Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Behind the wheel of a Ferrari

Ever since deciding to travel, on the top of my ‘must do list’ was to visit all my favourite car and motorcycle factories in Europe! What can I say, I’m a big kid and I can’t help myself. I had all the big names lined up - Ducati, Ferrari, Lamborghini and Pagani. I knew Sal was pretty unimpressed about enduring several factories, but thankfully she happily tolerated it all considering it was my 30th birthday. As I enquired about appointments and bookings, I was disappointed to learn that the Ducati and Lamborghini factories were closed due to maintenance or refit. Nevertheless I was determined to at least see the museums. I also discovered that unless you own a Ferrari or are a legitimate buyer, you won’t even get a look within their factory. Unfortunately, being an owner of a matchbox Ferrari didn’t count.

It was the day before my birthday and Ducati was up first. As usual we ended up running late and managed to miss the English speaking tour by two minutes. My stress levels rose and in pure discouragement I hung my head and walked off, leaving Sal to wrap up the conversation about how unfair it was that we couldn’t participate in the tour 2 minutes after it began. As I walked back to the car feeling sorry for myself, I actually remembered that when I made the tour appointment I was told to be there early….. doh!

Dusting myself off we proceeded to the Ferrari museum. Outside stood many pretty Italian women convincing us to drive a supercar but I of course remained cool, calm and collected. Of course I wanted to drive one, but I wasn’t really sure what Sal thought about it….I decided to sit on it for a bit. Browsing the museum, impressed with what I saw, I realized how much I loved the Ferrari story. It didn’t take long to become convinced that I needed to take one for a spin and this was definitely a legitimate 30th birthday present. Approaching the ladies outside the museum I bartered a good price on the best car they had – the Ferrari 458 Italia!

The experience was un-fricking-believable! I could not believe how this car performed. I was in love. Even though I did manage to give it a good run I still needed to be a little conservative as I was driving it on a public road and it had a ‘measly’ pocket change of €10,000 ($14,000) excess if I crashed it.
The following day we went back to the Ducati museum, learning from the previous day’s experience and arriving on time. The tour was great, well informed and I was glad to hear it in English. Feeling happy that I got a second opportunity at Ducati and still elated from the Ferrari experience I was keen to get to the next factory. So off we rushed back to the car only to find broken glass and destroyed door locks! We completely freaked as all our valuables were in the car including our laptop with all our photos and hard drive back ups. It could have been a total disaster and we were pretty stupid to leave that stuff in the car. Lucky our security locks would not allow the doors to be opened and nothing had gone missing. A local bystander was kind enough to help by guiding us to the police station to report the incident. With broken Italian and a game of charades, I managed to get the message across that our car had been broken into. We patched up our window using some glad wrap, intending to get it fixed as soon as possible.

After the drama had settled, we were off to the Lamborghini factory. Upon arrival I was gutted again to find out that not only was the factory closed due to a refit, I could not even visit the museum because it was closed for a private function! I made the most of being at Lamborghini by buying a souvenir, grabbing a quick glance at the museum through the windows and snatching a few photos with their best models displayed in the shop.

I left extremely disappointed about how the whole ‘factory’ experience turned out over the previous couple of days and although not all was achieved, Sal helped to bring some perspective. I was reminded that I got to drive the latest Ferrari and there will be an opportunity to return to Italy again. It ain’t over and I’m not going to let the Italian motor industry beat me. In the end it was a great birthday and I have to be thankful for what I did experience. 



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