Now That is Old

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We are not going to Greece on our trip, but we did go to Paestum which is the ruin of a Greek village in Italy. Paestum was established in about 600BC, so the buildings here are by far the oldest we have seen to date. It was weird to be walking around amongst buildings that not only were built 600 years before Jesus walked the earth but also that were built around the time of the Israelites’ exile to Babylon; it is a little hard to get my head around.

There are a number of Greek temples here that are still mostly standing – apparently some of the best preserved Greek Temples in the world. The Greeks originally named the town Poseidonia. The Romans ultimately defeated the Greeks and built on top of the village, so we walked down a Roman road and amongst the ruins of Roman houses from about 200 BC. In some of the houses the mosaic floor tiles are still there which is amazing.

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The town was eventually abandoned around the 6th century because of mosquitoes; not because they buzzed around everyone’s ears as they tried to sleep so they all decided to leave but because of malaria. The town was then abandoned and was not rediscovered until the 18th century, after Pompeii had been rediscovered.

Not long after the town was rediscovered a road was built near the site and was built through half of the amphitheatre. It is interesting to see how there was little regard for such an ancient place just a few hundred years ago – I guess they wanted to get their road built.

The town is also known for its painted tombs. The museum here has a large number of the painted tombs on display.

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It was amazing to walk around this old place and to see these old buildings.

Unfortunately our camera stopped working while we were at Paestum which is a little sad, as you know I love taking photos. We purchased the camera just before we left Australia so it is still under warranty but a little hard to send it in for a repair when you don’t know where you will be tomorrow, let alone by next week when they will have worked out what is wrong with it. Hopefully we will find a camera shop somewhere that will be able to fix it easily; until then we will rely on MiniMandM’s camera and the iPhone.

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Driving me Grey – Pardon the Pun

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If I return to Australia and my hair is a little greyer it will in part be because of driving in Italy.

There is a global stereotype that Italian drivers are a little crazy, I probably thought that was a little over exaggerated – in hindsight I think it may be a little underdone.

Recently while I was driving and going through a number of roundabouts, I was sure for a second that I was back at the Brisbane Ekka watching the Precision Dealer Team; the only difference was that I was on the road with them. As cars crossed within millimetres of each other as they drove through the roundabouts I was surprised that fireworks didn’t go off to give the crowd a fright. I would not have been surprised to see a car driving along on two wheels or flying overhead.

Another weird experience I had the other day is not related to Italian driving but driving in general. As I have written previously it is starting to get dark earlier now and this has resulted in us driving into the night more than we have in the past. On this particular night it had just gone dark and I thought to myself, “It’s just on dusk, look out for kangaroos”; I must be a true blue Aussie.

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In Italy I have been overtaken or seen others overtaken in all sorts of situations: slowing down to drive through a small town – no problem; across a painted traffic island – no problem; travelling at 75 in a 60 zone (because I didn’t realise) – no problem; up a hill with a blind crest – no problem; around the outside of a corner – no problem; oncoming traffic – no problem; I think you probably get my point. I have been overtaken when there is oncoming traffic and the oncoming car and I have both moved over and the overtaking car has gone between us.

Parking is another interesting experience, not so much me parking but seeing how other people park. It seems that anything goes: one wheel up on the footpath; at right angles to the road even when all the other cars are parallel; across a pedestrian crossing; across a pedestrian crossing across a corner of an intersection; double parked; triple parked; nose in at an angle with the rear sticking out into the traffic. It seems that you can park anywhere; if you are in a really bad spot put the hazard lights on and all is OK. The surprising thing is no one seems to care. If a car is parked and blocking one side of the road they just wait and go around. If it is sticking out into the traffic they just kind of reroute the lane into the oncoming side a little. It all works surprisingly well, although SWTTM and I often have a good old laugh at some of the sights we see.

We have seen lots of kids standing on seats and hanging out of windows. We have also seen really little kids on the front seat either by themselves or on someone’s lap. We have even seen a lady – the driver – driving along with a child sleeping in her arms.

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The highways have incredibly short merging lanes and if you are not up to speed by the end of the merging lane the expectation is that you stop and wait for a gap, not that there is any adjustment by the cars on the highway (this would be OK if the lane was long enough to get up to speed but they are incredibly short).

