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By this Author: alexchan

Touring the Lamborghini Factory again


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large_5550_14720646996011.jpgModena's main square. Yep, there's a bit of a lean in the tower.
We woke up to messages enquiring on our safety, as there had been an earthquake in central Italy. We wouldn't have known otherwise until seeing the TV at the hotel breakfast. We left the hotel around 1000 for a 40 min drive to Ferrari’s other museum in Modena [Modena-travel-guide-277891] (rather than Maranello). Again, I sat outside the museum while Kim enjoyed the exhibits inside. After his visit, we had a time to drive into the centre ofModena for a little look; quite literally about 3 minutes as parking was difficult.

Our appointment for the Lamborghini factory tour was at 1500. We had time to grab lunch in Sant’Agata, Lamborghini’s hometown. It was holiday season in Italy and like many places, Sant’Agata was dead quiet.large_5550_14720647037590.jpgLamborghini Museum. No photos permitted during factory tour.

We found a place that had pictures of lasagne, cannelloni etc. There were some Lamborghini staff there plus quite a few slot machines. The slots were manned by an Italian man while two Chinese women ran the eatery section.Unfortunately the meals turned out to be of the heat-and-eat meals in cardboard tubs (with the clear plastic taken off before they were presented to us). They were actually nice enough but still disappointing.

It was one minute from the town centre to the factory where we explored the museum before the tour. For a change, I went into the museum as it was included in the complimentary tour that been arranged for Kim (being an owner). The museum visit is normally EUR15 and the factory tour some very high price undoubtedly.

The young lady that took us for the 45 min tour had a good sense of humour.large_5550_14720647064817.jpgLamborghini Museum. No photos permitted during factory tour.After leaving our cameras and bags in lockers, we were taken through to the Aventador (rather than the Huracan) assembly line. The line consisted of 12 stations each with 80 minutes allocated to it. The time allocation is generous and staff can take unscheduled breaks once they have completed their assembly tasks.So, the time to build the car is essentially 12 x 80 minutes plus rest breaks and overnight/weekends.

We were lucky enough to see the cars progress from one station to another all simultaneously. The car that popped out the last station had to be towed away as something had gone wrong and it wouldn’t start!

From the assembly line, we visited the upholstery area. This was the only place we could touch anything. We were able to feel the sample of the leather (and the more lightweight synthetic option, the alcantara).large_5550_14720647017004.jpgLamborghini Museum. No photos permitted during factory tour.Eagle-eyed women mark out leather defects and machines cut the required shapes automatically-avoiding the marked defects. These are then glued on to the hard surfaces or stitched into seat covers.

The tour is now a commercial affair compared to 14 years ago when we were taken through by a manager who lived-and-breathed Lamborghini. In comparison, today’s guide while still passionate but the tours were “a job”. Looking back at my old travel journal, they produced 1.5 cars per day but now they produce 16 cars a day!

I enjoyed the factory tour very much. More so than the people working there. They didn’t look very happy but then, they do have rather repetitive roles.

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Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Revisiting Bologna


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large_5550_14719827677517.jpgMain street Bologna.
Our waking times have been creeping towards more decent times (sevenish rather than sixish). With very little urgency to do things, we made it down to breakfast around 0930. It was a little rushed as the buffet finishes at 1000.

We saw a table with a shocking mess on it, a fair amount of unconsumed food and even food on the floor. We naturally thought that it would be a certain nationality, especially with unconsumed mozzarella balls which could have been mistaken as something else. Kim asked the waiter, who replied “No, they were kids”. Lol!

It's quite a coincidence that I had made a facebook post exactly a year ago about this nationality in Maldives. The post covered a variety of issues, eg. noise, spitting, littering, and just tossing smaller unwanted fish they had caught beside the front door of the hotel (in the hot tropical sun).large_5550_14719827706140.jpgThe taller tower is called the Asinelli while the smaller but more leaning tower is called the Garisenda.

We had toyed with the idea of driving to Venice [Venice-travel-guide-279039] (2 hours) and parking outside then taking the train in. We then decided it would be too much and opted to explore nearby sights. First up was the Ducati factory and museum but that turned out to be closed (like many things around Italy due to the holiday period).

After that little fizzer, we drove into Bologna’s Piazza Maggiore to revisit it. The visit brought back memories. There was the basilica, the many portico’ed fronts of buildings and also the two towers. We climbed to the top of the Asinelli tower last time so didn’t bother this time around.

The late breakfast and heat was taking a toll on our lunchtime appetite.large_5550_14719827758613.jpgThe taller tower is called the Asinelli while the smaller but more leaning tower is called the Garisenda.We didn’t see anything light and appealing so left the city centre to the laundromat we had found yesterday evening (more for Kim than for myself).
While waiting for our laundry to be done, we got some fruit and a salad from a supermarket. Kim was badly in need of a haircut. We stumbled on a salon and fortunately for him, it was operated by Chinese and I was able to give them his shearing instructions.

The day was soon over. We grabbed dinner at a pre-made pizza place across the road from the hotel. The pizza base was thick (unlike the normal Italian thin crust) but susprisingly light. Not what I had expected in Italy but it felt lighter and healthier (if that’s a word you can use on pizza).

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Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

On the road again


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large_5550_14720671464035.jpgSneak peek into Parma's main square as we approached it.
We checked out from our guesthouse and drove down to Bologna [Bologna-travel-guide-276795] today. The drive through very narrow and remote roads weren’t as worrying today as we didn’t have the same concerns of being led astray by Google Maps.

It was a 3h plus journey non-stop but we stopped in Parma [Parma-travel-guide-278120] for a walk around the old town centre, then stumbled upon a deli where we could buy a few salads for lunch. We parked up at a rest area by the motorway (and outside the restaurants) and ate our three salads of bean, octopus and green.

