Target – The Mille Miglia start

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    We are off

    This is day one of a twenty day road trip around Europe in our Healy Enigma. The focus of the trip is the start of the Mille Miglia in Brescia but we are taking our time getting there and then doing a leisurely loop round Italy before heading back.

    After easily packing nearly three weeks clothes into the large Enigma boot,

    we set off for Hull and the ferry that will take us to Zeebrugger in Belgium, the first of eight countries we will be passing through.

    A very pleasant afternoon in the Streetlife museum in Hull followed by a coffee in the sun at the Marina and then it was off to the dock.

    Once on board, a glass of prosecco to celebrate Karen’s birthday and a meal in the restaurant rounded off a very pleasant day.


    Day two

    It was good news/bad news overnight. The North Sea was like a mill pond with barely a ripple making for a very comfortable crossing, on the other hand, a fault with a gearbox on the ship reduced the speed and we were 5 hours late arriving at Zeebrugger.

    With the temperature just over 20 degrees C, it was top down and Autoroute right across Belgium to the Ardenne where we met up with our friends Dave and Rita Barratt at our hotel in the lovely little village of Chassepiere.

    The Barratts will be accompanying us for the rest of the trip in their Alfa Romeo Spyder.

    The social side of Enigma ownership came to the fore before we had even left the ship, a fellow passenger came over to admire the car and ask what it was and the ensuing conversation revealed that he had worked for 15 years about 10 miles from us. This followed by a “Nice car” from the man in passport control started the journey off on a good note.


    Day Three

    Despite threatening skies, the roof came down before we set off and it proved to be a good decision, the sun came out and with fresh air and beautiful scenery, there is little to better top down motoring.

    Having been asked to ignore motorways, Jason – the sat nav – chose a superb route that took us across the Belgium/France border and down through the Alsace and Jura regions of France to our destination for the night in the little village of Rodern.

    The road varied with the scenery from undulating curves through forests to the wide sweeping bends over the flat areas near Verdun and then into the switchback over the Col du Donon and all of this was an absolute pleasure with the Enigma taking all in its stride.

    Lunch at a roadside restaurant had the added entertainment factor of a convoy of very large trucks transporting a huge wind turbine mast in several sections, the vehicles were so large that street signs had to be removed for them to get past.



    Day Four

    Our hotel in Rodern, Peche de Vigne, was a real surprise, from the outside it just looked like a wall with a big doo in it, on the other side of the door however the rooms were arranged around a courtyard, very picturesque, and comfortable.

    Sticking to our policy of avoiding motorways, we headed east and after a diversion to Colmar, we crossed the Rhine into Germany near Freiburg and headed up into the hills on the edge of the Black Forest. Being in the Black Forest, we had to have some Black Forest Gateau but it didn’t quite work out as we expected and we ended up with Black Forrest ice cream.

    Being a Saturday, there was a lot more traffic around, including a number of enthusiasts clubs out for a run, which slowed things down a bit, but the scenery was fantastic.

    We crossed the German/ Swiss border near Lake Constance and carried on to our hotel near the lake at Arbon.


    Day Five

    Any thoughts of a Sunday lie in were dashed by the incredibly loud bells from the church behind the hotel, so we pointed the cars east and headed off. We hadn’t gone far when the road was closed for a marching band leading a procession to church.

    Rather than head directly east into Austria, we dropped down so that we could pass through Liechtenstein, as we had also bought a pass that allowed us to use the Swiss motorways, we thought we might as well get some of our monies worth and took the A13 for a bit.

    Liechtenstein was a pleasure, very clean and tidy, although for some reason Jason (the sat nav) threw his toys out of the pram and wouldn’t find us a route through there, he was OK again when we reached Austria.

    One of the problems with this trip so far is that you run out of superlatives, as we headed east into the Austrian Tyrol, to well above the snow line, the scenery just got more and more dramatic with the snow covered peaks towering above us on either side.

    We reached our alpine chalet style hotel in Nauders just before the rain, so in five days we have had the top up for just one hour in the central Black Forest area – proper motoring.


    Day Six

    We left the alpine town of Nauders and headed south, our route took us through one of the highlights of the trip, the Stelvio Pass, however on the approach road we came across a sign saying that the pass was closed – big disappointment.

    This meant quite a long re-route to the west in the direction of St Moritz and then over the Bernier Pass, this was stunning and well worth the diversion, the snow was piled up along the side of the road about 6 feet deep.

    Whilst up there we came across a helicopter with large bucket on the end of a wire rope, it was relaying concrete from a truck by the road to a location well up the mountain.

    The decent towards Brescia involved numerous hairpins and switchbacks and the extra width and length of the Enigma made it a joy to drive through the endless curves. Lower down we travelled through mile after mile of tunnels and the ventilation left a lot to be desired.

    After a very long day we reached the lovely town of Sirmione, occupying a peninsula stretching into the waters of Lake Garda, our hotel was on the small island at the far end which meant we had to drive over the drawbridge of the old castle and through the narrow medieval streets.


    Day Seven

    Today was a rest day, no motoring at all. The town of Sirmione is really something special, the sun is shining and the lake is a beautiful blue colour. We spent the day being tourists,  visiting the amazing Roman villa and trying the gelato in the old town.

    The Mille Miglia has a time check here on Thursday and the town is getting very excited with event flags and posters in all the restaurants and shops.


