The torque and power curves shown earlier in this thread are, I assume, for the twin spark engine. As you can see the torque is rising quite quickly up to the peak. This is even more noticeable on the road. If you try flat out acceleration up a hill (so things are slowed down a bit) you'll feel a distinct surge in acceleration around 3100 rpm. This is quite fun, but indicative of a somewhat peaky engine that requires care to get the best out of it.
The same thing is going on moving off from a standstill. Advice given above about using significant revs to get away is good. Those pesky 1 litre micras will leave you standing if you're not careful. This is made worse by the fact that 1st is quite high, and the fact that second is even higher means you have to use all the revs at the top of first if you are to drop onto the sweet spot when you change to second.
The real answer is the JTS engine. This just smoothly delivers more as the revs go up. This lets you take off from the lights just as fast, or slowly as you like. It'll pull in 5th from 20 mph without complaint (though the Micra will leave you). A lovely engine, and very well sorted. Same goes for gear change choices. The earlier you change, the less the performance. Using all 7,000 revs get's you there faster, and it's a continuous sliding scale. No need to keep above a particular engine speed to avoid a sudden drop in performance, you just pick the way you feel that day.
As you probably gathered I moved from a 156 2.0 Twin Spark to the same but with the JTS engine; both with 5 speed manual. I recommend you all do the same.