Next stop was Maranello where Kim wanted to visit one of the two Ferrari museums. While he was in the museum, I sat in the cafe and did a bit of admin on the computer.

We arrived at the Holiday Inn Express Bologna Fiera late afternoon. The hotel was cheap at EUR55 including daily breakfast for two. As it was in a commercial park, there were a few eating choices and we ate at Wiener Haus very reasonably.

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Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Best and fastest way to see Cinque Terre


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large_5550_14719650777452.jpgVernazza on a postcard. We didn't have time to scale the hills to get such a vista.
Italians aren’t big on breakfast; usually just coffee and maybe a pastry at most. So we were pleasantly surprised by the relatively big breakfast at our guesthouse consisting of packaged toast, egg and some pastries.

Our Nepali hostess had suggested that we take the bus 0915 down to Vernaza and then the boat to explore the other villages. The drive down the narrow windy road felt easy with someone else at the wheel, and with them liable for any damage to the vehicle.

At Vernazza [Vernazza-travel-guide-1306897], we ignored the taxi-boat operators and found the ticket sales for the big boat which cost EUR222 on a hop-on/off basis. The ticket lady suggested we go tll the way south to Riomaggiore [Riomaggiore-travel-guide-1304044], come back part-way to Manarola [Manarola-travel-guide-1301024], look up at Corniglia [Corniglia-travel-guide-1298620] (which has no berthing facility), then all the way north to Monterosso [Monterosso-travel-guide-1301916] before backtracking back.large_5550_14719650797895.jpgWaiting for the boat.We did exactly that.

Each town had a slightly different feel. Especially for “our” village Vernazza, they don’t bear any resemblance to the promotional photos which have been taken from remote hillsides or even aerial viewpoints. Vernazza looked like the most amazing village but from any viewpoint we had the chance to get, it was nearly the less spectacular.

Riomaggiore, Manarola and Cornigilia, in comparison looked quite good from the sea and were good to explore on foot. Monterosso felt just like any average beach town; after all it was the only one with a beach.

We spent less than an hour in each place. In view of the very hot weather and sunshine, it was enough. We didn’t have time for a sit-down lunch as there was a gap in the bus schedule from 1530 till after 1800.

Having departed on the 1045 boat from Vernazza, we were back there at 1515 in time for our 1530 bus back to our guesthouse.large_5550_1471965082177.jpgRiomaggiore.

The bus and boat combo had been so easy for us. It would have been a night mare driving down to Vernazza and parking there, and getting between the villages by train/bus would have meant missing the more spectacular views of the villages from the sea. With only one full day (and two nights) we really didn’t have enough time to walk between the villages. We were pleased with how much we had seen in the limited time.

During breakfast, we had opted to eat in for the night. They offered a set meal of pesto-pasta, big prawns and pannacotta. All were delicious but if I had know the price of the pasta, I would have skipped it. I always believe that there is a high premium on Italian food especially when dried pasta is used. Basically one could be paying $15-20 for instant noodles in sauce, sometimes with no topping.

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Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Meeting up with Kim for our next chapter


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It was great to have a hotel next to the train station that goes straight to the airport. The train goes every 20 minutes and I just missed that one at 0600. I got to the airport in plenty of time still to use the lounge after going through Copenhagen’s user-friendly security checkpoint.

I found the Aviator lounge and went into it. It was disappointing but adequate compared to yesterday’s Aspire lounge in Helsinki. They had oats rather than good muesli, old apples rather than excellent fruit salad etc. I knew there was an Aspire but it wasn’t within view even though I knew it was nearby. Naturally I found the Aspire lounge as I was making my way to my boarding gate.

The SAS flight to Milan [Milan-travel-guide-277862] Malpensa took 2h. Once airborne, the crew changed their blue jackets/vests to grey ones to serve free coffee/tea. The airline must have too much money to spend on uniforms! Strangely for drinking water, they'll pour you a cup for free but if you want the small bottle, you have to pay. Yep, it's the same brand of water that's free or payable.

After a long descent and circling due to very cloudy weather I landed. I was on tenderhooks regarding my luggage as I had fears that SAS might inadvertently leave it behind due to the unusually long connection. And since we were moving out of Milan immediately, delivery to us would be difficult as well. Fortunately, I got my luggage.

Kim met me and we were able to go to his hotel, the Moxy at Terminal 2, briefly before returning to Terminal 1 to collect the car. The journey involved a ride on the free inter-terminal shuttle each time but fortunately it was very frequent, running every 10 minutes.

Unfortunately there was a bit of a wait at the Hertz counter till our turn but once our turned came, there were no people waiting. We got a Lancia Epsilon Turbo-Diesel for our week’s rental and we drove south-west to Vernazza [Vernazza-travel-guide-1306897] via Genoa, taking just over 3h with one stop.

Using Google Maps, we were directed through pretty small and remote roads and we wondered if we were on the right track and whether our accommodation would where we wanted it to be. We were pleased to arrive at our guesthouse, the Affittacamere PZ, to see that it was perched high on a hillside overlooking the sea.

Even better, we found that it was only a short bus ride down to Vernazza. We were told that it was easier by bus since parking is difficult there. As we had time before dinner we took a drive down to Vernazza to check things out but the road proved rather hair-raising. It was very windy, narrow and collapsed in parts. We had to give way to opposing traffic and also back up at times. And when we got down to Vernazza’s carpark, we decided we wouldn’t bother parking to walk in. We simply drove back up to near our guesthouse for dinner at the Puin restaurant.

The clear conclusion was that driving down to Vernazza was the wrong thing for tomorrow.

Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

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