Will You Still Love Me Without Beach Hair?

Subtitle: The trip to Ravenna that wasn’t

Our vacation-within-a-vacation to Ravenna was fantastic, and for the exact opposite reasons than most of our other Italy adventures. Make sense? No, well let me explain.

First off, administrative note. We refer to this trip as our “Ravenna Vacation” but here’s the thing: we never actually made it to Ravenna. I’ll get to that a little later as well, but just note that we will nonetheless continue to use the “Ravenna Vacation” title. Now, without further ado…

Our story begins on Wednesday at the Perugia train station, where we picked up our rental car. You see, the entire Ravenna vacation spawned out of the fact that Schaefer’s Pet Passport appointment was outside of town, requiring us to either rent or borrow a car. So while we had the car, we figured we’d make a few days of it. Our rental car was a Fiat Punta and it was terrible. Okay, the car was fine, but it had about as much pickup as a clown car being driven by an elephant, and Italian driving requires a little more “UMPH” than that. Anyway, after picking up the car, we drove to the Canile Sanitario just outside of Perugia, where Schaefer received his EU Pet Passport. Leno and the folks at the facility were very nice and accommodating (we arrived a few hours before our scheduled appointment), and we were able to get in and out with everything we needed in about 45 minutes. As part of the process, Schaefer had to be officially registered in Perugia, making me (Mike) the only non-Italian in our family… at least for a few months.

After Schaefer’s appointment, we started driving northeast towards the Adriatic coast. Since we knew we had to return the car pretty early on Saturday, we decided it best to take the scenic route there and the direct route back to Perugia on Saturday. The scenic drive was great, lots of small windy roads and picturesque views. When we exited the mountains, we made straight for the coast. Our plan was to stop for lunch in Rimini before heading north to our hotel in Punta Marina (near Ravenna). However, fate intervened for the better when we missed our exit. In the extra time spent backtracking towards Rimini, we talked about nearby San Marino (the unique history, scenery, marriage planning services [ours was based there], etc.) and decided to visit there instead. We took a right turn and headed inland.

San Marino is a very interesting little piece of history. It is a fully independent nation of about 25 square miles (making it one of the smallest countries in the world), located atop a very steep mountain and completely surrounded by Italy. It’s one of the few surviving European microstates (like Monaco, Liechtenstein, Andorra, etc.) that go back to the middle ages, although the Sammarinese claim it dates to the 3rd century CE. So why isn’t it just part of Italy? Well, to make a long story short, during Italian unification in the 1800s, San Marino granted asylum to one of modern-day Italy’s founders, Giuseppe Garibaldi, who later agreed to the country’s request to be left out of the new Italian state. Anyway, I digress… the country is gorgeous. The central part of San Marino City—accessible via cable car—is located over a thousand feet above the surrounding hills and its steep topography give it absolutely stunning views of the nearby mountains, plains, and all the way to the Adriatic Sea (no joke, look it up). We ended up spending a couple of hours there, eating lunch, taking pictures, and admiring the ritzy shopping before riding down to the ol’ Punta and driving back down towards the coast (in neutral most of the way).

We arrived at our hotel in Punta Marina about an hour later. We chose Punta Marina because of its location: 1) it’s right on the beach, giving us some much-needed relief from the above-average afternoon high temps; and 2) it’s just a few miles east of Ravenna, giving us easy access to the city via car or bike. We spent the night getting settled in to the X Hotel—which is decorated like the most stereotypical euro-millennial that my Midwestern brain can imagine threw up all over the inside of a Holiday Inn Express—and exploring town. While exploring, we made a horrible discovery: NO DOGS ON THE BEACH. Che cazzo?! Apparently Emilia-Romagna is less pet-friendly than the rest of Italy. Oh well, we’ll figure that out in the morning. In the meantime, we decided to get dinner—french fries and spicy mussels… soooo good.

The coast of Punta Marina is divided into dozens of small privately-owned beaches, each with their own umbrellas, game rentals, restaurants, etc. Not wanting to be complete wieners, Emilia-Romagna allows one or two of these establishments in each major beach town to accept dogs. In Punta Marina, it’s Profumo di Mare and it’s a little slice of heaven. We arrived there early on Thursday and stayed all day, not wanting to lose our umbrella (only a couple dozen are reserved for dog-owners). It was incredibly relaxing; we spent the day reading, swimming, eating, drinking, training Schaefer on the agility course (I use “training” VERY loosely there, he was not having it), admiring the ships, tossing our GoPro around in the water, watching the old folks play bridge, and generally just being beach bums. For two people that don’t consider themselves major beachgoers, we definitely played the part on Thursday… and again on Friday it would turn out. You see, we had grand plans to visit Ravenna both nights, taking in the sites and attending some cultural events. But that little dog-friendly beach in Punta Marina, after three weeks of living in and exploring inland Perugia, just sucked us right in and wouldn’t let go. We never actually made it to the city, which is how this became “the trip to Ravenna that wasn’t.”

Away from the beach, Punta Marina is a pretty cool little beach town. It’s got plenty of restaurants (beachside and not), water activities, everyone bikes around, and two out of the three nights we were there, the main strip shut down for an outdoor market (which actually overloaded the grid for about 10 minutes on Friday). It’s also got its little bit of history, as we would stumble upon on our way to the beach; World War II German bunkers and fortifications. I would have done more research into the military history of the area, but… you know… the beach. In many ways, the town is the exact opposite of Perugia, and we ate it all in. Instead of trying to get out and make the most of our time, like we have most of the month, we were just lazy and relaxed by the beach, and it was great.

Allora, Saturday morning arrived and it was time to pack up. Taking in one more great X Hotel breakfast (I consumed more pastries than I’m proud of), we hit the road and took the fast route back to Perugia; we had a car to return and a trip to London to finalize. Thanks for the memories, Punta Marina, and we’ll catch you at some point, Ravenna.

And now, this week’s blog appendix:

  1. Travel to London is booked… for real this time. So, we’ve filled in nearly all the travel gaps mentioned in our blog post. We are going to rent a car from June 30 to July 4 and drop it off at Pisa International Airport, where we’ll catch a nonstop flight to Rotterdam, Holland. We’ll stay at a hotel in Rotterdam from July 4-8, during which time we’ll (hopefully) visit some surrounding cities and (definitely) get Schaefer’s tapeworm treatment taken care of. From Rotterdam, we’ll catch a bus to nearby Hook of Holland and take the overnight ferry to Harwich, UK. Then, on Sunday, July 9, we’ll take the train from Harwich into London… phew.
  2. We got new July digs reserved in London. Also in our last post, we mentioned having tentatively reserved an Airbnb in London for two weeks. Well, thanks to Kiley’s outreach and some cool classmates, we’ve secured a short sublet for most of July that will give us more time to find our permanent flat with added flexibility and less risk. The timing’s good as well, as we’ll only need a hotel for our first night in London before getting the keys to the flat.
  3. Last week in Italy (sad face). As of this writing, we have less than 9 days left in Italy. We plan to spend the next 5 days in and around Perugia, before picking up the rental car on Friday and heading south for some hiking. On the way back up to Pisa, we’re planning on stopping by our old stomping grounds at Terre di Nano (where we got married). We think it’s the most fitting way to bid farewell to a month well spent.
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