Ancona to Rimini to Sant’Agata

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Early in the morning we hopped on a train headed north to Rimini, the nearest city to our eventual goal of Sant’Agata Feltria, and its famous truffle festival!

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But first, we had to timestamp our tickets. In case anyone is thinking about taking a train around Italy, these are the ticket stamping machines – you put your ticket in the slot, it gives you a stamp with the time on it. No stamp, no valid ticket.

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A few hours later we arrived in Rimini. There a helpful info-clerk pointed us towards the bus ticket booth, which gave us a bus time table book and sold us some tickets. It took a while to work out when each bus was leaving, and to make sure that we’d have a bus to take us back after the festival. The schedule varies by weekday, weekend, some specific holidays. Thank goodness for basic words translating across most languages, and also google translate.

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There wasn’t much to do in Rimini without leaving the area around the train station, so we found one of the few cafes that had wifi available and camped out for a few hours. The owner was pretty happy to have someone to practice English with, so we chatted a bit about our trip and the surrounding Italian countryside.

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As the sun was just barely starting to make its way down, we headed back to the station and waited for our bus. This was the first of two that would take us to Sant’Agata. The first dropped us off in Feltria, the city hub near Sant’Agata, and from there we would take another bus for the last leg of the trip. This is not a destination that’s easy to get to.

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Beautiful Italian countryside passed by while we stared out the window.

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We passed a few towns along the way.

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And some farms near the tracks.

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But mostly it was countryside.

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Fun fact – every hill in Italy has a castle on it! That’s not actually true, but it sure felt that way where we were. As we rode the bus we would point out castles as we saw them – and after a while we stopped because there were so many. I am a little bit jealous of their castle topped hillsides.

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Eventually our bus rolled into Feltria. It turns out this is the only inter-city bus stop in town, so we would come back here an hour later to catch our last leg.

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In the meantime though, we wandered around trying to find food. After a false start, we stumbled in to the town center.

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I found the nearest pizzeria!

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And we had delicious thick crust pizza for dinner!

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Also the town was having a fair! There were toys, fossils, and handwoven baskets for sale in the central square.

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Around the corner there were tents set up selling all manner of crafts – mostly jewelry and clothes, but also soaps, carved decorations, ceramics, and of course food.

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We made our way back to the bus stop and loaded up on the bus. This route is the only bus in to Sant’Agata all evening, so it makes a whole bunch of stops in the middle of nowhere, picking people up who want to go home or make their way to a larger town. The transit network outside the train-connected cities is all by bus, and it’s fairly reliable. The downside is, many of these buses only run twice a day at most.

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At one point our bus had to go through a small town. This town had streets only a hair wider than the bus itself. With walls on both sides. We held our breath.

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The bus driver was running on expert mode, and got the bus through without a scratch. I can’t imagine what the first day on this job looks like.

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Darkness had fully settled by the time we arrived in Sant’Agata. The fair was still only setting up so the town was quiet – anyone up at this hour was hanging out at the cafe. We asked for a hotel in town and were directed up the road and up a hill to the very nice hotel at the top. When we got there it became pretty clear we couldn’t afford the rate, but the hotel owner pointed us to a tourist site for the city and let us use their wifi. He also called the local convent and asked if they had room available. A short walk back across town and up another hill, some bungled Italian with the father of the convent, and we had a room for our stay!

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Why didn’t we have a hotel booked for a very popular local festival in a small town? Not a lot of internet information is available in English sadly. We’re very grateful to the hotel owner who called the convent. In Italy convents act as hostels in smaller towns, taking in travelers, boy scouts, and any other visitors for a very small sum. At this point we were thoroughly exhausted and ready to sleep. But wait!

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What’s that up there in the corner?

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It’s our old friend, a scorpion! After spotting him Natalie put him in one of our camping bowls and we took him outside. After that last bit of adventure, we collapsed to sleep.

Ancona, Intro to Italy

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Ancona is an interesting place. It’s definitely not touristy, but it still has the charming attractions of an Italian city – beautiful old architecture, a lovely promenade, coffee.. pizza.. really we didn’t know what to expect. Neither of us had ever been to Italy, and we came because I had always wanted to see Venice and Natalie had always wanted to go to a truffle festival.

