To Garlenda, Le Mans, and back

I do not know where or how to start to tell you about yet another amazing trip. By car, by boat, by train, we went.

I can only pick out a few highlights.

We travelled from home to Paris taking the overnight ferry to Le Havre. Trying to keep us all together going around the Boulevard Periferique of Paris took some doing, but hey, we did it.

It was with some trepidation that we later left our little cars at Paris to be loaded on the Autotrain. Believe me it was like leaving our children with people that did not know them. With instructions on how to start the engines, we said farewell and went to another station to get the T.G.V. for the six and a half hour ride to Nice Ville Gare.

We stayed the night in Nice and with a free morning, we walked along the famous promenade in the hot 32-degree sunshine. We were more than a little relieved when we picked the cars up later that day and found they were all safe and sound.

We then drove to what was to be our destination, Villanova, for the next seven nights. We drove part motorway and part coast road seeing some magnificent scenery en route and arriving in time for cocktails (very civilized) and an evening meal at the very pretty campsite (in our case more Glamping than Camping)…

We spent the next few days discovering some pretty villages in the mountains and on the coast. Also ancient towns with their narrow streets and fortresses. In Garlenda, the home of Dante Giacosa, the designer of the original Fiat 500, we took advantage of an early look around the museum before the crowds descended on the village and were made most welcome by the staff and the people that run the Fiat 500 Club Italia.

Around 600 Fiat 500’s were expected at the weekend for the 33rd International Meeting.

Sally pic1

Our second group joined us on the Friday and we registered the cars for the weekend events. In The Park Villafranca where the event was taking place it was an amazing sight, seeing so many cars in one place. Also, there were stalls full of memorabilia, anything from car parts to pens and badges, suitcases to keyrings. There was a stage for entertainment, food stalls galore and even a merry go round for any one that had the stomach for it. There was a Pop Art Park leading into the village with numerous structures all made out of Fiat 500 parts, very ingenious.

The ride out on the Saturday has to be the highlight of the weekend. Six hundred Fiat 500’s touring together through the villages. There was a stop on the way for lunch in a village called Caprauna, the whole village was full of cars parked bumper to bumper. There must have been over one thousand of us who had a delicious three-course meal, can you imagine that, they were so well organised, I had to wonder where they got all the chairs from!!.

After lunch we went on to Vessalico where they were holding the 257th Garlic Festival, again, we filled the village with cars but everyone seemed pleased to see us.

On the Sunday we all met at the local airport where a photo shoot took place, a small plane took to the sky to take a photo of the cars, which is to be used in next year’s publicity for the Italian Club.
We left Garlenda in the afternoon after a great weekend and I wonder will I ever see so many Fiat 500’s in one place again.

Sally pic2
We travelled on weary but excited for the next stage of our tour and stayed the night in Borgo San Dalmazzo. The next day we set off to drive through the Italian/French Alps and our destination for the night at Corps. Our hotel was high in the Alps and when we reached the village where we were to stay and looked up, our hotel was the only place high above us. We did wonder how we were to reach it. Craig did a recci as he had a car with a bigger engine and he telephoned down to say he didn’t think our little cars would make it up as it was so steep. A local garage in the village said they would store our cars for the night and the owners of the hotel said they would come down in their cars and collect us. One brave soul amongst us decided he would give it a go, his wife however decided to stay with us. He made it up alone and deserved a big pat on the back for his bravery. After a hair raising trip to the top for the rest of us the hotel was magnificent and the views were to die for. From a viewing point, you could take in the snow-covered mountains around, the lake and the village way below. Not even a photo could do it justice and I cannot put into words how to describe it, it is something you would have to see for yourself. The evening meal was superb and the attention from the staff was the best ever. We were all very sorry to leave this place and vowed we would go back one day and stay longer.

The next day we travelled more and more into the Alps and another highlight for me was as we played tail end Charlie seeing our little cars in convoy going round and round those hairpin bends getting higher and higher, it was the most spectacular sight. I expect many of you have done this sort of trip in your family cars but until you see these little Fiat 500 classics in front of you, it’s an amazing experience, even a Shepherd high in the mountain was waving us on.

Writing this and reliving these memories has brought it home to me just how lucky we are to be doing what we do. There is such a lot more I could write, like the visit to Le Mans Classic event, the ride we had on a seven seater bike, the villages and towns we visited, the people who waved and cheered us on. Also the hiccups the cars had, one even catching fire. So much more to tell but I will finish with the memories that will live with me forever, those are the ones I told you about up in the mountains.

Thank you Paul and Christine for yet another epic, unforgettable trip.

Sally Scanes