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.
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.