had a spa for £60 for the night with breakfast.
The next morning we had breakfast and checked out the pool and facilities. After being shouted out by a lady by the pool and not really understanding why I realised that ladies with long hair have to wear a hair cap which I discovered after seeing a sign….oops!. We checked out and headed off on our road trip towards San Marino leaving at 11am. We decided to head along to Ancona and drive along the coast and it was a pretty drive. The hire car was an Alpha Romeo which was a very nice car to drive.
Heading towards Ancona there were kilometres and kilometres of roadworks which meant at some points we were crossing to the opposite side of the road going in tunnels the opposite direction. It was a little disconcerting but the roads weren’t busy and we arrived in Ancona, knowing nothing about it! The drive there took 1hr 20 and we discovered on arrival that it is a port and there were several cruise ships docked there. It was a pretty little place but we decided there wasn’t too much to see there and decided to move on.
We drove up the coast a little further for another hour and a half and arrived at Senigallia. This was a bustling beach resort and was obviously a popular resort for the Italians. There was a lovely beach here and we decided to go for a dip in the Adriatic!
When leaving to head on further up the coast I was a little disconcerted to discover that in order to get out to the main road I had to drive under this exceptionally low archway! Rather hesitantly and after some honking from a car behind I went for it and made it no problem! phew!
After a quick supply stop at the local Lidl shop, we headed further along the coast to a little place called Marotta. Nigel has cousins with the surname Marotta, so obviously it was essential we stop there and take a photo. This was only 10 minutes further and another beach resort but not quite as busy or as nice as Senigallia due to being stonier. Nigel decided to have another swim but I decided against it.
It was now getting nearly 6pm so we decided to finish the final stretch and head straight for San Marino. It took another hour to get there and we arrived at our accommodation, a camping site, at 7pm. We had booked to stay in a chalet at Garden Village San Marino for £50 which was a little like a Haven in a hotter climate. We checked in and headed to our chalet which was basic but was fine for us. We also said hello to our peacock visitor whilst having a beer on the terrace!
Upon check in we were informed that there was a minibus which was running a trip into San Marino centre at 8pm and so we decided to go with this and pay the 5 euros each to get the lift to and from the main town. We again were a little ignorant as to what San Marino had to offer; we only knew it was a microstate and independent of Italy so technically another country which is only 24 miles square but we didn’t have any expectations about what it would be like. The minibus took us along the winding roads to a car park outside of the walls. We were dropped by a lift which took us up to the main shops and restaurants. Immediately we were mesmerised by the stunning views here and the sun was beginning to set as we arrived.
We walked a short distance up to the restaurants and managed to find a really lovely Italian which offered a set menu for 15 euros each, and we got the best table in the house, outside on a balcony for two. The view was magnificent, overlooking I think it was seven ranges of hills. We sat drinking wine watching the sunset and it was really was lovely; neither of us expected this kind of view or even realised San Marino was set so high on a hilltop.
We had a lovely meal although the service was a little slow and we also indulged in some of the limoncello and pistachio liqueur which was homemade. It was served in a carafe and we happened to accidentally finish it oops…. a very reasonable bill later and we left with a short amount of time left to have a look around before having to catch our bus back. We decided that we hadn’t seen enough of this lovely place and therefore agreed to come back in the morning in daylight to explore further.
We managed to catch our bus back and had another little drink on our terrace before crashing for the night. It had been a really fun day with our road trip along the coast and a lovely dinner out but we were exhausted and ready for sleep.
The next morning we had breakfast bought the previous day and found some coffee on site before checking out the pool. Again there was a rule about swimming caps so we decided against a swim and instead just head into San Marino to have a proper explore in daylight. We managed to park ok and despite the fact it was July it wasn’t as busy as expected. I would imagine in August at the height of the summer holidays it would be difficult to park here and the traffic would be bad.
San Marino is the only surviving microstate in the Italian peninsula surrounded by mountains in north-west Italy. One of the main reasons it managed to regain its independence was because of its high mountainous location. In the 1800s the country is reported to have taken in many people who were persecuted for supporting the unification of Italy and a friendly treaty was signed in 1862 which guaranteed its independence from Italy.
The currency now though is the euro, as it is in Italy, which was handy as that was all we had!
San Marino has one of the smallest Armed forces in the world. The Sammarinese armed forces have different branches which perform different tasks; the branch above spotted are the Guards of the Rock and they are the front line military unit. They also have the duty of patrolling borders and defending the Palazzo Pubblico, the San Marino parliament building seen below. San Marino has a population of approximately 33,000 people and whilst there is no compulsory military service residents aged between 15-55 can be drafted in at any time to defend the state. In 2010 11,500 of the residents were declared fit for military service.