At intersections and when going into a roundabout or pulling out into the flow of traffic the accepted method seems to be just to push your nose out and keep going and eventually someone will let you in. It is a little hard to get used to all of these people pulling in front of you if you are not right on the bumper of the car in front.

The roads here are not very good; in fact they are pretty bad. They make roads in Australia look fantastic. I try my best to miss the lumps and bumps but often it is unavoidable, and I feel a little sorry for Max.

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Fuel prices are also a little weird. Fuel prices would fluctuate by up to 20 Euro cents per litre at service stations within a few kilometres of each other. The most bizarre price fluctuation we came across was when we went to fill up near Naples. The sign at the front of the servo said 1.50 Euro per litre. When we drove in we were met by a guy ready to pump our fuel but the bowser said 1.69 Euro per litre. We asked the attendant about this and he said yes the price is right but if you go to the self-serve pump it would be 1.50 per litre. I am more than willing to pump my own fuel, especially if it will save me 10 Euros or more, so we drove over to the other pump where the attendant followed us and pumped our fuel and washed our windscreen. I am not sure if we missed something in the translation or we just missed something altogether but it was definitely strange.

The crazy part about the driving is it is getting more and more crazy the further south we go. But we are surviving and we have had no accidents to date so we will keep laughing and growing grey hairs.

 

 

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Beehive Houses

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Alberobello is a little town in the south of Italy, just near where the heel connects to the sole of the boot that is Italy. Alberobello is famous because of the houses that have been built in this area. The Trullo house or Trulli houses (plural) are dotted all around the countryside, but in Alberobello there is a whole section of them (UNESCO listed). The houses are built from stone and have a conical stone roof. The original houses contained no mortar. One of the theories behind this is that due to the government tax on dwellings the locals would just dismantle their houses when they heard a tax inspector was on the way and then just put it back together when they left (a bit like Lego).

 

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We stayed in the town which gave us a good opportunity to wander the crooked streets and see the many and varied houses. Many of the houses are now souvenir shops where locals sell all sorts of handicrafts – lace, linen, crocheted and knitted stuff, sand art and mini trullis.

The oldest Trullo we came across was 800 years old. We asked a few of the shop owners if they lived in a Trullo, each one we asked told us that no they didn’t live in a Trullo, but their grandmother did.

On the hill behind the church is Trulli Sovrano the largest and only two storey trullo in town.

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Road Trip

 

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We had decided to head south along the east coast of Italy because we thought it would be a pretty route right along the coast.

Unfortunately the first part of the trip was mostly through towns that seemed to join together in one long strip hundreds of kilometres long. This part of Italy, like Croatia, seems to shut down once summer is over so we passed lots and lots of empty caravan parks and apartments. This also gave us some dramas finding places to stop.

The fact that we were driving through towns all of the time meant that our average speed was pretty low and we didn’t cover much ground each day. It also resulted in the best fuel economy we have had all year – 10.00 litres per hundred kilometres for the tank we used along here.

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We did stop and check out the beach in a couple of places.

As we got further south the roadside was littered with rubbish. This was also the case when we drove into or through any towns, it was quite confronting.

Also confronting were the “ladies” who were alongside the road in many places. We must have passed at least 60-70 in various “costumes”. Maybe they were all waiting for the bus but I am pretty sure this was not the case. When Legoboy announced that he needed us to stop so he could go to the bathroom I was very careful to have a good look around before choosing where to pull over – I didn’t want to give anyone the wrong idea. As I said it was very confronting, but legal in Italy and it gave us a good opportunity to discuss a few topics with our girls in particular.

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Monopoli was one of the towns we stopped at. There was not a Monolpoly reference anywhere, not even a Go Straight to Jail sign, or a giant Thimble. There was a nice old waterfront area once we fought our way through the cars and got there.

