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Thumbs Up Our Italy trip, full report (long post)

When I set out to organise our trip to Italy back in January this year, it seemed to be ages until we would be able to enjoy the fruits of my research. Now completed the trip is just a very fond memory slipping into the past. But with 1150 photographs to remind us, the memory will last forever.

As I mentioned, I organised the trip back in January this year, using Expedia and Tripadvisor to search out the best locations to stay, suffice to say, that exercise worked a very well. I used Google maps, with its drag and drop facility to work out the route I wanted to take, rather than its calculated one, this gave me drive times to ensure I did not find myself with journeys which were undoable.

The first stage and one of the longest was from Calais to Dijon, 570km, and we did not arrive in France until early afternoon on the Thursday. Although I prefer the open country roads we opted for the peage autoroute for speed. Here was the first of the looks and compliments we had to get used to as people admired the Spider. A French man at our hotel jokingly offered to swap with his Audi (NO! chance)

Day two started with an air of excitement, today we would be arriving in Italy! Not so concerned with speed today our route took us where we could on RN and N roads in France until we arrived in Switzerland, where we could not avoid the autoroute to take us around Lac Leman, Lucerne and up into the mountains. We took the Simplon Pass into Italy, retracing steps I took on my last trip 35 years ago. Mistake! Simplon Pass is not what it was, gone are the wonderful bends, being replaced by covered caverns, with the top down on the Spider the noise of the German bikers machines soon became wearing.

We dropped down into Italy elated, playing Matt Munro ‘On Days like this’! It had to be done!! We rested up in Meina at a B&B for two night. Here driving between Stresa and Verbania we exchanged waves with (I think) a P3 Spider and possibly on UK plates. We also waved at an early (60’s) Giulietta Spider but with no response. After a couple of days rest and a wedding anniversary dinner we moved on to a hotel/B/B near Verona.

From our hotel near Verona we drove into Venice. I had bought parking and travel permits for the ACTV ferries through www.veniceconnected.com the car park I booked I expected to be on the mainland, but no, it was right next to the railway station and a very short walk to our first ferry. I could write pages about Venice, but not here! On the A4 Autostrada heading back to Verona an Italian 3.2 Spider past us with a welcoming wave from the driver, my wife and I both grinned at each other, “we’re in Italy!”

On our Wedding anniversary I gave my wife a card (like you do), inside were two tickets for the opera at the Arena di Verona. We are not opera fans, but when in Italy it had to be done, and what a fantastic night it was, starting at around 9.00pm, finishing at about 1.30Am. There is a photo below, but words cannot describe the electricity, the sheer atmosphere inside that Italian arena, do it! Whilst driving to Verona, we tooted and got a wave from another 946 Spider, grins all around.

From Verona, we moved onto our third B&B, just south of Reggio Emilia. Lambrusco, Parma ham, Parmesan cheese and Balsamic vinegar country. Apart from visits to Parma, with its beautiful basilica, a drive to Bologna (with the worst, most unwelcoming parking in the world) and Modena with a visit to the Ferrari museum at Maranelo and Modena. We also took a couple of drives into the Apennine mountains, take the SS63 heading south from Reggio Emilia for some stunning scenery and great roads. Once clear of the tunnels get the Pietra di Bismantova behind you then turn off to the left and start to explore. I’m convinced that you could spend a whole two weeks in the Apennines and still not see everything. A word of warning though, we crunched the underside of the Spider several times up there, not badly, but enough. So if your car is lowered, stay on the main roads (SS63) its still a fabulous view.

We spent 6 nights at Agriturismo Cavazzone, its here we really fell in Love with Italy, the lovely people who looked after us the wine the food. Vanilla Ice cream with 8 year old matured balsamic vinegar, take my word, bliss!

We left Reggio Emilia with heavy hearts, but still some excitement as to what our next adventure might bring forth. Sirmione is a little spit of land out into the southern end of Lake Garda. It is a small walled town with a small castle and narrow gate to gain access to little streets just as tight. The police gate will not allow you access unless you are booked in somewhere, we were. Negotiating the tight streets full of tourists was a hoot! We had to drive at a snails pace as people on foot ‘overtook’! Just before we reached our hotel a man leaned over and said, “love the car, better than a Mercedes”. Again, Anne and I just chuckled. Whilst in Sirmione we did see a UK registered silver Brera, I think it was a 3.2 or 2.4, from the engine sound.

