The internet is becoming an increasingly useful life-tool. In a recent murder case down Bristol, the police analyzed the victim’s neighbor’s browsing habits & struck gold. He’d been looking up body decomposition, google-earthed the location where the body was found (before it was found) & checked the police website every hour! In the same age, & yet another world entirely, I was working out the best way to get both me & Victor to Stanstead for free. Not wanting to risk a ticket check at the airport rail station, I thought I’d use last time’s methods & walk the 5 miles from Stanstead Mountfitchett, which is an easy to jump from Tottenham Hale on the Cambridge stopping service. However, google earth kindly put a rail sign over a village called Elsingham, only three miles from Stanstead. With the plan resolved, the next day we set off at 7AM & with the London bus drivers still baffled by Victor’s bus pass, & armed with our new knowledge, we got from Leytonstone to Stanstead completely free, enjoying the fresh Autumnal walk from Elsingham to the airport through English greenery & fine hedge-row roads sporting splendidly thatched cottages.
We’d arrived early at Stanstead, & our loitering brought down the cops on Victor Pope – it was a funny, heart-thumping moment as I’d just stolen a continental plug adaptor from Boots! It was also cool to come across as the decent citizen for once & not the terrorist-tramp! Finally on the plane, Victor began to verbally imagine all the ways we could die on a plane in some effort to exorcise them, finishing it with the fact that despite Ryanair having never had a crash, each flight counts down ominously & inexorably to the moment when they will – & were we on that flight, perhaps? Nob-head! His ritual anxiety was confirmed when he looked at his phone to discover the tune playing at that time was called Death. Very Final Destination! The flight itself was rather uninteresting – a yellow-blue no frills cruise through the clouds, interrupted only by the occasional trolly-dolly.
Arriving in Italy was a sensation. The plane followed the forked jade lightning bolts of the River Po until they converged on their Adriatic estuary & we were out over the open waves. The coast disappeared behind us into the mists, then reappeared as we banked back again, crossed the coast line & descended over the rooftops of Rimini onto the tarmac of Ausonia! The airport is just on the outskirts of the city, & a wee (free) bus ride later we were in the centre of town, my Italian flowing essato! Another couple of (free) bus rides later we were in the central piazza of Verruchio, an ancient hilltop site complete with castle & wonderful views of Rimini & the Adriatic. I’d googled it a few days ago while researching my theory that the Etruscans were originally the Trojans, & was delighted to discover it was only 17k from my litological mission’s starting point. Once there, we bought some salami, cheese, bread rolls & beer & camped at the foot of the castle in a tranquil slice of greenery, the street lights of the Rimini plain twinkling below a full moon, chatting about life & the adventures to come.
The next day we set off south ‘a piede’ (on foot), heading for the castellated mountain of San Marino. We had to descend a steep valley & the hike up the other side was real nasty. Still, the journey was a pleasant one, helped by the one euro litre of wine which I’d started at breakfast. It’s the traditional juice of poetry & when gushing about my verteux mind, & when set off by the catalytic Italian sunshine, all hell breaks loose on my written page.
San Marino is the third smallest nation in Europe – after the Vatican & Monaco. In return for housing Garibaldi’s army during the Risorgimento (the unification of Italy) it has maintained its independence. It consists of 60 square kilometers of lovely hills & valleys, housing 30,000 citizens, from which its small army is drawn. Its main town is perched on a mountain top; a clean palace of beige brickery, undented fortifications & narrow streets.
The views are awesome, from the Rimini plain to the east, the Apennines rising to the west, & the serried rows of hills rolling north toward Venice (a wonder at sunset). Me & Victor camped once more at the foot of the fortifications, then strolled about town, checking out all the guns, swords & crossbows you can buy here. The British government knows its citizens are beer-swilling barnpots, & such an easy access to death-dealing equipment would bring the nation to its anarchic knees. The Italians are a much more sophisticated race & can be trusted with these implements of carnage.
Here’s a plaque I found in the town, commemorating Garibaldi, which I’ve translated to the best of my abilities;
Ordine Del Giorno
S Marino 31 Luglio 1849
Noi siamo sulla terra di rifugio e dobbia il migliore contegno possibile ai generosi ospiti. In tal modo avremo meritata la considerazione dovuto alla disgrazia persecuitata. I vi scioglo dall’impegno di accompagnarmi. Tornate alle vostre case.Ma ricordatevi che L’Italia non deve rimarere nel servaggio e nella vergogna.
We are on the land of refugees & the best behaviour possible of generous hospitality. Through such manners they have merited the consideration that must disgrace persecutors. I urge you to commit to the company. Return to you homes. But remember that Italy must not remain in service or in shame.
The next morning was a windy un,’ propelling us back down to the pleasantness of the plains. This involved a bus ride down the chicaning road system of San Marino. Reaching Rimini, we jumped the train a few stops down to the resort of Misano Adriatico. Post-season, the place is a ghost town, full of boarded up windows & shuttered hotels. The Adriatic herself was a raging wave-world & not appetising at all. Still, the turquoise stirred the soul as that night, a hundred meters inland, we found an abandoned farm house to camp beside, whose owners had kindly stacked a pile of fire-wood for us to use. It was another nice night, drinking wine & chatting with Steve – it’s funny how after 15 years of friendship we can still chat as if we’d only just met!
The next day brought us down to Ancona. Our first train was an express & we were cobbled by a conductor. A quick ‘siamo poete inglese’ (we are English poets) later & we got off at the next stop scot free. This was Catholica, from where, an hour later on the next train, we reached Pesaro. Having another hour to wait we hit the splendid central piazza, where the Italian version of a flea market was kicking off. One guy was selling VHS tapes of films he’d copied off the telly – something the British would just not do! From Pesaro we caught a nice stopping train (no conductors) & followed the line south, just a few meters away from the sea. Eventually the hilly headland of Ancona appeared & here we are, waiting for a bus to a place a few k away which looks nice on the map. My instinct was earlier confirmed by an elderly English lady who is resident here. Have I stumbled upon another Tuscany perhaps?