3 hours in Imola, Italy

Imola, Italy
Imola’s castle Rocca Sforzesca

I’ve decided to visit Imola on our road trip to San Marino. It’s right on the way to San Marino so it’s a convenient stop but it wasn’t exactly half way on our route so stops at the service stations along the motorway were needed too. Unfortunately we also had a few problems on our way to Imola. Firstly, our baby’s music broke down and then we had a flat tyre just past Padua. My husband quickly changed it but he said that we’d need to fix it because apparently you can’t drive fast or too far with a spare tyre which meant that a visit to a garage in Imola was a must. Therefore, it took us much longer to reach San Marino in the end. However, our car problems didn’t deter us from our sightseeing plan of Imola and we firstly walked around and saw what I’d planned and then we sorted out the car.

Imola is a town in Emilia-Romagna region of Italy not far from Bologna which is considered to be the gastronomical center of Italy. Imola was famous for hosting the Formula One San Marino Grand Prix at its racecourse Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari. The F1 race of San Marino isn’t held anymore and nowadays Imola’s racecourse is used for car and motorbike races. It’s here that the famous F1 driver Ayrton Senna met his tragic end in 1994. Of course, we just had to visit the racecourse but our first stop was Imola’s Castle.

Imola's castle Rocca Sforzesca
Imola’s castle Rocca Sforzesca

Rocca Sforzesca (Sforza Castle) is in the center of Imola and there’s a parking right next to it. The castle was built in 13th century but some additions and changes were made in the Renaissance period too. We walked around the castle trying to find the way in since we couldn’t see a clearly marked entrance which is why we quickly followed a guy who we saw opening a door to the castle. But it was the entrance to the music academy not the part of the castle opened for visitors.  I liked Sforza castle because it’s rather big and impressive but we came after its opening hours so we couldn’t go in. If you wish to visit it, check properly the opening times prior to your visit so you don’t end up confused like us.

From the castle we walked towards the main square and saw the cathedral  dedicated to San Cassiano. We ducked inside to cool off a bit. I like the coldness of  churches on hot sunny days and it was very hot during our entire weekend trip. Or is it that I just can’t stand heat anymore? I loved the ornate old street lamps around the cathedral. We went past Palazzo Tozzoni, now a civic art museum.

Imola’s cathedral

It was difficult to walk along the narrow streets and to take photos and to avoid the ongoing cyclists at the same time. It’s more likely to get hit by a bike in this part of Italy than to be ran over by a car. We soon found ourselves at the main square Piazza Giacomo Matteotti. It reminded me of the main square in Bologna with its red bricked buildings with porticoes. Later when we went to Rimini we found the main square to be very similar again. I fell in love with that kind of architecture on my first visit to Bologna fourteen years ago. Oh gosh, I’m old!

Imola, Italy
the main square in Imola

Imola’s historical city center is small but beautiful which makes it the perfect destination for a day trip or a short stop on the road trip. I bought a couple of mandatory postcards and then we walked back to the car parked next to the castle. It was quicker to get to the racecourse by a car than to walk with the baby in the stroller.

We parked just next to the public stand of the racecourse Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari and luckily enough there was a practice on so we got to see some fast cars. My husband was beyond happy that we had such luck. And no, our six and a half month old baby boy wasn’t scared at all of the loud noises. During our entire weekend trip baby V. was an excellent baby traveller, far better than his tired aging mother.

Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari in Imola

After we watched the cars racing for a while we went back to the car and drove to the entrance of the Acque Minerali Park which is next to the racecourse. You can actually drive alongside the racecourse and follow the cars, sort of. Immediately after the park’s entrance is the Ayrton Senna monument because he died here on the racecourse. There are flags and other memorabilia and flowers which dedicated fans of this F1 star left as tokens of their appreciation.

Ayrton Senna monument in Imola

We’ve visited everything I wanted to see in Imola so the only thing left to do was to find a garage and fix the tyre. After we sorted that out speaking a mixture of Italian and English we proceeded to San Marino. It was Friday and we arrived to San Marino town after 8pm. But that was all right because we had the whole Saturday and Sunday to explore  San Marino.

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40 thoughts

  1. Looks like a great place to stop if you’re going to have tire problems! When I first read the title of your post, I kept trying to place it on my mind, thinking that you had a layover between flights or something. lol. That castle is really incredible. I love the symmetry of the design and you can see a little of the eastern influence! #Citytripping

    Liked by 1 person

  2. From your pictures, Imola immediately reminded my of Bologna too. Such a beautiful place to explore although the tragic death of Ayrton Senna means the track has a sadness to it. You were lucky you see some cars racing though. Baby V seems to have enjoyed it too! Thanks for linking #citytripping

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I haven’t travelled too much in Italy and I have never heard of Imola before. I do like those red brick buildings in the town’s square. It looks like you hit the town on a quiet day (or do they do siesta?).

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I have not heard of Imola before, but it looks utterly beautiful! So many magnificent buildings! Thanks for joining in with #culturedkids

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Love Italy! Never heard of Imola, but seems an intriguing spot and that castle looks worth stopping off to see! #FarawayFiles

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Imola was not familiar to me, but I would love to visit. My favorite photo is of the old door knockers. That’s a wonderful Italian detail. Your baby is so adorable, by the way. Start them traveling young and they will love it!

    Liked by 1 person

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