I’ll be writing about our recent tour of Europe in several parts. This is part 6.
My Summer Home in San Marino
We arrived at the train station in Rimini at 3 PM and met with Francesca and Gianluca, part of the crew responsible for the show that night, and with our gear loaded into Francesca’s car we took off towards San Marino. The streets of Rimini were cluttered with bicycles and motorcycles, and I was glad that I wasn’t the one driving. Dodging two-wheeled travelers was best left to the experts, and Francesca was definitely an expert. She explained to us that San Marino was not a city in Italy, but an independent country with a population of around 30,000 people. It sits close to the coastline, yet it’s a completely landlocked nation, surrounded by the Italian countryside. I found it interesting that we crossed the boarder into this tiny country without notice—no checkpoints, no signs, no inspection of passport. I liked the notion of moving freely from country to country without being subjected to the endless formalities that international travel often requires.
Our hotel was within walking distance of the concert grounds, and as I waited for the others to unpack their things I sat on my bed leafing through the official tourist guide to the area. San Marino, I learned, is actually the oldest sovereign nation in the world (founded in 301 AD) and it had managed to avoid being swallowed up in one of the many military conflicts that have occurred since it’s inception. Napoleon once offered to extend San Marino’s territory during his conquest of Europe after befriending one of the countries regents, and Abraham Lincoln was made an honorary citizen after he issued his Emancipation Proclamation.
(As a history nerd, these kinds of things have always caught my interest, so forgive me for the recitation of facts. I can’t help it.)
The thought of being in an area that was smaller than my own current place of residence (a medium sized town in Texas), yet had managed to remain free and independent as a country for over 1,708 years was exciting to me. I subconsciously added an extra nod of respect to each native San Marinan I met. This was a place where the little guy had somehow survived for hundreds of years, and I couldn’t help but draw a parallel connection with my own independent music career (the difference in longevity, diplomacy, and civilization aside, of course).
The coastline was visible in the distance from the festival grounds—a line of hazy blue butting up against a golden row of beaches and buildings. Flags from San Marino, Italy, and America stood at attention in the warm breeze. To my left, high on a hilltop, stood the outlines of a castle. I joked with Holly that it was nice to be playing so close to our summer home, gesturing towards the stone silhouette in the distance, and she smiled and rolled her eyes.
Darkness arrived, and we geared up for our show. It was the first year for this particular festival, and the organizers had cautiously expected a crowd in the 100-200 person range. By the time we hit the stage, there were easily 500 people crammed into the little area, and when we had finished I guessed the number to be closer to 700. Playing music in front the crowds in both Italy and Germany was exhilarating. Each night had a sense of newness to it—as if it were the first gigs we had ever played. The kind of reception we received night after night was enough to recharge batteries left somewhat drained from the day in, day out grind of the music business. Recharged for a year.
People like Christian and Max had put in hours of planning and preparation for these shows. Gianluca and Francesca the same. Fans like Matt– a diehard, tattooed country music lover– had made the trip from Savoniero to San Marino with the enthusiasm of ten men. These people truly cared about our music, and the truly cared about us.
The show wrapped, and we spent the next hour talking with our new friends. On our way back to the hotel, we stopped at a café for drinks and a late night snack. The menu had a distinctly American flare to it, and even though I was in the land of pasta and wine, a little taste of home did my weary body well. With windows open wide and a costal breeze whipping in and out of our room, we turned in for the night.
The next morning our crew of rag tag musicians and promoters hopped into two cars and headed for the castle I had pointed to the day before. This was the very heart of San Marino, and we would spend our last afternoon in San Marino wandering it’s ancient cobblestone streets and marveling at the beautiful view from such a high elevation. The castle was only accessible by a system of gondolas, and the trip to and from the mountaintop was worth the 4 euro round trip fare. As we ascended, the tiny country laid itself out before our eyes. A minute later, the doors opened and we found ourselves in a bustling micro city. Stone buildings upon stone streets offered food and trinkets. Ornately dressed military guards stood in front of the small capitol building. A memorial fountain gushed strands of crystal clear water from which people drank and washed their face. Holly and I (with limited packing space during our trip) chose this spot to purchase a souvenir of our first jaunt to Europe, and we bought a small painting from a street side artist. It was as if we had stepped back in time without sacrificing the comforts of modern man. I loved it, and I didn’t want to leave.
Sadly, it was time to say goodbye to our new friends, and we did so reluctantly. We exchanged hugs and waives, and began to make our way back to the gondolas. Holly and I, now alone, promised each other that we would find a way to return and spend a night in this romantic place. I made her shake on it. We boarded the gondola and watched as San Marino rose to meet our feet. Stepping through the doors, we took one last look up at the castle above, and then made our way back to the train station in Rimini.