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Another place we wanted to visit was Grotte Castellana which is a cave (grotte). We had checked it out online and discovered that it was still open and had English tours. This town, and especially around the cave was deserted. The town has about 15,000 inhabitants. Each year the caves attract about 250,000 visitors of which about 150,000 are Italians who turn up in August – it must be absolute bedlam. On the day we arrived there was not 150,000 people there thankfully, in fact there was no one and despite what we had read online one of the two tours for the day was one and a half hours later than we thought and it was only in Italian – so we decided to give it a miss, even though it did look interesting.

So after all of that we got to Alberobello.

Another Country

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San Marino is a little country in the middle of Italy – I am sure there are many farms in Australia that are significantly bigger than San Marino. It was established by Saint Marinus in 301AD and is the oldest Republic in the world.

San Marino was also built high on a mountain, and although Jack told us we could drive to the city centre, the Police we met along the way told us otherwise. Once we were at the top and were walking around I was pretty glad the police stopped us. I could just imagine us driving around these crazy narrow streets through all of the people trying to turn around and get out of there.

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Fortunately there was a car park for motorhomes just near the edge of the old town, still a long way up the mountain, but also still requiring us to catch 3 lifts to get to the top. It was a first for me catching a lift to get to a town.

The old town was full of people and very touristy. San Marino has a history of dealing in weapons and there are weapon shops dotted all around the place. It was a little disconcerting for us Aussies who generally see very few weapons of any sort in a shop.

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There are three castles built along the ridge of the mountain and the view from the two we visited was fantastic. From the castle is a sheer cliff hundreds of feet down. Legoboy and I went into one of the castles to check out the medieval armour and weapons and we also went to the top of the tower. While we were on our way to the castle we saw a plane fly past below us, as I said it is pretty high.

It was a picturesque town to visit and the views from it were spectacular. If you came to capture the town 8 or 9 hundred years ago you would have looked up and said to yourself “forget it, there is no way I am climbing up there to try and fight them”.

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While we were in San Marino Legoboy lost his first front tooth. A bit of a landmark occasion, I don’t think I know anyone else who has lost a front tooth in San Marino.

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On the way to San Marino we drove past another castle high up on a mountain called San Leo which was also very spectacular.

So another country crossed off the list.

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An Interesting 24 Hours

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Our time at Supercar Valley had come to an end so we were heading toward the East coast of Italy. It is getting dark early now so it was already dark when we pulled into a spot for the night. I had to reverse Max in and because his rear overhang is so long the rear had to go over a gutter. As I reversed back, something underneath scraped on the gutter. That is not really something to be too alarmed about as Max’s tail end hangs out a long way and is quite low so often drags – we just wince. So we set up and started getting ready to have some dinner.

Max has glass covers over the stove and the sink in the kitchen to give a little more bench space. I opened up the cover over the sink and was filling a cup with water when all of a sudden the glass cover exploded and I mean exploded. No one else realised what had happened but there was glass spread far and wide. Dinner was put on hold while we carefully cleaned up the glass, including changing Legoboy’s sheets because it had gone all over his bed. The glass kept popping and cracking for minutes after it happened, it was quite strange. It would have been good to see in slow motion. It was very strange as there seemed to be no explanation as to why it had broken.

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We got up the next morning and as normal reversed off the ramps we use to level Max up, more scrapping sounds from the back. Once we had moved out of our spot I crawled under and had a look – it appeared that the spare tyre carrier had pushed into the grey-water tank, but there were only a few drops of water and when we went to the dump point heaps of water drained out once the tap was opened. I pulled the carrier back to where it was supposed to be and exposed a significant hole. We remembered that we had seen a motorhome place a couple of kilometres before where we stopped for the night, so we headed back there. It was now after midday and of course we were in Italy, so the place was shut until 3 o’clock, so we sat in the car park and had lunch (it is great to have your house with you). Once the place was open again I headed in with a photo so that I could try to bridge the language barrier. The guy understood what the problem was but told me I would be better going to another motorhome dealer that sold our particular brand of motorhome (Knaus) about 10 km away.

