THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
Dijon to Alessandria
A pedestrian day in Florence


I took the coastal option to drive to Florence this morning. It was a little disappointing. It's not that the scenery was not pleasant, but rather that from the autostrada it was mostly obscured by the brutalist transport infrastructure oddly favoured by one of the world's most stylish nations; home to many of the best designers. I guess I needed to get off the motorway but I was mainly concerned to make progress  

I theorised that perhaps Italy's bridges and tunnels are like the plain friends ladies take to clubs to set off their own beauty. Maybe they are there to make Italian cars look even prettier? Speranza certainly looked very shapely against a background of girders, bent into ugly shapes.

Or perhaps it's because, as I had noticed following a sexy new Alfa Romeo through the tunnels beneath Genoa, Italian driving tends more to flair than accuracy? As he lane-danced through curvy tunnels in city traffic the Alfa man made my lane discipline seem drably Teutonic. I couldn't work out if he was trying to follow the racing line or if there was too much play in the little Alfa's steering. While I couldn't conceive a manoeuvre rash enough to get me over the enormous view-obscuring side barriers on the many bridges, he might just come up with one I suppose, given space and a good run up!

I glimpsed the Med at times in the distance but mostly we traversed steep forested valleys at altitude on bridges not designed by Pininfarina or Prada, connecting to tunnels of no Hobbitish charm. The valleys looked pretty as did the occasional houses. As we came closer to Florence there were also hilltop settlements in typical Tuscan style. They had the advantage of being above the eyeline of the Le Corbusier-tribute infrastructure where they could be enjoyed. I hope Italy's engineers have at least made their bridges look good from a distance as they must constitute much of the view from those quaint hilltop homes. 

I don't lose my temper under stress any more since Mrs P. died. Mere traffic jams don't seem worthy of remark since I faced a real problem. Florence almost revived the old, angry me however. There seem to be lots of road works and closures and my idiot SatNav/GPS kept trying to take me back to the blocked routes.

Eventually I stopped on the right street for my hotel and called for further directions as my way seemed blocked by those up and down bollards that reserve streets for public transport. Fortunately the hotel was able to tell me that I was on the right side of the bollards. In fact my hotel was just 100 metres behind me. Had I turned right not left when reaching the street I would have been right there. 

Here's a picture of Speranza on just the kind of street Pininfarina probably imagined when he designed her. Armani, Prada, Versace all have their shops here so she and her relatively humble Ferragamo leather trim fit right in. 

I refrained from looking out of the window of my comfortable room as I heard the voiturier/valletto start her up. Memories of Ferris Bueller always return at such moments. By now she's safely stowed for the three nights I am here. She'll be retrieved when we head out into the Tuscan countryside on Monday. 


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I agree. I just wish my Teutonic lane discipline was rewarded with German speed limits. You can't see it in the cut off version in the blog banner, but in the original of that photograph I bear the shield of the Teutonic Knights!


No apologies necessary. I had a great day and will take the other route back, stopping off at the Museo Enzo Ferrari.

Schrodingers's Dog


Your description of the flair of Italian drivers gave me a chuckle.

I was in Philadelphia when we corresponded briefly, during your American road trip, but now live in Miami. It's a very cosmopolitan city, and people joke that the drivers bring the driving styles of wherever it is they come from. Actually, I think there's something to it. Despite living here a while, I still drive British style: both hands on the wheel, in the quarter-to-three position. And I'm pretty sure I'm the only person in town who indicates before manoeuvring.

And just what's wrong with Teutonic lane discipline? It enables them to achieve the wonderful combination of very high speeds and high levels of safety.


Oh dear, a case where brevity was not best suited. My vantage point in a tour bus would have been several feet above your driving position, and we did indeed use the coast road for a good portion of the drive into Portofino. Humble apologies.

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