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Ancona was our crash course in how to get around in Italy. First – mediocre Spanish will not cut it. Some people might humor you and try to understand, but by and large we had more success with English and a tiny bit of Spanish than full on Spanish. Maybe if we had tried Spanish with an Italian accent?

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Second – Italians love their mid day break. Everything, and I mean everything, excepting cafes, restaurants, and maybe hospitals, shuts down for the hours of 1 to 4, give or take. It’s fantastic and infuriating at the same time. We’re so used to 24 hour on demand everything all the time. When it’s not available we’re not sure what to do. I think the Italians are on to something though.

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Third – do ask for help. As with many countries on our trip, Italians seem interested in travelers and asking politely (if plainly) is very often the best way to get what you need or find out where you need to go. We haven’t mentioned this much, but post offices around the world are full of some of the nicest and most helpful people imaginable. Maybe we got lucky? The Ancona post office staff took great care of us and got our package through the relatively complex shipping procedure in no time. In a related act of kindness, we needed packing material so I went to a nearby newstand and did my best to ask for the cheapest newspaper they had. The vendor said “it’s Italian, can you read?” I told him it was for mail, for a package. He dropped a pile of newspapers in my arms and said they were free, yesterday’s lot.

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Ancona itself is split into two parts – a lower section near the water, and the remainder atop a massive cliff. It’s a hike to get to the old town, and the metro system was unintelligible to us the first day. The streets are tiny, especially in the old town – this will become a running theme in Italy. Vespas and tiny cars are popular for a reason.

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Beautiful,

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ancient,

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architecture.
Italy does not disappoint.

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When everything’s closed and you have no plans, what to do but get coffee? It turns out fancy drinks like this are a bit unusual for Italy. Everywhere else so far the coffee has been plain espresso, or maybe with a dash of milk (steamed, foamed, straight). A regular small cup costs 1 euro and almost everyone has one for breakfast. It’s like a natural right here, and the coffee is almost always excellent.

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Ancona even has a bit of a fashion district on the promenade.

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On our way back to the hotel we passed this intriguing restaurant. It was closed when we passed. We wanted to come back but still couldn’t figure out the buses, so when it came time for dinner we decided to eat local. I think if we had more than a day and change in Ancona the public transit would have eventually made sense, but there’s not much in the way of tourist information when it comes to riding the trams.

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What does eating local look like? A random pizzeria near the hotel. Full disclosure, this was the third random pizzeria near the hotel that we looked at. The other two were not nearly as appetizing. We asked the lady at the front desk of our hotel if a single pizza was enough for two. It turns out sharing a pie is uncommon here – they’re very thin crust and designed to be eaten by one person. That may be the intent, but we were full pretty quick, even with the thin crust. We finished it though – it was too good!

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Next time – we head to Sant’Agata Feltria for their truffle festival!

Goodbye Croatia, Hello Italy!

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Boots repaired, our bags repacked, we made our way down to the port one last time. This big behemoth of a boat is not the ferry that would take us to Italy.

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This one is! It’s pretty big as ferries go, fairly small by cruise standards. We had a bit of confusion getting to it – there’s a passport checkpoint around a corner in the terminal that takes some finding.

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We made it through and boarded through the absolutely cavernous garage. We ponied up for a bedroom for this ride. It was comfortable enough for the slightly higher price. The other option that a lot of travelers take is to buy a boarding ticket only and sleep on any available surface – the crew don’t seem to mind.

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As soon as we put our stuff down in the room we headed upstairs and outside to explore the deck. The ship itself was pretty cool, but the real selling point is the view.

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We stayed outside and ate our sandwiches – dinner is pretty expensive onboard. Lots of families had packed entire cases of food and were having their own dinners along the deck and in the small seating area inside. Soon enough the boat started to move!

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We watched until Split just about disappeared.

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And then went to sleep. The trip is pretty short and we wanted to get as much shut-eye as possible. From what I gather some people make a night of it and just party into the morning.

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Speaking of morning, the tickets come with a free breakfast. Mediocre as food goes, but decent for ferry food.

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Back out through the garage, this time smelling of car fumes.

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And we’re in Italy!

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