Part 3 : Europe Escapade

We reached Milan around 11.45pm. Looking for place to bunk in that night is not as easy. We went to several places but not up to our expectations. Finally we stayed at New York Hotel recommended by En. Faharuddin, Malaysian Tourism Director in Italy. In Milan a cozy, clean and comfortable room that cost Euro 50 per night per room is more than you can bargain. It was already 2am by the time we checked in and with nice comfortable bed you just slept well through. Woke up fresh it is time to move to Florence or Firenze.

TOWARDS FLORENCE

We had problem with our side cases before we leave and luckily BMW Milan is not far from the hotel. BMW have worldwide guarantee which means you can go to any BMW showroom worldwide should you have problem with your BMW. It took only a couple of minutes for them to fix it and we’re good to go.

Milan to Florence is about 306km and the views are absolutely Italy. Italy has its own ambience, its view, its architecture and it is what you will expect Italy to be.

We arrived at Florence about 3pm. Thank to Toscana Promozione for sponsoring our stay in Tuscany. In Florence they have arrange for us to stay in one of the oldest church that has been turned into hotel. Aged more than 400 years, Convitto Della Calza hotel is situated at Piazza Della Calza 6, Firenze.

We meet our friends at the hotel couple of minutes after we arrived. It is really great to meet Tomasso again and wonderful to finally meet Francessca.

On the same day we are due to meet Ms. Michela our tour guide to take us around Florence town.

FLORENCE

Michelangelo, Donatello, Leonardo da Vinci, Dante, I know their name as greatest artist of all time. For arts lover Florence are filled with their work. UNESCO statistics shows 60% of the world’s most important works of art are located in Italy and approximately half of these are in Florence. It is thus Florence is called the capital of arts and been declared as UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE in 1982.

During the Italian Renaissance Florence turn its palaces and squares into a living museum, it is here you could feel the elusive spirit of the Renaissance more fully than any other place in the country. Two of the world’s great art museums are in Florence, the Uffizi house the collection of Renaissance paintings meanwhile Accademia you will find Michelangelo’s David and other original sculptures takes you back hundreds of years. When you pass through the Piazzale degli Uffizi to enter Piazza Della Signoria, you will find a splendid open-air sculpture museum, overlooked by the famous and imposing Palazzo Vecchio.

Florence is also home to some of the biggest churches in Italy. The most famous city’s church is the Santa Maria del Fiore or simply known as Duomo. Witness a glimpse at 15th century civil engineering techniques. It is Florence most recognizable symbol where you can get the glimpse of its majestic dome around every corner of the city. Brunelleschi’s enormous dome of the cathedral can either be admired from the ground, from the bell tower or by ascending the 460 steps to the top for a panorama of the city. However do pre-book the tickets to enter the museum and the Duomo in advance to avoid long queue.

Florence is a city of art and culture you became intimately acquainted with the artistic, architecture, literature and culture achievements of Italy history.

To enjoy Florence city it is advisable to go around on foot. It is the best way to admire this old historic city of Italy. I am so enthralled to step foot in this amazingly beautiful historic land. To be able to touch the wall and statues that was built by greatest artist of all time. My best moment is to stand at the doorstep of Mona Lisa house, how epic is that…

PONTA VECCHIO BRIDGE

What I like about the length of Arno River is the awesome architecture Pante Vecchio Bridge and its lines of jewelry, arts and souvenirs shops. Symbolic Florentine icon it is also a perfect spot to take sunset view of Tuscan hills. You might not want to buy anything but taking a stroll through history is something worth to do. The Ponta Vecchio Bridge was built in 1345, which connects the northern and southern halves of Florence across the Arno River. It was the only bridge across the Arno that the Nazis did not destroy during World War II. Do wander on the south side as well to see walls and gates that are being preserved until today.

SHOPPING

Florence is a shopper’s dream especially if you are into designer label and high fashion such as Dior, Prada, Gucci, Versace and more. Don’t fear though, there is a good mix of stylish and cheap shopping as well. Even though there are plenty of exclusive shops there are also market with good value clothing, accessories and souvenirs. Leather lovers, this is also the place. Coats, bags, gloves and most of all shoes you name it you find it here. For those who are not buying, do take a walk along these rows of shops to see dazzling boutiques in magnificent building.

