Wednesday, 9 September 2009
The 50% off Mille Miglia extravaganza (Part 1)
The problem with having a blog is the urge to blog about anything and everything. For example, I could be going by a shop when I see a fabulous piece of cake, and I’d want to blog about it. Nevermind if I actually ate it or not, I’d want to take a picture of it, post it up here and talk about it.
Like how I saw the guy selling the most ginormous watermelons I’d ever seen.
Which is why I have about a thousand pictures from Italy, and no clue what to do with them (as in do I blog about ALL of them, or not at all).
Last month, we decided to do a 50% Mille Miglia race (sort of) in Italy. I say sort of because:
a) We only did about 500 miles of the 1,000 mile long race (re: 50%)
b) We didn’t have a vintage car for the journey (actually, it started off looking brand new, and the condition of it 5 days later wasn’t that pleasing)
c) It wasn’t much of a race, as we had to focus on keeping to the right (wrong) side of the road, while going anti-clockwise on the roundabout, and adhering to all sorts of weird and wonderful speed limits (for example, 30km/h on a straight long road; 70km/h on a winding, steep angular road going up a mountain)
The actual Mille Miglia race involves vintage cars ‘racing’ (inverted commas as these are after all, vintage cars) along a 1,000 mile route starting off at Brescia, with Rome being almost the mid-point of the race, and back again to Brescia. As we don’t have the dough for a vintage car (you might have guessed by now, from all the complaints about expensive restaurants), and neither did we have the guts to do this left-hand drive thing for a full 1,000 miles, we decided to go half-way instead.
Better half-way than no-way, hey Jose (no reason, just rhymes).
Thus, the journey began with a Ryanair flight from London to Verona-Brescia airport, where we picked up our little white Fiat 500 which was to be our mode of transport for the next 5 days. From the conversations we heard from the people in front of us in the queue, it was almost nerve-wracking to see if they had our car or not.
‘What? You don’t have the 7-seater I booked weeks ago? I have to call England to get it sorted out? The other rental agencies don’t have it either?’
When the guy at the back of the counter handed over our keys, I nearly jumped over the glass / plastic divider to hug him. Nearly. It was a full divider, so that would have been impossible.
After getting to grips with the whole being on the wrong side of the road concept, we headed off (first gear) into the sunset. Aside from a slight panic at the roundabout (which way do we look, do we keep in the inside lane if we want to turn left, do I even want to turn left, what if I just stayed on going round the roundabout), it was all OK as we whizzed our way on to Desenzano del Garda.
This place looked like Monaco in a James Bond film (ie luxurious settings in a yacht-filled lake). With little more than excitement squealing out our mouths, we parked the Fiat in the nearest parking space and scrambled out of the car, eager to take pictures of our first ever, quaint, Italian sunset.
Until the taxi driver told us that the Polizia were just kinda in the parking lot next to ours, we couldn’t park there, and that we should probably move from the space, pronto.
Next destination – Verona.
Verona, as we know it, was the setting for the Baz Luhrmann film, Romeo and Juliet (or Giulietta as the Italians call her). As such, we had to go find the balcony which (at this point the facts get slightly fuzzy):
- she spoke to Romeo from (I thought she was fictional?)
- inspired William Shakespeare to write the play
- someone similar to Juliet spoke to someone similar to Romeo from (possible also)
Anyhow, off we went to find this balcony of inspiration, and when we got there, there were about a thousand other similar tourists looking for said balcony. It must have been some Verona tradition or something, but people who posed with Juliet’s statue tended to pose with one hand over her bust (I asked why too).
In case some of you are wondering where the food was, and was under the impression that this was somehow an actual road trip (and not merely a gastronomical excuse for an extravaganza), this is what we had for breakfast in Verona – lots and lots of ham (or what was left by the time we got to breakfast), with some jam and croissant (not very Italian, I know, but we’re not Italians, not in Rome, and so, won’t do as Romans do).
Question of the day – When the road in front of you is very narrow, and you have to choose between your left wing mirror or your right, which one do you choose?
Answer – With the Fiat 500, you don’t have to choose. Both mirrors fit through comfortably, with enough space for a tango sideways if needs be (note: I am not sponsored by Fiat; merely, bowled over by the impressive capabilities of the little vroomer).
Next destination – Chioggia, city of fishing boats and a boat-ride away from Venice (to be continued, like a Matrix film)