THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
The romance of the Alps
In Champagne

There was nothing sinister about my radio silence

The trip is going rather well so far. I have not posted only because the wifi in our "villa" (a small word for a rather splendid 13th Century fortified house) was as medieval as the building. I don't want to quibble though. The house was wonderful and my friends and I enjoyed our time there.

I had a splendid run from the French Departement of Jura, where last I filed a report. Lots of "tunnelling" a la Top Gear and beautiful mountain scenery including a long approach to Mont Blanc. I enjoyed almost every minute of my nine hours of driving that day. Speranza was on such top form that it was easy to think she knew she was heading to her birthplace.

I entered Italy via the Mont Blanc tunnel, something of an experience in itself. It's not big, it's not modern (attempts to upgrade it having been blocked by local nimbyism) and it's a simple two way road. They despatch you at intervals as if on a time trial and you are supposed to maintain a set distance apart. Only I seemed to worry about that. It was the first time I had to stop to pay a toll on this trip. I acquired a French "telepeage" device last year but once in Italy, it was back to having to stop, hop out of the car and run around to pick up my ticket or pay the toll. Most people I delayed were gracious about it; acknowledging my pantomimed apology with a smile and wave. Many gave Speranza a thumbs up in the process.

Driving her in Italy for the first time has been a special experience. Italians are proud of their automotive heritage and seem impressed that anyone would drive a Ferrari so far. I have had the usual experiences with boy racers showing off for their girlfriends, but I have also had people wave me in at junctions and even on roundabouts; giving an automotive aristocrat unasked-for priority. This year's Italians almost matched the enthusiasm of last year's black Americans for my bad ass bella macchina.

I loved listening to the Italians at the cookery school talking about their car histories. The owner had bent his Dad's Ferrari as a young man and was able to tell me all about the little-known sporting marque of Bizzarini from Livorno. One of the chef-tutors drove an old Alfa-Romeo, but he was more interested in displaying his professional skills and his charm with the ladies. Both were impressive and less spontaneous than they appeared; a lot of practice clearly having been involved.

The cookery classes were more fun on Sunday morning than Saturday afternoon. I was less tired and the heat in the kitchen was not so severe. Sunday's tutor, Chef Luciano, clearly enjoyed teaching and was remarkably funny in English; a language of which he had the very slightest grasp. We laughed all day, which was great. I particularly enjoyed the stereotypical inversion of watching an Italian chef bellowing at a German student about the importance of being well-organised!

Today I drove a mere five hours and twenty minutes from Lastra a Signa to Turin via Maranello. When I saw the signs for Modena on the autostrada it just seemed silly not to take Speranza to visit her birthplace. We drove past the works buildings (not open for tours on Mondays). They are very impressive in terms of scale, modernity and an impeccable standard of presentation. They look more like a showroom than a factory. I spent an hour or so in the Museo Ferrari which houses the company's own collection of historic models as well as F1 simulators and other attractions.

The Patek Phillipe Museum in Geneva refused to let me pay for entry because I was wearing my grande complication, but Speranza and I didn't get quite that welcome today. Ferrari still maintains the same attitude to owners as Enzo had. He saw the production of cars for sale as an irritating necessity to fund the racing team. He would not give the "show offs" and "men in their fifties" a moment of his time, even to pose for a photograph when they came to pick up their purchases. He only liked the "sportsmen" who bought his cars to race them. For the first time today I was made to feel like a tiny part of the Ferrari family when I was graciously granted an "owners' discount" of 20% in the museum shop.

The drive from Maranello to Turin came close to being boring because the traffic was dense and there were major roadworks. However I found my quaint family-run hotel in the historic centre quite easily and the owners rearranged their cars - as agreed in advance - to make space for Speranza. 

I took a photographic walk around the city - this being my first visit - and made an odd evening meal of artigianale ice cream, chocolate and beer before returning to my hotel room to write and publish this post.

The map showing my progress to date is here and my photos so far are here. Tomorrow it's back to France where I plan to overnight in Epernay, in the heart of champagne country, at one of my favourite hotels in the world.

 

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