What to do on your Balkan Holiday: An Itinerary for Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia, and Slovenia

So I think I’ve mentioned that in October we undertook our most ambitious trip to date, a two week road trip in the Balkans.  We had a ton of fun.

Because I’ve gotten some questions about it, here is the nitty gritty on what we actually did.  I’ll talk more later on the awesome places we stayed.

I’ll also talk more later on our opinions.  The things we most enjoyed.  The things we might skip.

I will say that this is a very relaxed itinerary.  You could shave several days off of this schedule and still do everything plus some.  We liked having the extra time; it made it feel like more of a vacation instead of just a trip.

Let’s get to it.

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Three strikes and you’re out . . . of the stroller

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We just got back from a massive two week road trip.

Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia, and Slovenia.

It was awesome.  Not every moment, of course (I’m looking at you, food poisoning in Sarajevo).  But a fun trip.

We took our Kinderwagon, but I was excited to have completely stoller-free days too.  Like at Plitvice Falls, Lake Bled, Kotor, and the Postojna Cave.  They did a lot of walking.  (I was so proud.)  We also did a lot of carrying.  Natch.

When we busted out the stroller for a full day in Ljubljana, I was glad to have it, but I was also dreading it.

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Very Normal Henry (with a side of Assisi)

Dear Henry,

Instead of rambling about your vocabulary (immense) and your size (also immense), let me tell you a story about a recent trip that sums up the essence di Henry, if you will.

On a sunny, long weekend in June, we did an overnight trip to Spoleto, Cortona, the Perugina chocolate factory, and Assisi.  There were plenty of quintessential Henry moments throughout, but I’d like to talk about our time in Assisi.

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Want to hear something kind of crazy?

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I want to tell you something that is kind of crazy.  I, Melissa, mother of two, have never put both my kids in a car and driven them somewhere all by myself.  And these kids aren’t weeks old, mind you.  My “baby” turned one this spring.

The other crazy thing?  I haven’t driven a car since last August when we moved here.  I haven’t driven in Italy at all.

Back when we lived in DC, I was never a big driver.  When we were in Maryland, I sometimes drove to the metro or shopping or to visit my friends in Virginia, but I didn’t drive all the time.  Once we moved to DC proper, I mostly stopped driving.  I walked Henry to day care.  I took the bus or metro to work.  When we did family outings on the weekends, James would drive.  I did pull shifts–usually the early morning shift (no shocker there)–on our drives to SC, but I could still go months without getting behind the wheel of a car.

I’m a nervous person and a nervous driver.  Not driving much exacerbates this.  Living in cities exacerbates this.

I usually don’t mind it at all.  I have plenty of stores within walking distance.  Public transportation is still a challenge with the two kids, but it is there.  We can get where we need to go sans automobile.

But something happened earlier this month that has me reevaluating my no drivo status.

We visited Lake Bracciano on a weekend.  Although our trip out took longer because of a flat tire, this volcanic lake is only 45 minutes from Rome.  Motor sports are limited, and the lake is a pristine and quiet place.  It is rimmed by three towns to explore and an awesome (and free!) airplane museum at the sight of Italy’s first airport.

Even though the lake is crazy close, we opted to do an overnight so that we could explore more.  Our agriturismo, Agriturismo Il Castoro, sits on smaller, neighboring Lake Martignano.  You have to go down some serious dirt roads to get there.

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Even if you don’t stay there, you can pay a few euro to access the expanse of grassy beach lined with hammocks.  You can pay a few more euro to rent a paddle boat–some with their own slides–or grab some refreshing beverages at the small cafe.

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Because of uncooperative weather (I swear, it is always stifling except when I actually have aqua access), we didn’t frolic in the water.  (Although we did all touch it; Mac was particularly nonplussed.)

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We did enjoy some time swinging in the hammocks and feeling the grass between our toes.

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As we strolled, I could not help but think, I could do this.

I could load up the kids on a random weekday and hit the lake or explore a nearby town or do anything we wanted.  We have fun at the zoo and parks in Rome, and I’m trying to get better about picking off new sights with the kids, but we could just go.

Of course, exploring a new town with the adorable weirdos sounds downright frightening.  I’m not scared of my kids, per se; however, sometimes I am definitely intimidated by them.

But things change.  And faster than I think too.

Not that long ago, I could barely grocery shop with the two kids by myself.  Now we have a produce guy, an egg lady, fish dudes, and I can get around the store with the two of them if I need to.

Not that long ago, Mac refused to move anywhere.  Then I spent HOURS walking behind him holding his hands.  Now I walk beside him and sometimes dash to keep up as he darts off a few steps on his own.  (He still refuses to crawl though.)

At some point, trips with these guys may not seem so crazy.  I need to be ready.

Even if that means getting behind the wheel of a car.  I’m planning to force myself to practice when town empties this August.  Our car is already lightly “Romanized.”  No one would notice a few more scratches.

Deep breath.  I’m an adult.  I can do this.

Other Trip Highlights

  • We hit up Il Castello Odescalchi in Bracciano, site of famous weddings such as Tomkat’s.  The self guided tour involved some stairs, but went over well with the kids.  Shocking to NO ONE, Henry loved the weaponry.

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  • Historic Bracciano is fairly small.  We wandered, checked out views of the lake, and enjoyed lunch outside at Pane e Olio.  Service was slow (they were slammed), but the food was very good.

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Pistachio pasta FTW

Pistachio pasta FTW

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  • We drove through Trevignano, but didn’t get to explore this town.  Unlike Bracciano, which overlooks the lake from on high, Trevignano is down at the water.  Several restaurants on the water looked pretty sweet.
  • We enjoyed an evening wander and dinner watching the sunset over the lake at Il Vecchio Salus in Anguillara.  Although we didn’t go, Anguillara seems to have an expanse of public beach along with a jump park and rides area.

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  • If you have kids or any interest in planes, definitely check out the Italian Air Force Museum.  Fun (oversimplified) fact:  Italians built lots of seaplanes because they didn’t feel like building runways.  This free museum has several hangars of planes to delight the kiddos.  Even though half of it was closed at our visit, it was still worth the trip.  Did I mention it’s free??  Cafe inside.

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Also lots of old cars.  BONUS.

Also lots of old cars. BONUS.

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Other Bracciano Resources