Sorry for the extended delay with this blog and for the following announcement. Regrettably, we have had to return to the UK and cancel the remainder of the trip for technical reasons. I realised on the day that we left Sicily that we would have to return home, but delayed informing Caroline for a few days so as not to spoil her enjoyment of the remainder of Italy.
Although the first few days of the return journey was uneventful I have to mention another road-trip car that was on the ferry from Messina to Villa San Giavanni. It was a 1970 Mercedes W113 convertible, pictured above, more comfortable than Bridget and probably more reliable (sorry Bridget). I spoke with the owner from Germany and it was his first road-trip in the car.
We made our way from Sicily to Crotone on the ‘ball of Italy’s foot’ and then drove north to Bari. From Bari we took the east coast road to Pescara, a seaside resort about halfway up the calf of Italy. Leaving the coast we ventured inland and north-west to Assisi, near Perugia.
Assisi is a picturesque, hill town in the Umbria region. It was the birthplace of St. Francis (1181–1226), founder of the Franciscan order. I remember even my limited religious education included pictures of St Francis with animals and birds and according to the Roman Catholic faith he was the patron saint of ecologists and merchants. From the apex of the hill overlooking Assisi is Rocca Maggiore, a dramatic medieval fortress.
Leaving Assisi and driving 250 miles north, we made our way to Verona. I had already checked on the internet which operas were being performed over the weekend at the Verona Arena. Contrary to popular myth, I do enjoy a little culture and the Verona Arena is a favourite venue. Friday evening and I treated Caroline to her first professional opera. It was Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida, set in ancient Egypt. As if it was not dramatic enough, performed in a Roman amphitheatre, we were to be treated to a summer thunderstorm with lightning flashing across the dark sky and adding to the arenas fantastic lighting display. Fortunately, the rain held off until about half an hour after the final act.
The arena is not the only place of interest in Verona and one of the main tourist attractions is Juliet’s Balcony. Billed as the setting for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, the tourist queues are unbelievable (as is the story behind Juliet’s House).
Before leaving Verona I broke the news to Caroline that we were having to return to the UK. She was understandably disappointed, but understood why it was necessary. We decided to spend a couple of days in the Italian lakes area and set off for Lake Como.
Basing ourselves in Garlate, on the banks of Lago di Garlate, south of Lake Como, we drove around the lakes visiting Bellagio, Bellano, Menaggio, Sorico and the city of Como. I never tire of this area of Italy and stayed in Menaggio only last year, however it is now becoming saturated by tourism, a problem in an increasing number of Italian locations. The UN culture agency has just declared that Venice should be added to the World Heritage list of endangered locations because of the irreversible damage caused by overwhelming tourism. I can’t help feeling that all non road-trip tourism should be banned!
From Como we drove across Switzerland, a dramatic drive through some amazing scenery and through the Gotthard Road Tunnel, the fifth longest road tunnel in the world at 10.5miles. We eventually stopped for the night at Mulhouse, France.
From Mulhouse, famed for its Cité de l’Automobile collection of classic cars dating back to 1878, we drove 230 miles to Esch-sur-Sure in Luxembourg. We now have a number of issues with Bridget that I would normally investigate with the assistance of a local garage, if necessary. However, even if I analysed the cause of the various issues Bridget doesn’t have the usual stock of spare parts. To accommodate Caroline’s luggage, which was minimal, in addition to mine, there was no room for any spares. We would have to press on and hope for the best.
We have decided to spend the last couple of days in Ypres, Belgium. I had an uncle that was in the Dorsetshire Regiment and was seriously wounded and gassed in WWI. I have done some research into his service and discovered he was awarded a Gallantry medal. He served with the Dorsetshires, either in the Somme or in Ypres, but I haven’t yet accessed all the necessary records to determine which. The Last Post ceremony was very moving and so necessary to ensure future generations remember.
Saturday 29th July we drove into Dunkerque and boarded the ferry to Dover. Back in the UK I dropped Caroline off at her home in Kent and drove the final 120 miles back to Chinnor. We have only been away just over five weeks and driven 5,000 miles. Bridget has acquitted herself with her usual aplomb, delivering us safely back home and will get a well deserved maintenance break. The trip will not go down as one of our longest or most dramatic, but it was still worthwhile and illuminating in that it broke the mould from being a solo effort.