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When we were at the new dealer I went in armed with my photos again and they told us to bring Max around the back to the workshop. We were ushered into the showroom (where we enjoyed checking out some new motorhomes) while they went to work. I went for a look a couple of times to see what was going on but they got very antsy whenever I went near the workshop, even though I stayed outside, and they would send me back inside to the showroom (I just wanted to understand what they were doing as I couldn’t understand that well when they spoke to me). After a little while they showed me that the hole I had seen was in the polystyrene outer shell (this insulates the tank from small stones as well as prevents it from freezing and cracking in winter) so easily repaired, but the drain pipe going into the tank had broken. It seems that when I reversed back over the gutter the tyre carrier got caught and pushed into the tank which in turn moved and cracked the pipe (not sure why the drain pipe is solid and not flexible); this may also have flexed the kitchen sink which twisted the glass cover when I opened it – well that is a theory I formulated.

After about 1.5 hours we were on our way again. By now it was about 5pm but our fun was not over yet.

Often we will select a camp spot based on the facilities we need as well as the location. We will usually try to find a spot that is in the general direction we want with the services we need like fresh water. Sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn’t.

 

After we had the tank repaired we selected a spot from our book (printed in Dutch), and confirmed in Jack, that seemed to fit the bill. We travelled along a major road for a while and then Jack took us off onto a narrower road where we had to stop once to let a truck pass. When we arrived at a little village and Jack directed us down a narrow lane between two houses we were a little unsure. We wound between a few houses and then popped out the back of the village into farm land. It was completely dark by now but we had to press on. The road became even narrower and then began to wind up the side of a mountain and became quite rough. We continued up and up and from the lights down below we were up pretty high. The trees that hung over the road rubbed along Max’s roof and sides which indicated motorhomes our size did not come this way too often.

Jack displays a chequered flag and announces “you have reached your destination” when we get to the programmed spot. Sometimes this is helpful; sometimes it is annoying because what we have been looking for is not in the published location. On this night when Jack made his announcement we realised that this may have once been a camp spot but no longer. We knew it was supposed to be at a restaurant, which was there but was closed and overgrown; the water and the electricity did not work. It was dark and we did not really like the idea of driving back down the road and trying to find a new location so we decided to just stay – there was no one around to disturb and we would manage without the water and power.

 

When we pull up the first thing we do is get out the level to make sure that we are close to level, or at least that our heads are up hill. To get things right we have a couple of ramps which we place at the correct wheel and then drive up to get level.

Getting level on the ramps is usually no problem and is usually done in a few minutes. On this night however I overshot the ramps. This happens from time to time as you have to try and judge how far up onto the ramps you are without being able to see them. Usually I can reverse and get back onto the ramp properly. Unfortunately this time I had actually gone over the front of both ramps; front and back on the same side. No problem, just drive right over and start again. Only problem was that the rear ramp actually tipped up and became jammed between the tyre and road, up against the floor.

I was unable to go forward or backward. We were thinking through our limited options (and contemplating jacking up the wheel to remove the ramp which I really didn’t want to do in the dark) when Bookworm suggested attaching a rope and trying to pull the ramp while I tried to reverse off. I set up the rope not really expecting it to work and gave it a go while SWTTM and Bookworm pulled on the rope from a distance. To my surprise Max reversed back onto the ramp and we were able to get the ramps out and try again – this time with someone watching to make sure I didn’t drive off the front.

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While we were getting set up again I noticed that one of the taillights was not working. It appeared that the ramp had hit some wiring when it jammed up under the floor – a job for the next morning.

After a good night’s sleep we woke up in the morning and the view was very good. The landscape is interesting here.

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First job of the day: the taillights. I figured that the wires had been crushed and maybe one had broken which caused a short and blew a fuse, so I checked all of the fuses first (now that I knew where both fuseboxes were because of another light incident) and they all seemed ok. So I crawled under Max to have a look at the wires. The outer tape had been pulled off but nothing seemed to be broken. The wires ran into a box which I assumed was a junction of some sort and thought maybe something had pulled out inside there. To date I have only used a screwdriver from a cheap leatherman imitation I brought along but this was not going to cut it for this job. I had a hunt around in the basic toolkit that comes with most vehicles and there was one of those double ended screwdrivers. I was able to remove the cover from the box and to my relief found that a plug that took the wiring from the front to the rear had pulled out. So it was a simple case of plug it back in and put the cover back on – nice and easy.

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We were on our way again and the road out of the camp spot was as interesting as the way in.

