A very noisy but awesome weekend in Italy

After our few days in the beautiful Bellagio on our holiday last week, we packed our bags and headed south to Limbiate, a small town outside of Milan and close enough to Monza to get to the Autodromo Nazionale for the Italian Grand Prix.

I thought we might get away with doing a little less walking for the second half of our holiday but no – at least this time none of it was uphill though.  Our journey to the circuit every day involved a twenty minute drive to the station at Dessio, a few stops on the train to Monza and then a lovely forty-five minute walk through the beautiful old town and then through the Monza Park.  It meant that we didn’t have to battle with the thousands of other people crammed onto the buses to and from the circuit each day, and the park was pretty (plus lots of people walking their dogs so I got my daily fix of fluffy).

IMG_1137The Royal Villa of Monza park

On the Thursday of the race weekend we headed to the circuit and joined loads of other people in the pit lane where we got to watch some of the teams practising pit stops which was pretty cool, and then we walked around the pit straight and bumped into Jenson and Checo (McLaren) just before they jumped into a van to do the track guide for Sky and for the BBC. As the sun started to set, we wandered around to the old banking which used to be part of the track until 1969.  It’s so steep it’s insane – we climbed up it but to get down again we had to shuffle on our bottoms!

IMG_1134After free practise on the Friday, we had a Paddock tour organised thanks to a contact of Simon’s at the Caterham team and the lovely Cyril who let us hang around a little longer than we should have done!  We managed to have a chat and some photos with Simon Lazenby and Ted Kravitz from Sky F1, Eddie Jordan and several of the drivers, which was awesome.  Cyril also showed us around the Caterham garage so we saw the cars being taken apart for the night as well, and then a quick drink in the Caterham motorhome.  It was a brilliant experience and made the whole weekend perfect – hot sunshine, fast cars and a few celebs, fantastic!  The race itself wasn’t one of the most exciting of the season but just being there is exciting enough, and the track invasion as soon as the chequered flag was waved at the end of the race was also totally insane – thousands of fans (many Ferrari, of course) climbing over the fences and running down towards the podium to see the drivers and their trophies, and enormous confetti cannons going off, covering us with red, white and green confetti and streamers.  We got squashed but caught up in the euphoria – there really is nothing like it.  Just being there for the long weekend is brilliant and if I could, I’d be off to a race once a month at least.

We were totally knackered by the end of it all, and were up and out of our apartment at 6.30 on the Monday morning for our long drive back up to Paris where we stopped for 24 hours before heading home to Blighty – ciao Italia!

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Top left: Mark, me, Simon Lazenby and hubby Simon Top right: Simon being “interviewed” by Ted Kravitz  Bottom left: with Eddie Jordan  Bottom right: Simon and me in front of McLaren’s motorhome with their ’50 Years’ livery

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Bottom left: with Roman Grosjean, Lotus  Right: with Jacques Villeneuve

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Left: Hubby with Pastor Maldonado (Wiliams)  Top right:  with Max Chilton, Marussia  Bottom right:  with the legendary Nikki Lauda

IMG_1161Two Eddie Jordans…

 

In which we went up (quite a lot) and a three hour walk turned into a nine hour walk

Yesterday was our second day in Italy and we decided to take a walk up one of the mountains here in Belagio.  We were pretty well organised and had a shed load of water with us, a packed lunch and we’d covered ourselves in sunscreen.  The scenery here is beautiful and we chose a three-hour mapped walk up through the forest to the top of one of the mountains.  The ‘up’ started like this:

IMG_1017And there was plenty more of it – it was a beautiful walk (hard work, especially when you’re a little unfit like I am) but after about an hour we were halfway and reached a great panorama where we stopped to take pictures (and get our breath back), then continued on for another couple of hours.  The Italian path markers are a little scatty and the timings are  not quite as accurate as they might be, and so it took us longer than expected to reach the top but when we finally go there, the view was worth it:

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Our original plan was to take a bus back down into Belagio but the bus stop wasn’t immediately obvious and we were feeling brave so we decided to follow the path signs (“2 hours 10” – this turned out not to be entirely true) but we lost the path, marked by red and white slashes of paint on trees and rocks along the way, so we went on a detour through the forest until we found the path again.  Along the way we stumbled through a farm which was part of the pathway and made friends with some horses.

Once we found the correct path again, we found another beautiful vista at about 900m above sea-level, then worked our way back down through the forest.  The first part was so steep (and close to the sheer drop) that I climbed down almost on my hands and knees.  We descended 600m in about an hour so that gives you an idea of how steep the path through the forest was, but it was brilliant!  It got a little bit hairy when the sun started to set and we were still amongst the trees, but we made it out while the sky was still pink and with aching knees, ankles and hips (we’re not twenty-one any more…) we headed back to the apartment, showered and strolled – quite slowly and gingerly – to the local ristorante for a delicious meal and an Italian beer.  We tried out our Italian (“grazie mille”) and discovered that the owner of the restaurant had lived in Southend for twenty-one years so his English was perfect but he helped us with our Italian pronunciation before we said our buona nottes and strolled (less gingerly this time for the beer had worked some magic) up the hill to our apartment and into bed.

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