    Day Eight

    You could not visit the centre of Brescia and fail to notice that the Mille Miglia was in town, as well as posters, banners and flags in abundance, the main square was cordoned off with a village of corporate tents and media cameras everywhere. And then there are the cars, priceless examples from the 1920s onwards, O.M. (The car that won the original 1927 event), Bugattis, Alfa Romeos, Astons, Mercedes, Lagondas and many more.

    We found a table at a café in one of the squares and watched as the cars queued up and proceeded on to the Sealing ceremony, it was like a moving classic car show where the fantastic cars came to you. After sealing, the cars were parked all over the city centre, in squares and side streets, all quite amazing.

    We got to Brescia by driving to a town on the end of their Metro system, a very modern multi-story car park looked after the Enigma and we were whisked straight into the centre of the city by a driverless train, very clean and efficient.


    Day Nine

    There was no need to return to Brescia on the day of the race as the cars came to Sirmione, a passage check set up in the square just outside the old gates soon attracted a crowd and a party atmosphere. Before the actual competitors came through, there was a companion event for modern sports cars, I hadn’t realised there were so many Mercedes SLS supercars made but car after car streamed into the passage check and then roared off along the side of the lake, then there were even more Ferraris from a Dino to an F40 and everything in between. Interspersed between these cars were police motor cycles obviously enjoying the event as well.

    Then the competitors of the main event came through and the party atmosphere stepped up a gear, with the crowd cheering as a particularly nice car or a celebrity stopped to get their route card stamped.

    Roses were handed out to the lady competitors although some of the cars made the Frogeye look big so there wasn’t much space to store them.

    As with the modern sports cars, the police were heavily involved with motor cycles and Alfa Romeo Giulias with very happy occupants mixed in with the competitors.

    The day was rounded off with a magnificent firework display on the lake, as with Brescia, you could not have visited Sirmione without realising that the Mille Miglia was in town.


    Day Ten

    A relaxing day today, we took a pleasant drive through the countryside on the eastern shores of Lake Garda and stopped for lunch at a biker’s café, as well as a lovely original C Type Jag, there were Gunfighter Motorcycle club members from 3 countries having lunch with their Harleys parked in a line.

    Sensing that the weather was about to change, we put the hoods up, which is just as well as a flash of lightening and clap of thunder heralded a massive thunderstorm that turned the roads into rivers. In the middle of this, the Enigma decided we would rather have the windows down!

    • This reply was modified 5 years, 1 month ago by Mike.

    Day Eleven

    Time to leave Sirmione, we will be sorry to go, in particular the Hotel Olivi, it is definitely on the return list.

    The Mille Miglia competitors have been in Rome overnight and are heading back up country today, we are off to Modena where there will be a passage check this evening. In order to ensure a parking place at our hotel, we will use the Autostrada rather than the main roads and get there a bit quicker.

    We arrived in plenty of time to have a look round before heading off to the Enzo Ferrari museum; the passage check was on the road through the museum grounds, and the place was packed.

    After struggling to get sight of the modern Ferraris and Mercedes that were doing the tribute run, we moved to the road outside, there were still crowds of people lining the road but we found a suitable location.

    The marshals were trying to calm the drivers down, the crowd doing the opposite and there were quite a few demonstrations of the incredible acceleration and noise of these supercars.

    After the Ferrari museum, the cars looped around the city, so we re-located to a junction to watch the main competitors come through.

    This was an incredible sight with the O.M.s, Bugattis, Mercedes SSKs  and all the rest mixing it with the traffic, they came charging up the road and turned right at a junction and they were not hanging around, the Modenese traffic moving out of the way or stopping to let them through.

    Every so often a police motorcycle would come through and block the junction to allow the cars to crash the red lights.

    By the time the first 80 or so cars had come through it was quite dark and not all the cars had working lights but that didn’t seem to matter.


    Day Twelve

    We had a day on foot exploring Modena which is a beautiful and vibrant city with a history going back to the Etruscans and there is plenty to see and some very nice restaurants.


    Day Thirteen

    Heading south again, we passed the Masserati factory before taking the Autostrada A1 down to Passignano on Lake Trasimeno.

    The alternative route down the A1 would have taken us through Florence but would also have  taken over 6 hours. As it was the scenery through the mountains of Tuscanny did not  disappoint and the Umbrian countryside around the lake is beautiful. The temperature has gone up dramatically and if the journey had been any longer we would have had to raise the top to protect us from the sun.




    Day Fourteen

    A day for exploring, we drove around the back roads of Umbria and Tuscanny including the hill-top town of Montepulchiano, famous for its wines, and of course we could leave there without adding a couple of bottles to the boot.

    The countryside around here is rolling and every bend reveals another great view, for a place so hot, it is surprisingly green.


    Day Fifteen

    We left Lake Trasimeno via a small country road that snaked its way up the hill side, this proved to be the start of a section of road that wound its way up and down through the Umbrian countryside, absolutely superb, alternating between forest covered hills and green valleys with hardly any other cars.

    Then after about 20 miles along a very bumpy dual carriageway, we headed east again towards San Marino and the scenery (and roads) became even more dramatic. The old part of San Marino sits on top of Mount Titano, a huge lump of rock not far from Rimini on the Adriatic coast. Our hotel was inside the city walls and a pass was required before we could negotiate the tight roads through the pedestrian only area.

    The Hotel Rosa has its own covered parking area which kept the cars out of the baking sun – and the thunderstorm in the middle of the night.

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