Two weeks, two cars, ten countries

If you’ve visited us before then you’ll know that Re:Fuel is a great opportunity to meet petrolheads from far and wide. They’re all as unique as their vehicles. One thing we love most is hearing some of the amazing stories. During the current Coronavirus “lockdown”, we’ve been working on going “fully digital”, to continue to provide our public service to petrolheads! As part of this, we thought it was time to give a voice to some of the great stories we’ve come across since launching Re:Fuel.

At the September Re:Fuel Open day last year, we had the pleasure of meeting the team from Petrolheads Welcome. After getting to know them well since then, we’ve put them first in line of our guest bloggers. To give you a taster of what their platform is all about, many of the places they mention are included as links – maybe some tips for your next road trip?

Andrew, one of the Directors of Petrolheads Welcome, tells the story of how their platform was born…

‘The conversation went: “When I get it, I’m taking my new Ferrari to the factory, do you want to come along?”

Thus, a simple question turned into a 3,600+ miles tour of Europe that took in 10 countries (start counting), the Mille Miglia and various other motoring attractions.

Coffee anywhere in a nice car is a fun thing to do (this was in Germany)

Anyone who has planned a car tour will know that it takes much time and effort to set the route, find hotels (within budget) and ensure they have suitable parking. This latter aspect required looking at Google Earth to decide whether or not to book. Any doubt and we continued searching.

By the same token, one should cram in as much as possible to make the most of the opportunity. Consequently, we factored-in Stuttgart for the Mercedes and Porsche museums. Both are worth a visit, the former for the history of motoring and the latter for the architecture… and the cars, naturally.

We then drove a large chunk of the Romantische Strasse – the ‘Romantic Route’, as lampooned by the Top Gear trio – via Nordlingen to Fussen.

The next stop was Andermatt in Switzerland, via the Oberalp Pass. Despite being mid-May, the last skiing season had been one of the best for the volume of snow and so the other famous passes remained closed and under avalanche warnings (boo!). That said, we still had fun driving the cars in the Alps, including the drive into Italy for stops at Lake Como and Lake Garda.

Lots of snow meant some Swiss passes were still closed in May

The Mille Miglia is a must-see for all Petrolheads. What an amazing array of classic and exotic metal celebrating the 1,000 miles races held between 1927 and 1957. The start and finish are in Brescia where we enjoyed the razzmatazz of the post-scrutineering cavalcade. From there to Desenzano, a beautiful lakeside town that sees the cars whizzing through, along with wannabes’ (they don’t get through!) and some invited exotica from, this year, Ferrari and Mercedes. It’s great to see the enthusiasm of the locals and to watch them vent their anger at anyone and everyone who gets in the way. Our hotelier in Desenzano, Gregory Canzini, is another Petrolhead. Needless to say, his tips and local introductions added greatly to our experience (and he helped us wash our cars)!

The classic race brings out some classic characters!

The pre-arranged Ferrari Factory and Museum tours were excellent and included a detour into the Formula 1 Development Centre (only allowed in mid-F1 season). There are 600 people working in the Ferrari F1 team. On the next day, we toured the Ducati factory where 600 people work, in total! The museum there is also well worth a look around.

We then enjoyed a couple of nights at the stunning Opera O2 Agriturismo Hotel near Modena. Here, owner Mattia Montanari is on a mission to teach the world about proper Lambrusco and traditional balsamic vinegar. Needless to say, both are delicious!

Our next stop was the nearby Imola Race Circuit. It’s a genuinely lovely place to be, even when there’s no racing action underway… that’s saying something in a Petrolhead blog!

The iconic race circuit is an open attraction all year round

We also stopped at the Misano ‘World Circuit Marco Simoncelli’ where Ducati were undertaking some testing. We then visited the village of Tavullia, home of MotoGP superstar Valentino Rossi and had a coffee in his Official Fan Club café.

The long journey back to the UK took us into the Austrian Alps to stay with friends near the spectacular Kolnbrein Dam. We also called at Hangar 7, the home of Red Bull in Salzburg before a couple of long driving days blasting along the German Autobahns into Belgium and France before the Channel Tunnel and home.

A lakeside rest en-route to Austria

Thus, a casual enquiry turned into an amazing and memorable tour. It also revealed to us that no single website had the information we needed to plan the trip… and Petrolheads Welcome was born!

The links embedded in this blog are just some of the places around the UK and Europe where we have stayed and can recommend as suitable for your classic or sports car. Fellow Petrolheads have since recommended many more to us… thank you!

Petrolheads Welcome is free to join and free to use. It could be your ideal resource for planning your next driving holiday… when we’re all allowed out again!

(P.S – If you’ve counted six countries so far, the missing ones were Luxembourg, Lichtenstein, San Marino and, of course, the UK.)

Petrolheads Welcome