Autumnal Adventures Italiano 'alla Spider', 2003. Maggiore via Como and Garda: Exploring the Lakes
Recovery of the Alfa Spider from the Vicenza car pound took all Thursday morning, curtailing plans to visit other historic highlights of the city. Thus following friendly adieus to Capitano Sartori and Officer Riello, we drove out of the Polizia Municipale Vicenza and headed for Verona. There, having driven into the city centre as usual, and having been thwarted in our attempts to reach the amphitheatre by bus route exclusions and a maze of one way systems, we parked in front of the beautiful marble frontage of San Fermo, enjoyed a light lunch in the Bar S. Fermo and exited west to nearby Lake Garda.
As we approached the east coast of the lake we thought the name 'Gardaland' that greeted us regrettably redolent of Disneyland. But even that failed to detract from the wonderful scenery as we took the minor coast road up through the small town of Garda itself and northwards on to Torri-d Benaco, roughly half way up the lake. There, despite a total lack of timetable, our arrival at its cross-lake ferry was timed to perfection.
We approached the landing stage, drove directly on, the gates shut behind us and the ferry left. On this beautiful afternoon the car deck was only half full with eight or nine cars and in the passenger areas there was plenty of room to relax in the sunshine and admire the views - October in Italy has many attractions! The ferry makes land on Lake Garda's west coast at Toscolano-Maderno and there we found a hotel that suited us well, the Albergo Sole. This had good overlooked parking in the garden, where, in the morning, I was able for the first time since being reunited with the car, to give the Spider - with Dave's assistance - a much needed wash, removing the dust of some 1800 miles driving and a month's storage.
From the Albergo Sole on Friday morning we decided to take one of the more adventurous routes from Lake Garda, one that ascends the scenic 'white' road snaking steeply up from the lakeside village of Gargnano. Among the mountains we reached the two smaller lakes of Valvestino and Idrio from where we descended to Brescia and joined the autostrada to Milan. Here, as always, the great city's encircling autostradas seemed as busy as the M25 - although in Italy you pay for the privilege of experiencing gridlock!
After the autostrada toll booths we took the Cormano exit and, as arranged, met up with Max (Massimiliano Brener), a Duetto Club friend from previous Club meetings. Sadly, after all our Alpine explorations, time was too tight for visiting the Alfa Museum at Aresa that afternoon, as had been hoped, so we headed off in convoy with Max's Series 4 Spider up the A1 to Lake Como.
In Cernobbio, a beautiful lakeside village lying a little north of the town of Como, we booked in for the first of two comfortable nights in the Albergo Centrale and Max hosted the evening's drinks and food. During the evening stroll we found on the edge of Cernobbio, the 'Villa d'Este' hotel - the luxurious lake-side venue of many internationally renowned historic car gatherings and the name of which links, of course, to Alfa Romeo and to Ferrara's great castle.
Next day Max had business at his Milanese factory and Dave drove us in my 1750 Spider through the Autumnal sunshine up the lakeside road to Menaggio and back, enjoying roads that were quiet enough for comfortable appreciation of the magnificent scenery.
That evening another Duetto Club member arrived from Florence in his Series 3 Spider, also booked into the Albergo Centrale, and so we comprised a group of four for Saturday evening's festivities of drinks and dinner.