Today we spent the morning exploring old town Verona – coming across crowds for the first time since our stay here. The crowds were buzzing around Dante’s statue (yes that Dante from Dante’s Inferno – he spent some time in Verona) and supposedly the balcony and house of Juliet in Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”.
There has been a lot of rain here, coupled with the slightly warmer temperatures and the snow melt, the rivers are swollen. Verona is built around the wide Adige River; it had risen rather quickly in a few hours covering the banks with fast moving water.
We headed south and voila, the rain stopped as we entered the city of Bologna. The reason for our visit was to see the oldest continuously operating University on the planet! The University of Bologna was founded in 1088 (historical documents show it was running even before that) and its buildings are scattered about the old town. The city is good sized – but it seems a bit run down – we saw lots of graffiti on the buildings.
The Republic of San Marino is a gem. The ‘rock’ as I call it contains only about 32,000 citizens. We drove up to the highest point of the country, parked and took off up the quaint streets winding among small shops (many weapon and gun shops) and restaurants. We kept climbing up past the Museum of Torture, the Museum of Vampires and lots of boutique shops. The castle sits on top of a mountain and from anywhere nearby, there are great views in all directions looking down hundreds of feet onto the green countryside.
San Marino is entirely land locked surrounded by the Italian borders. Like the other small countries we are visiting on this trip, San Marino is a wealthy nation. It is also remarkable to note that that they are the oldest soverign nation in the world – having been founded in the year 301! The government also made US President Abraham Lincoln an honory citizen. While not a member of the European Union, the official currency is nonetheless the Euro.