Veliki Tabor Castle
Once upon a time…..that’s how all fairy-tales begin, don’t they? Croatia is full of fairy-tale castles and legends. You just need to go further inland to discover more of Croatia, not just its stunning coastline.
Veliki Tabor Castle is one of the most beautiful castles in Croatia. It’s been on my to-visit list for a while. When I discussed visiting it with my husband the original idea was to spend a weekend in Zagorje region of Croatia and to visit both the castle and the baroque town Varaždin as well as several other worthy tourist attractions in the area. But we had to let go of that idea this time and we settled on a day trip to Veliki Tabor Castle with our baby boy.
Sismondo Castle in Rimini
After we left San Marino we drove to Rimini. That was a short drive because Rimini is only 24km away from San Marino. I knew that Rimini is a popular Italian seaside town full of beach bars. However, we didn’t go to Rimini to spend some time at its long sandy beach but to see its castle and other interesting landmarks.
We found free parking in Rimini because I discovered a useful parking website which I bookmarked for future use but somehow I lost all my bookmarks the other day so I can’t share that website with you. From the free car park we walked for less than 15 minutes to the Malatesta Castle (Castel Sismondo). On our way to the castle we went through the Roman arch, Porta Montanara. That was our first glimpse of Roman Rimini. We were also close to the ruins of the Roman Amphitheater during our walk around Rimini but we decided to skip it because we’d seen roman amphitheaters in better conditions elsewhere.
The Sismondo Castle was built in 15th century by Sigismondo Pandolfo, the most famous lord of Rimini. Unfortunately, like the castle in Imola this one was also closed (because it was Monday) so we only took some photos and headed towards the city center. There’s a big building site next to the castle and from what we read it’s the site of the new museum dedicated to Federico Fellini, probably the most famous Italian film director of all times.
in San Marino, May 2018
The usual advice for the first time travel with a baby is to either go somewhere you’ve been before and know quite well so you don’t feel pressure to see it all or to choose a relaxing holiday in the countryside or by the sea where you don’t have much going on so you can all relax and follow the baby’s usual schedule of feeding and sleeping times. But I wanted to go somewhere new, so that it’d be exciting for us all. I was reluctant to fly with my six and a half month old baby and felt that a road trip is a better solution for me. That decision ruled out a lot of places. Also, I thought that we shouldn’t drive for more than 5 or 6 hours in one direction. Salzburg was my initial idea but then I thought of Italy and chose Udine as our first day trip abroad. Suddenly it hit me: There’s a tiny country in the middle of Italy which I haven’t visited yet. San Marino! I quickly looked for accommodation options and read about sights in San Marino (haven’t found a lot of blog posts about it though) before I shared my decision with the husband. He too was more inclined to visit San Marino than to go to Austria because it meant that we get to visit a new country. Furthermore, there’s a rather surprising connection between Croatia and San Marino because San Marino was founded by Saint Marinus, a stonecutter from the island Rab in Croatia. Back then (4th century) Rab was a part of the Roman province of Dalmatia from where St.Marinus fled to Rimini before he founded San Marino on Mount Titano.
I always check the length of a road trip on Google maps and on ViaMichelin site and San Marino was exactly what I asked for: five and a half hours drive. However, the actual trip lasted longer because we had to take more stops than I’d planned and we visited Imola on the way to San Marino. The return trip was a bit shorter because we didn’t have any car problems. But we also visited Rimini before we headed home so again the trip lasted more than the initial assessment.
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
For our first day trip abroad as a family I chose a town in Italy which I haven’t visited before. As it turned out my frivolous method of choosing Udine for a day trip was an excellent choice because we spent a wonderful Sunday in a surprisingly pretty town. Udine is the second largest city in Friuli-Venezia-Giulia region in the northeastern Italy between the Adriatic Sea and the Alps. The capital of this autonomous region is Trieste, a city I know quite well.
I googled the major sights of Udine and made a loose plan of what to do/see on our day trip. However, I didn’t think much about the actual drive to Udine (only two and a half hours from our home) or the parking in the city. So, when we saw the exit for Udine my husband smartly decided to pull over and actually check on GPS which exit we have to take to get in the city center. All I wanted was to park somewhere near the train station because I thought that the train station (or McDonald’s) would be a good option for having baby changing facilities. No, the train station doesn’t have it (it has free toilets, usually you have to pay for them in Italy) but McDonald’s which is just across the train station has a toilet with the baby changing pad so we sorted baby V. out before we commenced our sightseeing of Udine. The plan was actually to use the service station along the motorway before we entered Udine but since there was none my idea of parking near the train station was a good one. Parking was free and it seems that parking in Italy on a Sunday is always free (at least in this part of Italy).
It was a rather warm and sunny Sunday in a city seemingly devoid of residents. But that’s Italy on a Sunday 🙂 Yes, there were a lot of people around the train station but on our short walk from the train station to the main square (15mins on foot ) we didn’t come across many locals. Nevertheless, we weren’t the only tourists in the town and we later saw where the locals hid: at the street food trucks’ festival in the park below the castle.
Before we reached the main square we walked under the pretty porticoes and my heart skipped a beat with joy. I first encountered porticoes in Bologna and I just love this rather clever architecture which provides you with cover from the sun and the rain when you walk around the town. We glimpsed the cathedral just before the main square and decided to see it on our walk back to the car.
Piazza della Libertà is Udine’s magnificent main square with the beautiful clock tower at Loggia di San Giovanni, several marble statues and a fountain. Just across this oldest square in Udine is Loggia del Lionello built in Venetian Gothic style. Baby V. looked around from his stroller and was pleased to see that he attracted a lot of admiring looks even here at this beautiful square. 🙂
Piazza della Libertà and castle above