Monthly Archives: May 2017

Italy, sorry to go, but we will be back.

That big yellow orb in the sky had decided to make itself seen for 5 days, so we decided that spell of inactivity was long overdue. With no ‘markers’ weekends blend into weekdays, but not knowing your week-days from weekends can catch you out here in Italy. Sundays are for resting or, weather permitting, strolling through the park with the family, Mondays are a carbon copy of Sundays. You struggle to find anywhere open between 1 and 3 pm during the week, but then most places (including banks, weirdly) are still open until 6pm. It’s a routine that’s difficult to get used to for a Brit. The only places that seem to escape this ‘must have a mid-day nap’ rule are major tourist attractions or large city’s, most of Naples, Rome and Florence remained open for business during the day, but once you venture out of the tourist infested zones, the lunchtime streets are mostly deserted other than folk in restaurants.

An archway to the walled city of Verona

Verona: Just east of Lake Garda and steeped in Roman history, more famous these days for Shakespeare’s setting of Romeo and Juliet. Unsure at first where the famous ‘Juliet’s balcony’ was, all we needed to do was follow one of the hordes of tourist tween-ages down the narrow Verona streets towards the world famous courtyard.

Bronze statue of Juliet and the world famous balcony

Locks with messages of love

I was pleasantly surprised by Verona, a pretty city centre, dotted with interesting ancient artefacts amongst a web of traffic-less, marble paved streets. It’s not just about Juliet’s balcony, but no.23 Via Cappello, the famous balcony and statue of Juliet is certainly a draw. Most of the time the little courtyard is heaving with tourists, all wearing earpieces following a guide wielding an umbrella complete with coloured flag, “and here we have…etc. etc……now follow me” the whole group exit on-mass, time for us to nip in and take some pictures.

Turin: Poor Turin, beautiful Turin, all us Brits know about Turin is ‘it’s where they made the 1969 film The Italian Job, “I only told you to blow the bloody doors orff!” How could we be so close and not visit? Yet again, Frankie was deployed and we were straight into the heart of Turin. First up, the weir on the river PO, officially known as ‘Diga Michelotti’ , those 3 Minis would have trouble getting over it today, there’s been loads of rain recently, but back in 1969 one of my favourite bits of the film and it looked only just possible then. After that, the Minis entered the tubes (which was shot in a new sewerage system in Coventry), rocking up and down the tubes, isn’t it amazing how all this was stitched together? If you ever watch it again, look out for the director, Peter Collinson he’s the one who closes the gate on the sewer once the Minis escaped.

Weir over the river PO, the 3 Minis came splashing across here. How?

Turin Piazza shopping walkways.

There were bits of the film shot in the UK and northern Italy too, all edited together seamlessly as if it were all shot in one place, amazing. Another bit of trivia- all of the original bought Minis (registration numbers HMP 729G (Red), GPF 146G (White) and LGW 809G (Blue) were destroyed during the sewer scenes, the replacements had to be bought and were not provided by BMC, ‘Mini’ at the time. think of how any Mini’s were sold on the strength of this film.

The shopping arcade where the Minis came down the stairs and squealed around on the tiled floor,

Next, just up the street a bit, the church steps of the ‘Chiesa della Gran Madre di Dio’ where the Minis went flying down the steps during a wedding. How on earth they didn’t roll over is a mystery to me, there are now metal railings at the bottom, not sure there were there back then.

The steps where the Minis interrupted the wedding photos.

All three of them came zipping down those stairs in the corner of the shopping centre, tyres squeeling and out onto the archway covered shopping areas of Turin, this area’s called the ‘Piazza Castello’, a huge Piazza square, in the square the grand building of ‘Palzzo Madama’ with delightful steps and also another part of the famous set.

Elegant steps of the Palzzo Madama

Some way away, the Lingotto building (or the old Fiat factory) complete with spiral ramp and test track on the roof, now developed into a huge shopping centre. Mostly occupied by Media World, the old Fiat factory has long since produced it’s last car, but this famous test track is still on the roof, now completely out of view & reach to us mere tourists. We walked up and down this shopping centre several times trying to get to the roof, but it was just impossible, we had to settle with a view from the ground, but wouldn’t this make a great tourist attraction?

The banked track on the roof of the old Fiat factory

The spiral roof access.

Arivederrci: So that’s it. Italy is done. Bonjour-no…prego & now… arivederrci. From boot-heel to the  Alps. We’ve again travelled a country’s entire length. In the south it’s hilly, it’s feisty and they drive like mad-men possessed (or women), where patience is a rare virtue. In the middle, Florence, no words I have can describe it’s natural beauty. Many renaissance artists have attempted to capture it, with all due respect to the artists, I’m not sure you ever could. You can look at fine art all day long, but It’s another one of those places you need to ‘be’ to appreciate it, in my humble view. The north, back to hills and long lazy days by the lakes. We avoided big hitters like Milan, choosing instead to zoom around the lakes of the north on a moped of 90cc, imported all the way from Japan, 60 miles on 1 tank of fuel, 90kg wet through, its got to be worth its weight in gold. Well done Frankie, we don’t know how we would have managed without you.

Time to exit Italy, but which way to go? Which mountain, which tunnel?

At this point I will own up to asking for help. The route down to Greece, through Croatia, Montenegro and Albania couldn’t have been clearer, the route was logical, a straight line, regardless of matters of insurance, green cards, or politics, influences of Brexit, or conflict, it was simply the most logical rout to take, and I wouldn’t change it. Montenegro and Albania have some breath-taking roads, lovely people and we are so glad we travelled that way. If you ever get the opportunity to drive through the bottom of Croatia into Montenegro, then into Albania…all I can say is….do it! Just do it.

Back to the point where I was needing advice, I rattled off an email to Catherine and Chris of Lobster fame, surely they would know the best route home? Of course they do.

…next France.

Verona, Sosta. n45.3335 e10.97875 €10 for 24 hours, all services. FON wiFi.
Cheri, sosta FREE. n45.01513 e7.83305 Quiet. All services.
Cheri large car park FREE. Bit too noisy in the last car park so moved to this one. n45.01440 e7.83650.

Bonus pic. In Turin the whole menu cooked up and presented in the window. Not sure if this was display only or they were going to warm this up for you.