There were copious souvenier shops, restaurants and cafes in the streets around San Marino but one thing which surprised us was the number of gun shops there were there. There were at least 7 different shops selling an array of guns which we presumed to be replicas. Still a little disconcerting, however!!
We stopped and had a little bite to eat in a pavement cafe and headed up to the Basilica del Santo; a Catholic church built in 1826 on the grounds of an ancient 5th-century church which was demolished.
There is a cable car which runs from high up in San Marino to the suburbs however we decided as we drove up and due to cost and time constraints we wouldn’t bother with this. There were amazing views right at the top.
Basically, we only headed for San Marino in the first place to tick it off a list of European countries we’d visited, but our experience far exceeded expectations and we’d recommend a visit for anyone. It’s a beautiful country. Alas, it was time to leave and drive back to Perugia for our last night before our flight home. We decided to go cross country rather than the coastal route and had quite a long drive back through the roadworks but arrived at our accommodation around 4pm. We booked into Hotel Ideal which actually was not ideal as the sat nav had a bit of trouble finding it! it cost £48 and was not quite as advertised from the outside and a little difficult to find someone to check in. It was basic but for one night it did a job! We decided to head out into Perugia for our last night and grabbed a taxi into town.
Although we flew into Perugia, we arrived after dark and headed off the next morning without properly exploring it. Perugia is the capital city of the Umbria region and we were lucky enough to discover that there was the Umbria Jazz Festival on with a few acts performing that night with free street entertainment. We got a taxi asking to go into the old town and arrived around Viale Indipenza where we saw the above view which was lovely. This location was central and there was a ticketed concert just down the street. We decided to have a wander around the streets to check out the street entertainment.
We stopped for a bite to eat and it was starting to get dark so we followed some music and found a live jazz concert playing which was a bonus. This was free and we were able to stand and watch. It was a really chilled out vibe.
Unfortunately, the concert was cut slightly short due to the fact a massive thunderstorm hit. We were suddenly caught in torrential rain with loads of thunder and lightning. Being storm fans we found it quite fun however due to electrical concerns the concert stopped and I at this point was regretting coming out in flip flops! Nevertheless, it was fun and we stood on Viale Indipenza watching the storm after the rain had passed.
We grabbed a taxi and headed back to our hotel laughing at the evening we had. There was obviously a lot more to see of Perugia; the fact we only picked it because it was near to San Marino was by the by, we enjoyed our time here it was a lovely vibrant city however it was time to leave the next morning for our flight back.
After dropping our hire car off we got our 8.25am Ryanair flight to Frankfurt arriving at 10.30am. Our flight back to London wasn’t until 18.35 so we had a few hours to kill and decided to be a little more prepared this time. We managed to get a regional train into Frankfurt this time; finding out that last time we got a national train which was much more expensive. For a quarter of the price (6 euros), we made our way to Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof where we easily located the lockers, deposited our bags and we were free to explore.
This time we decided to do bit more research and try to find what we didn’t the first time; Altstadt or the Old Town district. This we discovered was in the opposite direction to where we went on our outward visit and was more what we expected. The Old Town is located on the north river bank and dates back to 794bc. There was only a very tiny area of the Old Town remaining following WWII however we sat and had a coffee in Romerberg Square.
There has been significant reconstruction to develop the New Frankfurt old town running from the Romer City Hall and the Emperors Cathedral and this was nearing completion when we were there. We wandered around this area and it is clear to see this has been quite an extensive reconstruction. There were art galleries and small specialist coffee shops.
We also went to the Emperor’s Cathedral St Bartholomew although we didn’t get any pictures inside. We debated climbing up the tower to view the city but unfortunately, there were no lifts so we decided against it. The Cathedral itself was however quite spectacular. Alas after further coffee we decided to head on back to the train station to collect our bags and head back to the airport in plenty of time for our flight. It had been a busy, tiring but thoroughly enjoyable few days!
In summary, the highlight of our trip was definitely San Marino; we had no expectations but were blown away by just how lovely this place was with the amazing views from the hill. Perugia was also lovely and our timing was great to be there for the jazz festival. We enjoyed our drive along the coast and our dip in the sea also. It was a fun break although we both said we were unsure we would do the two flights in one day again as that really was tiring. It did, however, mean that we managed to afford to see San Marino and flying directly to Perugia was 3 times the price. It was a great trip and we thoroughly enjoyed it.