How long would you wait for a road trip?
Obviously, it depends on the trip – for instance, my Pub2Pub Expedition took over three years to bring to fruition. But what about a one-week European drive? Would you wait for year after pandemic year for such a tour? Thanks to Covid, many a group of car enthusiasts did just that, but in June the patience of one of these groups of petrolheads paid off, when Pub2Pub Adventure’s Beer Italia road trip was finally able to happen.
It had been a long old road to get to the start line.
The original running of the Beer Italia was scheduled for May 2020. And we all know just how unfeasible Euro-drives were back then. It was first rescheduled to August of that year, and then when this proved to be hopelessly optimistic, it was knocked back to 2021. Predictably, even this proved to be a tad premature, and so back it went for another year, to the summer of 2022. And finally, at the fourth attempt, in 2022 we were able to make our trip over the Alps to Italy happen, with some of those who came along having waited somewhere approaching three years for the trip.
So, was it worth the wait? Oh, hell yes.
Between the 18th and the 26th of June 2022, 16 fine machines took to the road, following a route which slalomed across France, climbed over the Alps, popped into Turin before heading to Modena, before heading home via the Stelvio Pass, the fine driving roads of Switzerland and the delights of the Alsace. And what a selection of machines those sixteen cars were! There were a multitude of TVRs, a Porsche, a couple of Aston Martins, a Jaguar and an Alpina BMW, all bookended by the two extremes of the trip – a feisty little Triumph TR5, and a lime green Lamborghini Huracan, such is the variety of vehicles which join Pub2Pub’s driving tours.
Following a trip through the Channel Tunnel, the first overnight stop of the trip was in the medieval town of Troyes, and from there, the drive continued to Chamonix, where an evening was spent watching the light play upon Mont Blanc and the Chamonix Aiguilles. But don’t think that the progress between these places was anything but interesting. En-route to Chamonix, teams took in everything from the WW1 memorial at Vimy Ridge to the driving roads of the Jura Alps; from the Grand Prix circuit at Reims Gueux to the scenic drives of champagne country. However, it was in Chamonix that things went up a notch. Or up a mountain, even. Four mountains, in fact.
For those keen enough, the post-Chamonix leg of the trip offered up the opportunity to drive four of the best passes in the Alps – the Gran San Bernardino. Petit San Bernardino, Col de l’Iseran, and Col du Mont Cenis, an eight hour day which is surely the stuff of petrolhead dreams. For the whole day, the sun shone, the tarmac stayed dry and the campervans weren’t too many in number, making for an unforgettable blur of driving nirvana, against a soundtrack of six, eight or ten cylinders. And what better place to end such a day, than Italy’s own motor city – Turin.
The following day, the cars all headed to the Modena area, where several nights were spent in a spa hotel in Fiorano, a stone’s throw from the Ferrari test track. Not that any stones were thrown, of course; that sort of things is frowned upon apparently. The Modena area is Italy’s supercar central, with Ferrari, Maserati, Lamborghini and Pagani being based in the vicinity. And so, for a while, visiting the museums and showrooms dedicated to these marques became the routine of the trip, and everyone saw enough shiny Italian metal to be left wishing they’d worked far, far harder at school.
Once our time in Fiorano was over, it was time to hit the road again, on a four day drive back to the UK. The first leg of this return journey took the teams along Lake Garda, and included the amazing Strada della Forra, which you’re probably familiar with, even if you don’t know the name, as it provides the backdrop to the opening sequence of the James Bond film Quantum of Solace.
Next up on the itinerary was an early morning run over one of the greatest alpine passes – the legendary Stelvio. This fine stack of corners soars skywards to a height of 2,760 metres, before dropping away in a similarly vertiginous series of switchbacks. If you’ve never driven it before I’d implore you to do so, as much to admire its engineering and the sheer pluck of those who built it, as for the driving experience itself. It truly is a special drive, and a special road. And so is what follows – the road to Davos, which was once memorably described by Top Gear as the best driving road in the world, a verdict we’re not going to argue with.
Following our re-crossing of the Alps, the Beer Italia continued on towards Calais, taking in the cute towns and rolling scenery of the Alsace and the medieval hill-town of Laon, before returning home on the Eurotunnel, with quite a drive having been had by all.
As ways to get the big Euro-drives rolling again go, it was a great way to get back in the swing, and it could even be argued that the Beer Italia was worth the near three-year wait. We look forward to the next running of the event, for which a far shorter wait should be required – until June 2023, all going well.