The Magical Mystery Travellers go to Italy – Days 10 & 11

Day 10 begins with breakfast in France, lunch in Paris followed by dinner in an Italian castle! And on Day 11, the Magical Mystery travellers visit a new country the Republic of San Marino!

Read on for Euan Landsborough’s ‘The Mo’ daily commentary.

Follow the Magical Mystery tour view days 1-3, 4 – 6 and 7-9.


Day 10 – Castello di Montegridolfo in the Emilia Romano region of Italy - Sunday 20th September 

Yes, we flew to Paris, but after grabbing a lunchtime baguette and cafe crème, we caught another flight down to Bologna in Italy.

On arrival at Bologna airport we were met by the smiling face of our Italian Tour Manager, Gilberto Bionda, and Marco our driver. It was 165 kms, approximately a 2 hour drive, from Bologna on to Montegridolfo.

 
Montegridolfo, Italy
 

Here we checked into our hotel for the next two nights, Hotel Palazzo Viviani, a rejuvenated castle complex which essentially takes up the whole of the hilltop. Our accommodation was in large, beautifully appointed rooms in short rows of terraced houses. The view from the communal patio, and the swimming pool terrace was enormous. In the foreground were undulating hills stretching down far below us, and beyond that the blue Adriatic Sea. With the weather being kind to us, the sunset was quite beautiful.
 
After time to freshen up we gathered beside the pool and Gilberto walked us up to the old castle, and then down into ancient Cellar Restaurant to enjoy a welcome aperitif – a glass of Presecco. We then indulged in a sensational four course dinner. Some said the octopus with shaved fennel was the best octopus they have ever had, and the gorgonzola risotto was also memorable! Time to put a new hole in our belts!

Day 11 - Castello di Montegridolfo - Monday 21st September 

This morning we visited a new country – the Republic of San Marino!
 
The drive was just about an hour long through the undulating hills and vineyards. When the Republic came into view it was spectacular, as it sits on the highest point around, with several walled castles and towers standing on the rim, beside huge precipices. Parking at the bottom we met our local guide called Andrea who led us onto a large cable car, which quickly whisked us up to this mountain top city/country. Again, the views were dramatic.
 
The Republic of San Marino, Italy
 
Starting as a small community in 301 AD, San Marino is one of the smallest countries in the world, covering barely 61 square kilometres. It is also the oldest Republic in the world and has earned UNESCO World Heritage status. It even has its own dateline, and right now it is ‘their year’ of 1715. Every year they hold 2 special ceremonies, in April and October, where they select not one, but two new ‘Captains Regent’ (the equivalent of Presidents) from their council of elected city representatives. Interestingly whilst they only stay in office for a period of 6 months, working closely together on an equal leader status, this quirky republican system really seems to work for them. 
 

Standing near the Public Palace we learnt of San Marino’s long and rich colourful history. Next we sat in the stone stands of the cross-bow range where they hold competitions in this unique, medieval sport. As our guide, Andrea, led us on the walking tour through town it was lovely to see his pride in his country, their social outlook and cultural differences.  Up the top on the terrace of Mount Titano there are stunning, sweeping 360 degree views down over the Alta Valmarecchia and Montefeltro hills. On a completely clear day you can even see the Croatian coast and mountains, on the far side of the Adriatic Sea.

After free time to explore, shop and enjoy lunch, we then drove back to the hilltop town of Mondaino where we were met by the lovely Daniella, in her medieval dress, who ‘regally’ (you had to be there) led us to her Pecorino Fosso cheese cellars. She then selected fellow traveller Roger to be her Captain Regent (alas just for the next 2 hours only). She made us line up side by side, in two’s, and we followed her into the Pecorino cellar. As we walked in through the doorway we each took a pinch of salt and threw it in the small brazier for good luck

It was fascinating to hear how this cheese cellar evolved. As the story goes, these enterprising people bought this old building as a ‘renovator’. It was a disused old garage, and when they stripped back the grime and rubbish they discovered three large pecorino ‘wells’. Realising it was an original pecorino cellar they decided to start to make this delightful cheese the original authentic way. In the interesting presentation they explained how their special cheese ripens over time in these dry wells. Sealed so no oxygen can get in the cheese matured and dries, allowing the fat to seep out and settle at the bottom of the wells. We then tasted 4 cheeses, from young to powerfully mature, and one also infused with truffles. We sampled 2 types of delicious cured salami and meat, and some dry white and sweet red wine.

Then, the costumed ‘Lady Daniellea’ dressed Roger up in a traditional, rather flamboyant Captains outfit and took us on a simple, but very interesting, walking tour through this old hilltop town. We dutifully followed them as they paraded right through town, with hands held regally high, meeting up another group led by another ‘grand’ couple. On the way we stopped at a small mosaic craft shop and learned about this ancient Roman art form and the traditional way it is made.

Later, back in Montegridolfo, Gilberto took us on a walk around the castle village complex, and into the Osteria dell'Accademia where we enjoyed dinner.

euan's picture
Euan Landsborough

Euan Landsborough is the Managing Director and Tour Designer at Albatross Tours