To buy souvenirs or leather items at a bargain price is at Mercato Nuovo means ‘new market’ which located in a 16th century of commerce and trade. The open market is also locally known as ‘Porcellino’ or ‘piglet fountain’ by Pietro Tacca in 1612. Be sure to rub its snout and throw a coin in the fountain. Local believe that if your coin went through the metal bar at the bottom you are sure to return to Florence. The market open daily from 9am to 7pm.

Outdoor café are everywhere here and in the square you can find small kiosk selling souvenirs. Being an artistic city you can also find amateur painter selling their artwork.

SUNDAY RIDE

Tomasso and Francessca took us around town and like in Malaysia they too have Sunday ride. Our first stop is The Basilica di San Miniato al Monte means Basilica of St Minias on the mountain. Looking amazing to see it stood atop one of the highest points in Florence. This church has also been described as the finest Romanesque structure in Tuscany and one of the most beautiful churches in Italy.

Florence is blessed to have high points for their locals and tourist to admire their beautiful city. Located below San Miniato on the south side is Michelangelo Square a typical 19th century terrace is another one of the most beautiful places to visit. The square with the replica of Michelangelo’s Statue of David that stand in the centre perched high on the hillside overlooking the renaissance city with breathtaking view of Florence’s skyline. It is from here you will be able to see everything in a single view.

There are so many bikers and car owners on the day we were there. According to Tomasso this is the Sunday ride meeting point. We get to see lines of antics bikes and cars for people to admire and for owners to show off and meet up.

FIESOLE

If you think Michelangelo Square is the last high point wait till you get to Fiesole. This small historical, peaceful and quaint village is 8km north of Florence. Founded 400 years before Florence it is full with history and drama. The two cities had many battles until Florence won. Walking uphill to the top is definitely tiring but worth it when you are furnished with another breathtaking view of the entire valley.

You know how I love flea market, well my lucky day because we are there on the second weekend of the month. Even though it is smaller than German but it has its takes.

MONDAY

Every new day here is something we look forward to. Today destination is Bologna. Do you know that Bologna have been in existence since 10th century B.C before Iron Age. Interesting right? Another interesting and exciting thing about Bologna is our visit to Ducati.

Florence to Bologna is about 80km. It is located at the northeast of Italy takes about 1 hour from Florence and at the crossroads of all main Italian motorways (autostrada) A14, A13 and A1. To get to Ducati (both Museum and Factory) located in Via Antonio Cavalieri Ducati, 3 Bologna set your GPS coordinate: 44.516399, 11.267574 / N 44.30.970 E 11.16.140

We were greeted by David James Ducati International Press Manager. An Englishman in Italy, he just loves bikes and working with Ducati just makes it perfect.

Ducati, as known has always been associated with motorcycle racing. Founded in 1926 by the efforts of engineer Antonio Cavalieri Ducati and his three sons: Adriano, Bruno and Marcello

Do you know they start out as world leader in the manufacture of radio, electronic component and even camera, officially name ‘The Societa Radio Brevetti Ducati’.

We were then being introduced to Mr. Livio Lodi the Museum Curator. He first took us to visit the plant which located at the same premises.

Ducati motorcycles are built on a moving assembly line with only two pair of hands responsible for each bike, yep it is still hand built, and there are no robots. All assembly was hands-on. There are section with bike lifts, tools and electronic equipment. Each technician will start-up and tuned each machine manually before move to dyno for its final testing and shipping after that.

Seeing in awe Ducati personal touch in building its machine makes me realize what does Mr. Livio meant by ‘building a Ducati is an art’. The skill and most of all passion of each technician in building each bike they are responsible of and seeing basic principles being applied in a modern plant represent the quality and classiness its name have hold all this years. To see this, the appreciation for Italian bikes grows in me.

Awed by their production line next you will be amaze with their museum. A walk through Ducati dream, success and history is recounted at this museum. It all began in Bologna in 1926 in this 1000sq/m here the stories of legendary bikes and its riders and 50 years of racetrack heritage are told. You sense pure passion for performance as being excellence as you are guided through this amazing place. According to Livio it took patience and passion not days or months but years to be able to put this museum. Not all Ducati are in their safe keeping, they have to search the country to be able to display the first bike until the latest work of Ducati. Standing at the end spot of the museum you turn and see the beginning. Great emotions surround you. To know what I meant you will have to make your way there to witness it, a moment that you just cannot miss.

Our journey continues to one of the world’s famous circuit, The Mugello Circuit…

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