After a wild night at our Croatian campsite when our camper van was shaken fiercely in the wind and the rain hammered down on our roof, we set off for the port city of Rijeka.
The wind had blown the rain clouds away so by the time we were on the road, the sky was a piercing blue and the sun was shining.
After about an hour or so following the glorious coast road we turned inland. As we climbed upwards through the rugged countryside we could see snow capped mountains in the distance.
We drove along a high plateau – it felt like we were driving on top of the world! Then we caught sight of the shimmering fjord-like inlet called Zavratnica – a 900-metre-long and narrow body of water located at the foot of the Velebit Mountain Park.
Gradually we wound our way back to the winding coast road and once again were thrilled at the sight of the sparkling waters of the Adriatic.
As evening had begun to draw in, our minds turned to finding a place to spend the night. We were on the outskirts of Rijeka and had found a couple of likely spots on-line but it was impossible to get to them due to road diversions that took us all over the place except the camper van parking areas!
We ended up finding a spot with lovely views – but outside an abandoned building (which wasn’t quite so lovely.)
On the road again the next day we crossed into Slovenia briefly before arriving in one of my favourite countries – Italy.
The first town we visited was Udine about which we knew nothing but were totally taken with once we were there.
We parked in a carpark a short walk away from the the city centre that had a number of places specifically designed for camper vans. We were the only takers that day!
Just outside the old city gate we found a tourist bureau where a delightful lady with excellent English suggested we headed for the Museo Diocesano e Galleria del Tiepolo before exploring the city centre.
This was such an excellent tip as the museum was fantastic! Housed in the stunning Patriarch’s Palace which was built in the 16th Century and added to between 1708 and 1725, the museum contains many fabulous treasures.
The building itself was a museum – sumptuous rooms, intricately designed timber floors, gorgeous wall paintings, fabulous frescoes and a sweeping grand staircase.
Probably the most important of the treasures inside are the eighteenth-century frescoes by Giambattista Tiepolo, who decorated the ceiling of the Grand Staircase, the Guest Gallery and the Red Room.
Another highlight was the patriarchal library – the first public library in Udine. Many valuable books are preserved there including some of the first books ever printed, illuminated manuscripts and rare first editions.
We lingered in the museum until closing time and then walked to the Aquileia Gate which was completed in 1436.
Passing through the Aquileia Gate we wandered into the beautiful Piazza della Libertà as the sun started to set to the sounds of an accordion being played.You can’t get more romantic than that!
The player was sitting on the steps of the Fountain which was donated to Udine by Emperor Francis 1(1708 – 1765) to commemorate the peace treaty of Campoformido.
The town hall (Loggia del Lionello) built in 1448–1457 also stands in the square and opposite stands a clock tower very similar to the one in the Piazza San Marco in Venice.
Despite the cool weather people were sitting outside enjoying a meal or glass of wine.
Finding ourselves back at the Piazza della Libertà , we discovered we had arrived just in time to see and hear the clock tower strike 6pm and the accordion player was still playing.
What an excellent and ideal way to end our short exploration of Udine!