The journey from Abingdon to Modena had been largely without incident, the exception being our excursion through Piacenza. This classic Italian town is approximately 20 miles from Modena and we were travelling on highway SS9. According to the map this goes directly through the middle of town, but the problem with maps is that they don’t get updated with road re-routing, one way systems or, in this case, pedestrianisation (not sure there is strictly such a word).
Anyway, we entered Piacenza and found the usual glut of churches, cathedrals, narrow cobbled streets, etc. Then, as we approached the bustling centre of town we were faced with obstacles blocking the road and a sign that clearly (even with my poor Italian) was informing us that traffic was not allowed between the hours of 8:00 and 18:00, except for buses. In fact buses would not make it through the majority of streets because of their size. I looked around and decided I could probably find a diversion around the area and pick up our route again on the other side. After effectively three right turns we returned to the same spot although approaching from a slightly different direction.
I sat and pondered for a few moments and was just about to return back along our original route, hoping to find an official diversion, when a BMW 4×4 passed us and squeezed ever so carefully between two of the barriers. I did the obvious and thrust Bridget into first gear, and with my co-driver screaming “Noooooo”, followed the Beema. Mentally I was thinking if we get stopped just say “I was following him”, then pretend not to understand anything.
With Chris, somewhat alarmed, but hanging onto my shirt-tails, or rather Bridget’s tailpipe, we followed the Beema for about 40 metres before he pulled into a private underground garage! Undeterred, and refusing to skulk off back the way we had come, I gave an astonished pedestrian a wave and continued down the narrowing street. We turned left and right through streets only just wider than Bridget and on more than one occasion had to take several attempts to turn into a new ‘corsa’ (my Italian is improving).
We didn’t exactly scatter the Saturday shoppers, but many were certainly bemused, and some were delighted with the spectacle of two MG Midgets picking their way through their pedestrian precinct. I kept generally heading east, which was where I reckoned we would eventually pick up the SS9 again, having to divert around the main cathedral square which was completely blocked off. Finally with the drum and chant of “Boom, boom, boom – boom- boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, — ENGLAND” ringing in my ears we exited into the sunlit balustrades beside the SS9, our ‘Italian job completed.
We stopped a little way up the road and a somewhat grey looking Chris alighted from his car, Dorothy, and said, “Never mind the bloody doors, I don’t think we were meant to do that”.
We had Sunday free and decided to do some minor maintenance to the cars. The thermostat for Bridget’s Kenlow fan wasn’t functioning and I wanted to adjust her rear brakes that should have bedded in by now. Dorothy just needed her fluid levels checked and was running rather rich. Chris wasn’t sure whether to adjust the carburettors or not, as there is always the danger of upsetting the balance. Generally both cars are running well.
Monday morning we made our way to Marenello to find the Ferrari Museum and factory. Regular followers will know I am a philistine in matters pertaining to cars and although I love some of the cars produced by Ferrari I have no idea of the various models or much of the Ferrari racing history. However I can inform others like myself that Ferrari has won 31 Formula 1 titles, 16 Constructor wins and 15 Driver Champions. Ferrari’s cars original colour was not red, but yellow, the colour representing the province of Modena where Enrico Ferrari was born. However in the early Formula 1 racing all Italian cars had to be red until in the late fifties the rules changed and all the Italian teams changed their racing colour except Ferrari. For the Ferrari fans there is a collection of photos in the gallery and some special ones in Benji’s Odyssey.
Tuesday the 20th September saw us back on the road heading down to Ancona. The drive of 150 miles took just two and a half hours. Arriving, under cloudy skies, at 13:30 we were in plenty of time to say ‘arrivederci’ to Italy and sail aboard the Anek Lines ferry for Greece.
Following a pleasant overnight voyage to Igoumenitsa we drove the best part of 300 miles across the north of Greece to Kavala. This brought us back onto the original timescales having now made up two days. Although the cars behaved impeccably the weather was changeable, from sunny to torrential rain, thunder and lighting, and even fog. Dorothy misfired a little at one stage, but we think it was probably water getting into the electrics.
Another day of good progress followed, with us arriving in Istanbul a full day ahead of schedule. The border crossing into Turkey went well, around 40 minutes, and the road, although not in such good condition as the Greek/EU highway we had been on, was still in reasonable condition and light in traffic.
Locating accommodation, however, was a nightmare. Every hotel was full and on enquiring what was going on we were told it is like this all the time in the city. We ended up taking a suite in the Best Western (seperate beds for those wishing to start rumours), which was very nice but a tad expensive.
This actually marks the end of the European leg of the adventure.