Our route back to Switzerland, France and finally home started on the Friday morning, our route was to take us along the A4 and A5 Autostrada to the St Bernard Pass. This was much more like it, with all those in a big hurry opting for the tunnel, we were left with a few discerning drivers and bikers to take the winding route up over the mountains. Unfortunately our view was somewhat spoiled with low cloud. One observation, on the Italian side, the crash barriers were extremely reassuring, very well maintained and safe looking, a far cry from the Swiss side, the barriers were short if at all, a row of stones indicating the edge, Eeek!

From our B&B in France I excluded motorways in the Garmin, opting to use RN and N roads. That gave us a 280km drive that took all day, but with few cars it was heaven. As we left the village where we were staying, I spotted a Bertone GTV parked up at a garage, we stopped just as its driver walked back to it, an immaculate 1975 2000, we complemented each other on our cars, he slowed up as we passed each other, so we could get a photo. I love Italy, but with so much room on the roads driving in France is a delight. We did the same type of routing on the Sunday all bar the last 80km as we headed for Calais. We were sad and happy at the same time as we recalled what had been our best holiday ever.

We covered 2730 miles without any problems. The 2.2JTS returned 31.6 mpg. We drove every day with the top down, even from Dover to home at midnight! Italian driving is not that dissimilar to the UK. OK, you will be driving at 65km in a 50km and still get a local overtake, try driving at the 50km, and even old ladies will be passing you.

This is a long post, but it only just touches on what we did and enjoyed. It cost a lot of money and will be a few years before we go again, but that is something we will do.

The photos:

1. Parked up in France
2. The top of the Simplon Pass
3. Grand Canal Venice
4. Arena di Verona
5. Parma Basilica
6. Parked up outside our hotel
7. You know where that is!
8/9. In the Apennines
10. The start of the St Bernard Pass
11. Into Switzerland
12. Room with a view.
13. Lovely GTV
14. More wildlife than Darwin brought back

The photos are now spread over three posts, sorry I could not get them all into one. If I had done this to start at least they'd all be together.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg Just arrived in France.jpg (73.6 KB, 20 views)
File Type: jpg Top of Simplon Pass.jpg (68.1 KB, 10 views)
File Type: jpg Grand Canal Venice.jpg (70.1 KB, 8 views)
File Type: jpg Arena di Verona.jpg (80.3 KB, 8 views)
File Type: jpg Parma Basilica.jpg (84.4 KB, 9 views)
File Type: jpg Apennines1.jpg (113.5 KB, 9 views)

Someone said to me, "so whats so special about an Alfa Romeo then?" I told him, "If you have to ask, you wont understand".

Giulia Super Lusso 2.0MA, wife drives 939 Spider 2.2, plus Abarth 595 and there is a 1972 Spider 2000 S2 in the garage for fun days.

Previously, Brera 2.2 Prodrive - 159 SW 1.9JTDm - 1.6TS 147

Last edited by Top Down; 02-08-13 at 12:10.
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Great post. The Spider is a particularly nice one!
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Superb post, thanks. Not long back from 2 weeks near Siena and Italy never fails to make me love it. Sadly, Hertz don't do Spiders, but the Delta 1.6 Multijet was a surprisingly pleasant hire car.
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I got married in Siena, have family and friends in Colle val d'Elsa and Poggibonsi. Beautiful part of the world, and Siena is just magnificent.
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Thoroughly enjoyed reading about your holiday. Makes me want to do something similar.

And the Spider is gorgeous in blue with the tan leather!
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Originally Posted by StescoG66 View Post
I got married in Siena, have family and friends in Colle val d'Elsa and Poggibonsi. Beautiful part of the world, and Siena is just magnificent.
Visited all the hill towns and fell in love with the area round Montalcino, Volterra and San Gimignano especially. Not to mention Brunello wines....
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Originally Posted by StescoG66 View Post
I got married in Siena, have family and friends in Colle val d'Elsa and Poggibonsi. Beautiful part of the world, and Siena is just magnificent.
Visited all the hill towns and fell in love with the area round Montalcino, Volterra and San Gimignano especially. Not to mention Brunello wines....
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To the OP - brilliant post and thanks for sharing. Certainly makes me want to drive down again. Trouble is a day is wasted from Scotland getting across the channel - which is the worst bit of the whole journey!
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Nice one Same this wasn't in images so the pics would show up.
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Wow.... Sounds so good, and surely in real life must have been miles better...

