Day 18: Italian Elegance
Today's route was from Pescara on the coast, up to Bologna, then inland towards Verona and ending up at the top end of Lake Garda in the Alps. And I have to flag up in advance, nothing went wrong and there were no Ladies of the Vines in sight, sorry, but there are lots of pretty pictures if that helps.
As it was going to be through some sections of rather spectacular Italian countryside I decided that today I would pull out all the stops in my sartorial elegance. Your average Italian chap thinks he knows a thing or two about seemingly effortless style but I did Britain proud today and left a wake behind me of awe-struck Italians, probably all thinking that if for just one day they could get to have half of the style which I demonstrated then they would die happy.
To get going I plumped for a 300-odd mile blast up the motorway to give me time to meander around a bit more in the foothills of the Alps and around Lake Garda, but even with that it was still a good nine hours of travel from B&B to hotel.
There was one small town which caught my eye when I saw I would be passing close by and a detour was therefore mandatory to visit, however briefly. OK, so not exactly 'close by', more like 'within an hour of', but that's close enough.
If you combined Jerusalem, Mecca, the Temple of Luxor, Vatican City and every Bhuddist and Hindu shrine and temple in the world into one structure, it still would be less of a holy site than the small town of Maranello near Modena is to many Italians. You could probably kidnap the Pope and burn down Vatican City and the Italians will only get mildly perturbed, but Maranello is Ferrari-town, the beating scarlet red heart of Italy and if you so much as scratch the road sign there would probably be a lynch mob formed in seconds. Ferrari is preposterous, it's stylish, it's noisy, it's madly expensive and how the company ever actually produces anything is anyone's guess, but it does, somehow. That's why Ferrari is Italy in a nutshell.
Maranello is not a big town and as you can see in the photo above, the sky was quite clear and blue. By the time I passed the main factory entrance less than five minutes later there was forked lightning flashing, it was hammering it down and had gone dark. I think old man Enzo was not happy about a Hyundai getting so close to Ferrari's home territory and was showing his displeasure.
I used to visit Maranello years ago for work and always found the main factory entrance to be very small and rather 60s looking, but it's such an icon in its own right that they'll never alter it. And there was no way I was winding the window down for that photo or I'd still be trying to dry the car out now. At one point heading away from the Fiorano racing track down the road a bow wave washed up and over the windscreen there was so much rain coming down.
One thing which has perplexed me since Coatia and made me a little uncomfortable each time I have to stop is the manned petrol station. At home you stop, fill your car, pay and go. But when there is a chap working there he comes over and both of you stand there while it fills, so you may as well have done it yourself. It's just not British and a rich environment for awkwardness. If you get there and the chap is busy with another car, do you wait, probably longer than if you'd just got on and filled it yourself? But if you do it yourself they look at you as though you are stealing food from their children's table. And what happens if three or more cars come in together but there are only one or two attendants - does the third wait, or just get on with it? This is so socially awkward for a Brit that I'm surprised the roads aren't littered with abandoned British cars as they were too scared of causing offence to someone by getting it wrong so decided to just walk the 700 miles home again.
From Maranello it's not far to the bottom end of Garda. I'm afraid I have something of an excess of photos from Lake Garda as it is so picturesque that I had to just keep stopping. I hope the quality of the drone shots is OK as I've had to reduce them in size a lot to upload them. As well as the lake itself a storm had just cleared to the south as I arrived and the skies were ridiculously colourful in its wake.
Garda straddles the boundary of the flat farmlands towards Verona and the huge mountains of the Alps. At the southern end the surrounding land is fairly flat but then it just gets bigger and bigger, until by Riva you have snow-capped mountains and cliffs just dropping into the water. It took over an hour and a half of driving to get from the bottom to the top, plus the stops.
And from above (any old excuse to get the drone out!):
The weather was great over the Lake but there were some storms in the distance which made for even more dramatic skies at times, with them changing from deep blue to quite angry and back again in minutes.
And especially for my parents who I know are reading this and who have a very soft spot for Lake Garda and the town of Riva Del Garda at the top of the lake, these two are looking straight at Riva at the top of the lake:
Drones do attract attention and everywhere you go people come for a chat - it's a very sociable passtime. These photos are from Rethymno a couple of days ago.
Although not everyone is impressed with the noisy buzzy things!
Next is Switzerland, Riva del Garda to Lucerne.