Much to my surprise and delight Verona airport is just over a two hour flight from Belfast. Our Lady captain managed to do it in two hour and 5 min. I won’t be cracking any jokes as my wife will be reading this!
After a very smooooth landing we collected our car… eventually. Now it’s been a few years since I last drove on the wrong side of the road, but it comes back to you pretty quick. Many people had warned me about driving in Italy, why are you hiring a car? Well, we had plans to go to Maranello (home of Ferrari), Venice and the Dolomites. All of which you can get to by coaches and bus, but I like to do things at my pace and stop where and when I decide!
After hitting the road those plans lasted about as long as snow in Florida. Apparently in Italy on a normal two-lane road you can use either side… or so some drivers / riders think. It wasn’t unusual on a blind corner to meet a motorbike overtaking on your side of the road, just nuts. I was just happy to reach Limone and our hotel in one piece to be honest.
As well as an area of outstanding natural beauty, Italy is known all over the world for its leather goods. On a boat trip, which is probably the best way to get around the lake (note to self, I will listen the next time I’m given advice about when to hire a car) we found what must be the handbag capital of the world, Malcesine. Seriously, in the old town every other shop is a handbag shop, the rest are made up of mainly coffee shops and ice cream emporiums. If you want a handbag can pay anything from £30 all the way up to, well… A kidney! We both left Malcesine happy that day, Julie got two handbags and I kept both kidneys.
The other thing Italy is famous for is its cuisine. It has been a few years since I was last in Italy, Venice to be exact. I don’t remember leaving there and raving about the food! However this time I am completely sold. Sitting in a little backstreet cafe, I ordered a bruschetta classica. Wow, how can something so simple taste so amazing? It was so good that I have even ventured into the kitchen to make it my life’s ambition to recreate! Those of you that know me, know that boiling water without burning it is a stretch.
We did venture into the mountains around Lake Garda on one occasion, on the way back we ran into stopped traffic. Like everyone else we decided to get out and have a look to see what was going on and there on a hairpin bend was helicopter. After further investigation we discovered that a motorcyclist had died after losing control on one of the hairpin bends.
The hotel that we were staying in was built into the side of the mountain and somewhere in behind there was the tunnel that traffic used to navigate around the lake. Every so often, when there was less traffic on roads you would hear what sounded like a very large fire breathing dragon being throttled. Turns out it wasn’t a dragon, it was the sound of someone ringing the neck of a Ferrari in the tunnels. Just the most incredible sound, at least to a petrol head like myself.
Risking life and limb seems to be a favourite pastime of Italians. Running while trailing a parachute behind you and throwing yourself off a perfectly good mountain seems to be run of the mill to some. While they seem to be launching themselves from anywhere there was an area with four or five paragliders with what looked to be their fan club and onlookers. Though I have to admit it does look to be a great way to get off the mountain if you are in a hurry. I wasn’t in any hurry, so using the cable car is quick and scary enough for me, thanks.
Almost as Scary as the drive back to the airport.