Lovely car you have there..
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Quote:
Originally Posted by StescoG66 View Post
To the OP - brilliant post and thanks for sharing. Certainly makes me want to drive down again. Trouble is a day is wasted from Scotland getting across the channel - which is the worst bit of the whole journey!
Go down to Newcastle or even Hull and get the ferry from there.....
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Nice one Same this wasn't in images so the pics would show up.
SR, I'll take a look at this and amend. I have a lot of TripAdvisor reviews to complete!
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Great Report.

We go in three and half weeks and will be in Verona for the last night of the Opera. 14th year in Verona but not been to the Opera for a few years so are looking forward to it. Our Hotel is 100yds from the Arena so we will be getting ready for bed when most people will still be getting their cars out of the carpark.
You are right the atmosphere is really something special. The opera is more spectacle than pure music but all the better for that.

I must try and remember to get a photo of the Giullietta outside the Hotel (the Hotel Giullietta e Romeo of course )

Procrastination is the thief of time
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Great Post love the photos, just curious how did you find the route down to dijon then to lucerne, I am leaving next week and google also suggests that route and also via metz,Strasbourg, which is 50km more but same travel time.
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Great Post love the photos, just curious how did you find the route down to dijon then to lucerne, I am leaving next week and google also suggests that route and also via metz,Strasbourg, which is 50km more but same travel time.
Calais to Dijon is straight forward, its the A26/E17. I reckon if you set your sat nav for fastest route including tolls thats the way it will take you. It was quick and trouble free.

Dijon to Lausanne was D905 to Dole, D472 to Pontalier then N57 into Switzerland where you can pick up the A1.

Hope that helps.
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Great road trip . Still, flying this year should give us more time in Italy. Now to find the tomtom for the rental Ypsilon .
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Great report- thanks! It sounds excellent and the spider really looks the part. Is there an emoticon for "I wanna do that"?
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Great post and good info. On my list to do sometime soon.
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More photos.....
Attached Images
File Type: jpg Apennines2.jpg (69.4 KB, 4 views)
File Type: jpg Parked outside the Hotel.jpg (111.0 KB, 15 views)
File Type: jpg Room with a view.jpg (91.3 KB, 8 views)
File Type: jpg Start of St Bernard Pass.jpg (107.3 KB, 8 views)
File Type: jpg Into Switzerland.jpg (85.8 KB, 7 views)
File Type: jpg Lovely GTV.jpg (65.5 KB, 12 views)
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And the last ones.....
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File Type: jpg You know where this is.jpg (77.2 KB, 12 views)
File Type: jpg Darwin.jpg (83.5 KB, 12 views)
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Your trip sounds fab! We did a road trip to Naples last summer in our 156 Sportwagon, and reading your post brought back lots of fab memories! We took the St Gotthard Pass from Switzerland into Italy, and when we left Verona - again like you going there for the Opera (Carmen), we went into Austria via the Timmelsgoch Pass - it was fab, just wish I had Matt Munro on while blasting up the pass into Austria! Fab trip and a fab write up, love the photos and you have a very nice Spider!
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Some good snippets... and a lovely post. Must treat the Younger Mrs S..


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Very helpful thanks will try and post some photos too
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Sounds great and is getting me even more excited.... We get married end if the month then we honeymoon on the Amalfi coast... Driving the Spider 3.2 V6 Q4 through France into Switzerland, 2 nights on lake Garda then 6 nights in Amalfi, night in Monaco then 24 hour ferry from Santander to Portsmouth....will post a write up with pics..... So looking forward to the gotthard tunnel and hearing her roar :-) the car that is lol
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looking forward to the gotthard tunnel and hearing her roar :-) the car that is lol
You will drowned out by German bikers on Harley's and truck tyre roar, sorry. But you will enjoy some of the smaller tunnels you are bound to come across, plus some of the narrow streets will produce a nice sound track.

Why use a tunnel anyway??

Congratulations on the wedding and good luck with the trip!
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