Carolyn retires at the end of June. For 20 years, all our vacations have been planned around her school schedule. Now for the first time in a long time, we get to go where we want, when we want. We are planning to make the most of it.
Both of us are Formula One fans. We have been to the Canadian grand prix in Montreal three times and to the US grand prix in Indianapolis twice. A lot of Formula One races today are held at new tracks in places like Bahrain, Abu Dhabi, and Shanghai. But there are still a few on the schedule that take place at historic tracks like Spa and Monaco, places where Formula One has raced since the end of World War II and even before.
One of those historic tracks is Monza. Located outside the city of Milan, it has hosted Formula One races every year except one since 1922. Monza is known as The Temple of Speed. It is famous for long straightaways where modern cars can get up to speeds of 200 miles per hour and more.
In its original form, it featured a banked corner at one end that let early race cars slingshot around a 180º turn that linked two parallel straights. Later, tracks like Daytona in America adopted the idea of banked turns to let race cars corner faster than they could ever hope to do on a level surface.
Today, the banked section is no longer used, but race fans can still see it just outside the margins of the current track. It has been replaced by one of the most famous turns in all of racing, the Parabolica. That’s it in the picture below. We will be seated in the grandstands on the outside of the track where the cars brake for the turn. Those black marks you see at the entrance to the corner are from the tires on the race cars scrubbing off rubber as they struggle to slow the cars by more than 100 mph in less than 250 feet.
Monza is under siege. Formula One management keeps ratcheting up the fees it charges to bring the series there. Local residents complain about the noise and congestion race weekend brings. New tracks in Russia, Mexico, and Azerbaijan are crowding onto the schedule.
There is a feeling in the sport that soon, Monza will get pushed aside in favor of newer tracks with more amenities for well heeeled race fans. We decided over the winter that if we were going to see a grand prix at Monza, we better do it soon. And that’s where the idea for our Roamin’ Holiday began.
The Italian grand prix takes place the first weekend in September. The whole of Europe goes on vacation in August, so our journey will begin when most people are going back to work.
We started by searching for airfares to Milan. Flying out of Providence, the cheapest flights were about $1,400 for each of us. Doable, but still a lot of money. Then on a whim, we searched for flights leaving from Logan airport in Boston. TAP, the Portuguese national airline, said they would be happy to fly us over and back with just one 90 minute layover each way for $790 a piece. We latched onto that deal immediately.
Next, we booked a modest hotel in Milan for race weekend. After that, we will stay at the vacation home of a couple we hosted last summer. They stayed with us for 3 days and so now we get to stay at their vacation home for 3 days on the shores of Lake Como, regarded as one of the mos beautiful places on earth. We may even get to go sailing on their boat while we are there. We love home exchanges!
From there, we will take the Bernina Express through the Alps from Milan to St. Moritz, Switzerland where we will stay one night. Then its back to Milan and off to the shores of Lake Maggiore northwest of Milan for 4 nights at the vacation home of some friends from Wellesley.
The balance of our trip involves a visit to Maranello and the Ferrari factory, where we will get to see some of the most famous racing cars in the world — almost all of them painted Italian racing red. We also will get to tour the nearby Fiorano race track where Ferraris have been tested by racing drivers for generations.
From there we will take the train over to Cinque Terre on the Italian coast, a collection of five towns where most tourists never go. There we will laze our way through one of the most beautiful parts of Italy before taking the train back to Milan and then home. We will be gone almost three weeks.
They say that things don’t make us happy; the experiences we have along the way are what enrich our lives. We are looking forward to starting this next phase of our lives together with a journey that will give us a lifetime of treasured memories. We can’t wait!