Sunday 15th October – Heading to Turin for our final three days
Three Italian regions had the pleasure of our company on Sunday as we exited Tuscany, nipped briefly into Liguria and emerged eventually into Piedmont.
We informed teams that they needed to be in Piazza Europa, La Spezia (some 3 hours away from Siena) by no later than 11.45am. We were meeting members of the MINI Mito club and other classic cars from the Automobile Club of La Spezia. We were advised that the local traffic police (the Vigili) would arrive at high noon to escort us all the short distance across La Spezia to an Air Force base in Cadimare. Here we would jointly celebrate the centenary of the Italian Air Force by eating food.
All our teams eventually made it to the Piazza (a few almost added a fourth Italian region to their tally by getting more than a little lost and journeying way off track) where we waited and waited and waited for the police to arrive. Teams had a voucher to redeem a soft drink and some ‘nibbles’ from a bar in the Piazza though I suspect a few held back from over-indulging knowing that an Italian Job lunch was imminent. At close to 12.40pm the Police arrived and at last we were off. We snaked away from the Piazza and miraculously all of us arrived at the air base in more or less a long line. We were ushered through the gates by uniformed personnel (they stopped short of a salute but they were energetic wavers). We parked and made our way to the main building for lunch.
We kind of lingered outside for a while and then we entered and sat in a grand hall where tables were already decorated with our starters. A series of brief (but numerous) speeches were made (all in Italian) and all I was able to do was summarise the words being spoken in messages to members of our #IJ2023 WhatsApp group. I struggled to hear (let alone understand) what was being said as behind me the tables (filled with excited, loud voiced Italians) seemed oblivious to the formal formalities (the speeches) going on and so continued to talk (shout) at one another throughout. As the fifth person began to wind up their comments I stood and walked towards the microphone motioning to the main MC that I’d like to say a few words of thanks too. I did just that and literally shouted into the microphone that the Italian Job was delighted to be here. I think the noisy ones momentarily stopped making noise.
I was conscious that time was marching on (it was already gone 2pm) and that we had a further three or so hours more driving to do to reach Turin from La Spezia. I was also concerned that we really wanted to be doing that drive with as much daylight as possible. The end of our lunch was signalled by a few more speeches where we were presented with an award thanking us for being there. We in turn exchanged a much sought after Italian Job pennant. Back in our cars we thumped NH LINGOTTO into our satnavs and headed out to cross what was left of Liguria before entering Piedmont.
Our Turin hotel is pretty awesome, occupying the site of the old FIAT car factory. It’s huge so it’s not difficult to miss but if you happen to blink as you pass the entrance to the ‘site’ you will need to do a series of manoeuvres in order to return to point where you can drive in (where hopefully you don’t blink at the wrong moment again). Blinking must have happened to one or two teams but eventually all teams arrived. Parking here is a bit of bun fight or should I say, parking close to the entrance to the hotel is a bit of a bun fight but there is acres of parking space to the rear. It had been a long day with lots of driving and it was very clear that the last thing people wanted was to complete their 10,000 steps from car park to hotel.
The evening was at leisure with teams fending for themselves for dinner for the first time since the #IJ2023 began. We went to a place around the corner from the hotel for a quiet and simple meal before returning to the hotel and enjoying a brief Limoncello before bed (it helps with the digestion you know).
A few teams eagerly messaged the Whatsapp group asking about arrangements for tomorrow’s (today) route, departure time and time controls. Instructions were written and pinged out to all by return. It’s a lie in tomorrow (today) with the first team off to Acqui Terme around 9.45am….. It’s the final day of our navigational fun and games so we didn’t want to tax teams.
I’m certainly looking forward to a gentle day today. Tomorrow (actually tomorrow) we have our closing tour of the city convoy lead by Turin Traffic Police. Should be fun!