While relaxing in Bologna, Joern spent a little time perusing the internet. He found that Cervia, along the Adriatic coastline is not only a resort, but also the production center for Sale di Cervia, Italian sea salt. Obviously, the Saltman's interest was piqued, so he booked a hotel in Cervia for Monday night.
After our ice cream that was oh so delizioso, we made our way south to San Marino.
The ride to San Marino was pretty much uneventful, since most of it was on the autostrade. I had spent a lot of time researching San Marino before our trip, and despite the mixed reviews, we decided to check it out. San Marino is the oldest soverign state in the world, originally founded in 301. It is teeny tiny, and surrounded completely by Italy. The economy is mostly based on tourism, which has given the city state it's bad rap. 3.3 million tourists visit the country annually, and with a population of 30,000 it is easy to see that the country can simply be overrun by tourists. The area of importance is the Mt. Titano area, the historical center. It lies high on a mountain, 2,500 ft. above sea level, overlooking the rest of San Marino, as well as Italy and the Apenine Mountains.
I'm sure despite tourism, the fortified historical center must be beautiful.
Unfortunately, we arrived at 2 pm on Easter Monday, a holiday in Italy. Apparently, all 3.3 million tourists descended upon the tiny country on the same day. The police had the streets to the center closed off due to too much traffic. Our choices would have been to park almost back in Bologna, or to decide to return at another time. I think next time we will stay overnight in San Marino. I've read that it is much more special there after the hordes of tourists leave at night.
So, we decided to drive east towards the coast. Instead of heading northeast, to our destination of Cervia, Joern suggested stopping in Cattolica, another seaside resort.
Sometimes, going to Italy means traveling down memory-lane for Joern. In the 70s and 80s, Italy was the #1 travel destination for Germans. It was like a forerunner for Mallorca today. Every summer, Joern and his parents, along with millions of Germans would pack up their cars and head down to the Italian coastline for summer break. Joern remembered that Cattolica was nice, so he wanted to check it out.
Turns out that Cattolica is still a lovely resort town. It seems much more well to do than some other seaside resorts, including Lido di Jesolo, the resort near Venice that Joern and I sometimes visit.
We enjoyed a lovely capuccino at a cafe right along a canal leading to the harbor.
After our relaxing coffee, we walked down by the harbor, and then on to a small beach. Although the beach isn't the main beach of Cattolica, it was pretty, and it felt wonderful to get our toes in the sand and hear the waves.
Although we loved Cattolica, and could have stayed longer, Joern decided that we should leave to get to our hotel. It turns out that trying to leave a seaside resort town in Italy on Easter Monday is like trying to take the Long Island Ferry from Bridgeport on a Friday afternoon in summer. Big mistake! It took us about 2 hours to leave the Cattolica area. No matter where we tried to drive, there was traffic everywhere. We later found out that Easter weekend is treated like our Memorial Day weekend. It is when Italians open up their beach homes, and when people make their first trek to the beach for the year.
We finally pulled in to our hotel in Cervia around 7 pm.
Our hotel was a higher end typical Italian beach resort hotel. It was very clean, but in need of an update. The most wonderful thing about the room though was the balcony, which included this lovely view the next morning:
Once we got ourselves going, we headed to the center of Cervia. Once you leave the bustle along the water for the tourists, the center is adorable. As soon as you get into the center, you see the Magazzini del Sale, the Salt Storehouses. Cervia was once one of the most important cities to the Roman Empire, based on the sweet sea salt that was farmed there. Although it no longer produces salt in the volumes of the big companies now do, the town still honors its tradition as a salt producer. The storehouses now are used as a museum related to the salt industry. Alas, the museum is only open on holidays and weekends. Had we been in Cervia on Monday, instead of trying to go to San Marino, we would have had many more opportunites to learn about the salt industry.
We did walk around for a while, enjoying the sun and trying to get our bearings.
It is a wonderful place, and I do hope we can put it on our list of places to return.
Our plan was then to spend the afternoon in Ravenna, the famed mosaic town. As we left Cervia, we stumbled upon the Saltpans of Cervia, which are part of the National Park system along the Po River.
As I stated earlier, Cervia was once highly important due to salt. Today, most of the sea salt is industrially harvested. You can walk around much of the saltpan, but it is really only open to the public on weekends and holidays. Joern and I were just able to walk around a bit, but it was so interesting to see the canals and basins for the different stages necessary for harvesting sea salt.
Since the saltpan is also a bird sanctuary, the Salt Visitor's Center is open daily. Although it focuses on the birds and plants of the area, the center does contain some displays on salt. Unfortunately, there are no tour guides in the center during the week, so we had to do the best we could only looking at the pictures, since the printed explanations were all in Italian.
Of course, there was a salt gift shop that was open. The girl working at the front desk, who was also in charge of the gift shop was incredibly nice. She tried so hard to explain things to us, even though she struggled with English. It made me feel a little guilty about my German. They had tons of products, including wine produced in the area, bath products containing salt, and of course, all types of salt for seasoning.
We also stopped at the salt plant across the street. We couldn't visit much, but Joern was able to snap these pictures:
From there, we headed to Ravenna for the afternoon. That post will come soon.
We returned to Cervia for a lovely dinner along the canal in the center of Cervia.
On Wednesday morning, we headed to the beach for a while before leaving to Parma.
Despite many people's opinions about the beaches along the Adriatic, I really enjoy them. There was some, but not much trash, along the beach. But, the town had just started cleaning the beach for the season. Of course, since the beach hadn't been cleaned for the season, there were tons of seashells! It is so rare to find seashells at the beaches on the Mediterranean since they are cleaned daily in season.