From Venice to Rome by coach
Big travel day number 1 - the route from Venice (or Monastier) to Rome, by way of San Marino. Leaving at 7:45am, we were coach-bound until 12pm when we arrived at the independent republic of San Marino. This was billed as a shopping stop - one with limited parking spaces but views that more than make up for it. The shops themselves, however, don't have anything great to offer - once you have seen one shop, you've seen them all. In every shop you could expect novelty lighters, knives, imitation pistols that fire plastic pellets and bottles of amaretto.
We also had a lasagna that came highly recommended by the tour guide, oops, I mean 'Tour Director' to give Michael his official title! In his words: "The best in Italy" (The food, not the tour guide as it turned out). It was certainly good food, and the view beyond the balcony was stunning.
Around 2:30, we were off again towards Rome. I mean Fiano Romano - yep, the hotel was in a district outside of Rome, so we could expect more transfers in and out of the centre in the coming days. I spent the rest of the day drifting in and out of consciousness listing to The Avalanches (a surreal experience at the best of times) while the coach travelled south along one of Italy's roughest road surfaces.
Our arrival at the hotel was priceless: Michael, the 'Tour Director', announced that "to the left of the hotel there will be an entertainment complex". Perhaps in a year or two, but for now the hotel was surrounded by nothingness, rubble and was directly faced by a building covered top-to-bottom in graffiti. This Holiday Inn was definitely a diamond in the rough! Inside was good, and the clientele must know something about the place, as in the car park were some top-end BMWs, Alfa Romeos and even a Masarati.
Eating options were limited here: either eat in the hotel or take a trip up the road (not on foot). We joined some of our group for a meal a few miles away in a restaurant called La Giara's. The set meal cost 47,000 Lira, or £16 per head, and included three courses and (almost) unlimited wine. Extra entertainment came in the form of the scampi that was nothing like scampi. When we pointed this out to the waitress, they brought us out some more scampi. Or tiger prawns, as normal people call them.