The plan was to stick to the main roads and go for lunch by the lake before having a look at the auction cars at Villa Erba before they went under the hammer as part of the Villa d'Este Concorso d'Eleganza later that night. We had left it too late to get passes for the actual concours event at Villa d'Este and this meant missing out on seeing some of the world's most exclusive cars and catching a glimpse of the new Aston Martin V12 Zagato which seemed to grab all the headlines.
Peeling off the main roads and approaching Lake Como for the first time quickly dispelled any doubts I may have had about our plans for the day. The area is simply stunning - the deep inky blue of the water a constant feature as you meander through small towns and blast through sections of tunnel - and I can easily understand why it is such a desirable place to live or have a house.
Spencer had been given the recommendation to check out Locanda dell'Isola Comacina, a restaurant on an island on Lake Como in which they have been serving the same set menu since 1947. Parking space found, we worked our way down to the shore and took a small boat over to the island, watching trout swimming in the shallows before climbing the steps up to the restaurant which is nestled amongst rocks and lush greenery. Sat amongst couples out for a romantic Saturday lunch - and subject to a few questioning glances as to our own relationship - we were soon tucking into fresh local food and enjoying a glass of wine, feeling pretty good about life.
Arriving at Villa Erba, some 15 minutes further down the lake, we managed to get parked in an area reserved for supercars and classics and only a stone's throw from the entrance. We knew we only had an hour before the event closed and before the organisers made their final preparations for the auction that evening but that would be more than enough to get a feel for things. I hadn't had a chance to view the catalogue online before arriving and had no idea how diverse the collection would be, the most memorable cars being a number of weird and wonderful Bertone concept cars such as the 1980 Lamborghini Athon (below). There were some older cars too, including the gorgeous Talbot-Lago Teardrop which was reportedly sold for an impressive €3,136,000.
It would have been interesting to see what the demand for these cars was at the auction (you can read a report on the Octane website here), but it was soon time to get back on the motorway, this time heading towards Turin. We quickly started to enjoy these stretches of the journey during our time in Italy. Maybe the roads weren't exciting or challenging 'drivers' roads' but you can make rapid progress, especially as the Italian drivers are quick to vacate the fast lane when they see a Ferrari in their rear-view mirror. In fact, a few accidents near Modena aside, the driving standards in Northern Italy seemed good and far removed from the stories of Italian road-based insanity I had heard from people back home.
There are always a few idiots of course. Spencer and I watched with a combination of shock and amusement as a cigarette-smoking Mercedes driver pulled right up behind us in the fast lane of the motorway at what could be described as 'a reasonable speed', before proceeding to undertake us and then scything through the traffic ahead, to and fro across the lanes for as far as the eye could see.
For us these sections of the journey were a matter of efficiency rather than idiocy; a means to get us between places of interest and to the real drivers' roads I had built into the itinerary. The next day would see us heading for the Alpes Maritimes and hopefully some deserted roads en route to the Cote D'Azur and the end of this section of the road trip.