The Italian Lakes - Garda and Como
The day after our factory tour, we were up and out early enough to head to the factory gates to get a photo (as seen on the previous page), then a quick stop at the Ferrari store so that Sarah could buy another bag and the world's largest mug. Once we'd made enough room in the car to house the new goodies, we set off north towards Modena and the Enzo Museum. We managed to get lost heading into Modena, but managed to entertain ourselves by taking selfies using shop window reflections whilst sitting at traffic lights.
After an hour or two at the museum, we kept getting lost on the way out of town and it began to seem like Modena was trying to hold onto the Modena we'd arrived in. After three attempts however, we managed to escape and started to make our way north towards Verona and Lake Garda. We'd intended to pass through the attractive city of Mantua on the way, but our plans were sidelined a little when we had to pull over to let an almighty storm pass. I didn't realise Italy has its own tornado alley but this thing was mad, with trees bent over, swirling winds and flying debris. Our main concern was having the car damaged by airborne missiles, but thankfully that didn't happen. The storm passed and we gingerly carried on with our journey, picking our way along roads strewn with bits of tree and broken branches.
As we covered more mileage, we found that the car has the ability to stop people in their tracks and you soon realise that driving a Ferrari in Italy is a very special experience indeed. In one town we worked our way through narrow streets, only to round a corner and find a guy stood at the side of the road, arm already raised giving the thumbs up. He either knows his engines very well or we were making more noise than we thought. It's hard not to notice people stopping and having a look as you pass and in particular, what surprised me was the number of elderly Italians who'd stop and watch until you were out of sight.
We were staying in Sirmione, the peninsula that pokes out into Lake Garda from its southern shores and with booking our hotel for two nights, it'd give us a full day to explore the immediate area, with its castle and Roman ruins. Unfortunatley, it seems that half of Italy had the same idea that day and on our walk up the peninsula, I haven't seen so many people moving in the same direction since the last time we went to see the English rugby team play at Twickenham. So many in fact, that they eventually had to close the entire road, such was the weight of traffic, both on foot and motorised. Fair enough though, it was a beautiful day on the weekend and the latter end of the Italian holiday season. I'm just very glad we weren't in the car and that we hadn't booked a hotel further up the peninsula amongst the madness. After a good look around we headed back towards our hotel, where nearby we'd pre-identified a bar at which to watch the Italian Grand Prix whilst enjoying a beer and an ice cream in the sunshine, a real bonus following the previous stormy evening.
We found a gorgeous restaurant in the evening: the Villa Pioppi. It's a lovely old building on the lake shore and looks to be a great accommodation choice, perhaps one for next time…
Leaving Lake Garda behind, we headed west, by-passing Brescia and Bergamo and heading towards the south-west tip of Lake Como, and in Lecco we met Ferrari's no.1 fan.
We were stopped at the side of the road checking the map (now a pretty regular occurrence), when a car passed containing a shouting chap hanging out of the window. He stopped about a hundred metres or so up the road and sprinted back to us camera in hand, to offer his congratulations on our bringing a Ferrari to Italy. He was so made up, asking if he could take some photos and wanting to chat about the car and the UK. It's a shame that I only thought afterwards how nice it would've been if I'd offered him the chance to take my place for a few minutes and shoot a couple of photos of him in the car. No doubt it would've been his Facebook cover picture by the end of the day. In Lecco, we stopped at a crossing behind a cyclist intent on gesturing his admiration for the 360 and again, we saw true Italian passion for one of their greatest exports.
We'd considered staying in Bellagio until Google Street view man persuaded us to avoid the narrow roads to it, which seemed like a good call, so we travelled the full length of the eastern shore and made our way down the other side again to our two night stop in Menaggio. In driving terms, the eastern bank was much more enjoyable with fewer towns, less traffic and beautiful views and if you were to drive one side only, I'd recommend it. Just be careful not to end up on the main road (the SS36), which has much of its length tunnelling through the hillsides - you wont see very much.
Once in Menaggio, we found our hotel and managed to scrape the other side of our front bumper, very lightly and way underneath, but at least we were now symmetrical. It was worth it for the hotel though – The Hotel Royal. With views to die for and easy ferry links around the lake, we spent our spare day visiting Como and Bellagio, before aiming the car towards Lugano and the Swiss Alps the next day. Worth noting: we found Italy to be more of a cash culture than the UK and other parts of Europe so it's worth ensuring cards are accepted before ordering your dinner, especially in smaller establishments.