12 months after a sensational Singapore Grand Prix it was time to witness 2014’s new breed of Formula One cars at La Pista Magica, Monza, for the Italian Grand Prix.
My brother Will and I were on the same flight as Autosport F1 newshound Jonathan Noble, as well as the Sun’s F1 correspondent.
On the bus into Milan it was like Italian cliche bingo – there were nuns on the bus, women with tiny dogs in handbags and condom machines in the street. We stepped off the bus and accidentally found ourselves caught in a paparazzi photoshoot with a model. Welcome to Italy!
After an hour of getting lost by virtue of being two blocks to the east of where my map began, we found our hotel, the 3* Hotel Ideale. The girl at reception was very helpful and explained Milan’s transport network of buses, subways and trams to us. The room was small but adequate and after a quick shower we headed into central Milan by bus to explore.
I was blown away by Milan’s finest attraction, the cathedral Il Duomo. Begun by Gian Galeazzo Visconti in 1387, it was only completed in 1805 with funding by Napoleon during his first stint as King of Italy. New technologies were invented to build this then – unprecedentedly large neo-Gothic building and even today it is staggering to behold. In the presence of such exquisite architecture on a vast scale, I decided the appropriate thing to do would be to attempt yoga.
By now it was 9.30pm local time so we grabbed some pizza. A tip – in central Milan restaurants pizza may be cheap but beer and water is expensive – €5 for water and €6.70 each for beer is cray cray.
Despite having broken plugs and curtain rails, our hotel was worth the fee for the breakfast alone. Being economically-minded, the next morning I made some cheese and ham olive bread rolls and wrapped them up to save for lunch.
We walked along Viale Abruzzi and up Via Vitruvio to Stazione Centrale, a mightily impressive building courtesy of Mussolini. We bought our tickets to Monza but the train didn’t leave for an hour so we wandered to a point on the map our friendly hotel receptionist had scribbled on. We couldn’t remember what she said was there but as we had time to kill we wandered three blocks to where it was and found… nothing. Just another street vending machine selling ‘Retard’ condoms. At this point the penny dropped and we realised the receptionist had attempted to circle Central Station on our map but her scribble had been wayward by three blocks. Alas, we had achieved nowt but we had killed a bit of time so wandered back to the station and hopped on our train back to Monza.
As it was only Thursday, shuttle buses to the circuit were not running yet so we had to walk over an hour into the town of Monza and through the beautiful park. We met a couple of women from Manchester en route who were lost but between us we figured it out. English voices were nice to hear but even better than that, once we got into the circuit we met up with our Dad and his partner Di who had driven through France and Switzerland to get to Monza.
We walked round the banking which formed part of the old circuit. It’s steeped in gradient as well as history (and prices when it comes to Cokes in the drinks shop). Running up it flip flops holding a camera was a nervous experience!
Between 4pm and 6pm there was a pit lane walkabout for 3-day ticket holders. We had already seen a couple of GP2 drivers including Felipe Nasr doing a photo shoot on the bridge. During the walkabout we saw Sky Italia F1 filming, looked at all the teams’ pit wall units and got the awesome Monza podium. We also got autographs from Sergio Perez, Marcus Ericsson, Pastor Maldonado, Daniel Kvyat and saw both McLaren drivers.
After that we walked back to Monza station and caught the train to Garibaldi F.S. where we got the subway to Porta Genova and walked to Ripa Di Porta Ticinese by the beautiful canal. We might as well have been in Venice and to celebrate had pizza and ice cream (what else?)