It was a great opportunity to remember that God is in control of all things and nothing takes Him by surprise even if it might surprise us. We also considered that things could have been a lot worse.

An interesting 24 hours.

Supercar Valley – Part 3

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The fun did not end with the drive in a Ferrari. We all drove past the factory and we stopped at the new factory and saw the wind tunnel, which unfortunately you cannot visit. Outside the new factory is a large Prancing Horse statue on the roundabout – the symbol of Ferrari.

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Closer into Modena is the Enzo Ferrari museum. Enzo Ferrari founded the company and the museum is located at the house he was born in which was also the location of his father’s workshop. Apparently Enzo sold the house when he was 20 to buy his first race car. Beside the old house is a new building designed to resemble a fluted engine cover, impressive but I think best appreciated from the air.

Just down the road from the museum is the headquarters of Maserati. While both Ferrari and Maserati are ultimately owned by Fiat, they also share some history, and Ferrari currently builds engines for Maserati. This year is the 100th anniversary of Maserati and because of this their cars are on display in the main exhibition hall at the Enzo museum.

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The exhibition hall is an amazing building and displays the cars beautifully. There were also a couple of movies that showed, one on the history of Maserati and one on Enzo Ferrari. The movies are projected all around the building, on all of the walls, the roof and the floor, it was very dramatic.

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So that ended our time in Modena and our time checking out Supercars – it was a lot of fun (for me in particular) and we enjoyed some great experiences.

I Just Had To

 

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My cousin is married to a diehard Ferrari nut. Clive loves God, loves his wife, loves his kids and loves Ferrari – I think that is the order.

I felt a little mean visiting the land of Ferrari knowing how much he would enjoy the experience. I had sent Clive a photo of a Ferrari we had seen in a little village when we first arrived in Italy. I let him know we were heading toward Modena. The day we visited the Lamborghini and Ferrari museums I sent him some pictures of the Lamborghinis just to test his reaction.

He wrote back and said “yeah that looks OK but you know there is a Ferrari museum” (my paraphrase). So then I sent him some photos of the Ferrari museum, the one he really wanted to see. I also told him we were camped just a couple of kilometres from the factory.

Ferrari own a racetrack in Maranello called Fiorano; it is in the middle of suburbia just near the factory. They use the track for F1 testing and road car testing. When Clive heard that we were close to the factory he asked if we could hear any F1 cars at the track. I don’t know if it was because he mentioned it or because they just started but just after reading his email we heard the high pitched scream of an F1 car.

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There were still a couple of spots we wanted to look at around Maranello and Modena, the first one being the Fiorano track. As I said the track is in the middle of suburbia and is surrounded by a 3 metre high fence. We spoke to a local who told us there was a spot just around the corner where we would be able to see the track. It was at the end of a cul-de-sac so I just reversed Max up to the fence and then the kids climbed up and had a great view. There were also some holes cut in shade cloth covering the fence and there was a section where there was no covering where a group of people were already watching the cars. The sound was incredible as the cars went past (the sounds at the museum paled in comparison) – if you lived in one of the apartments here you have no chance for a sleep in. We skyped Clive so he could enjoy the experience with us.

There is a whole industry surrounding the Ferrari factory, with shops selling merchandise and Ferrari themed restaurants dotted around the place. There is also the opportunity to go for a drive in a Ferrari.

I was in Maranello Italy, the home of Ferrari and I had the opportunity to drive a Ferrari around the streets of this city, so what could I do – I just had to.

The company we chose was located just down the road from the factory – you basically turn out of the driveway and then 100 metres down the road you drive past the Ferrari factory in a Ferrari – it was pretty cool.

I drove along the front of the factory and then down the side of the old factory to the new factory, then out onto a section of highway. I had a “co-driver” with me to make sure I brought the car back (they had my family, but it was a $500,000 car) and to make sure I was well behaved. He did encourage me to overtake another car while we were on the highway. Unfortunately the best lead up to driving a Ferrari is not spending 9 months driving around in a 3.5 tonne, 7 metre long and 3 metre tall motorhome – you almost forget that overtaking is a possibility unless you have a very long straight empty piece of road in front of you, significantly different from a Ferrari 458.

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It was a fantastic experience and the sound is unbelievable. It was just fun to give it some accelerator to hear it rev and then back off to hear it pop and burble. The circuit I took was only about 10 kilometres, and I didn’t get to travel at anything like the capability of the car. Of course I could have gone for a longer drive, but I don’t think enough would be enough and you could keep going and spend enough to end up owning one of these cars. It was just enough to experience driving a Ferrari 458 right past the gates of the famous Ferrari factory.

Just to make Clive feel even worse – or to share my experience with him, we skyed him again and he got to watch me hop in, start it up and drive away. Legoboy had the idea to put the tablet in the driver’s seat so Clive could see what it looked like from that position so SWTTM held it at head height in a California; definitely not the same but very thoughtful anyway. We also tried my dad but unfortunately he was not online.

 

Supercar Valley – Part 2

 

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Just down the road from Lamborghini is the Ferrari factory at Maranello – well probably about a half hour drive. They do conduct factory tours for Ferrari owners, but unfortunately I left my Ferrari owners card at home. We headed to the museum which is just around the corner from the factory. While we were stopped waiting at some lights we heard our first Ferrari for the day pull up behind us, it was an unmistakable sound. As we pulled away from the lights the Ferrari soon overtook us and disappeared.

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Lamborghini is a more edgy car company than Ferrari, Ferrari seem a little more conservative to me. Ferrari makes about twice as many cars in a year as Lamborghini and they are a lot more of a tourist attraction. The Ferrari museum was a lot bigger and busier than the Lamborghini one.

 

This year is Ferraris 60th year since they entered the United States market, so the exhibition at the museum focuses on that; there are plenty of American-racing Ferraris, as well as US models. There are a couple of very interesting cars that some individuals have built based on Ferraris.

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Of course there is the Hall of Fame which celebrates Ferraris presence in Formula 1; this has a sound and video presentation that runs along with it which gives a good impression of the sound and colour of F1.

There are also a couple of show cars here, the most impressive being the La Ferrari.

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We spent a few hours checking out these cars and watching some of the video. We finished off our visit with Legoboy having a go in the Formula One simulator (child size), which he enjoyed.

As you can see from our last photo it was dark when we left – it is now starting to get dark about 5:30 at night. It is also getting colder, you may also notice on the Ferrari sign that it is 6 degrees.

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Supercar Valley – Part 1

 

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I am a bit of a car nut. I am interested in any supercar and as you may know I had a tour of the Porsche factory in Stuttgart earlier in the year.

Well now we were in Supercar Valley in Italy. In and around Modena there are a number of Supercar manufacturers – Lamborghini, Ferrari, Maserati, Pagani as well as motorcycle manufacturer Ducati – a real horsepower hotspot. Of course since we were here we had to visit some of these companies and let the kids experience some supercars – all for the kids of course.

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Legoboys favourite – he thinks it looks like a Hotwheels car.

Lamborghini has their factory in a rural setting at Sant’ Agata just outside of Modena. Unfortunately they have no factory tours at the moment (they start up again in March 2015) but they do have a museum. As we arrived to visit the museum, we were walking from the car park just as a car drove out of the factory for a road test (tough job but someone has to do it) – boy they sound nice, and you don’t get to see these cars everyday – they make less than 2500 cars per year.

The girls visited the gift shop, and we had some photos with a car outside, but they didn’t bother with the museum, so Legoboy and I had a boy time together. The museum had more Lamborghinis in one place than I had ever seen before in my life. There were historical cars as well more recent models, there were also a large number of show cars, some which ran and some which were models made out of timber and clay – it was amazing to see all of these cars – some that I have seen in magazines or online over the years. At some times Legoboy and I were the only people in the museum which was great.

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As a teenager the Lamborghini Countach was the exotic car that teenage boys dreamed about, in this museum it looked very old, but still cool. Sorry but there is going to be a lot of photos here hopefully some of you enjoy them.

Even though Lamborghini is owned by Audi which is part of the VW group and is German, Lamborghini is still very Italian, which means that the museum shuts for lunch for a few hours in the middle of the day – very Italian, so we had to leave by 12:30.

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