The last stop on my tour of Italy before finally returning to the U.K. was Milan.
Although I’d pretty much winged the whole trip so far this leg was very much planned out as I’d be meeting my mate Rick for the Italian Grand Prix at Monzad. If you’re here looking for budget travel tips, you’ve come to the wrong place!
After a couple (read: a bucketload) of catch up beers on the Friday, we arose fairly early on the Saturday to get to Monza for the 2pm qualifying session. We hadn’t researched too much but having seen how easy it was to make your way around at the Japanese Grand Prix last year I presumed it would be a similar situation at Monza. How wrong I was!
We bought a ticket at Milan Centrale for a local train to Monza and when the time rolled around we were told (along with many other F1 fans) that this train wasn’t for us and that we were to take a direct train to Monza that left 10 minutes later. Naturally this became 20 minutes with the inevitable delays – I’m not sure why we couldn’t just get on the normal train, but they were having none of it!
When the train did eventually leave we arrived at a very rainy and crowded Monza station. Being British we’d seen the rain but decided that T-shirt and shorts were very much the order of the day regardless, but after just a few minutes of waiting in the painfully slow ‘queues’ for the bus it was looking like a terrible decision.
Thankfully help was on hand from the chancers who frequent such events and we managed to pick up a pair of rather fetching pink and orange ponchos for a cool €10. Not the cheapest but beggars can’t be choosers!
After quite a wait (we later discovered that there were much quicker shuttle buses on the other side of the station!) and a fairly lengthy drive we were finally at the circuit. We could already hear the revving of the engines as we made our way down as we arrived a few minutes into the Q1 session but this all stopped a few minutes later.
We arrived at our seats on the Parabolica corner to discover that the session has been suspended just a few minutes in due to rain. The safety car would do a lap every 15 minutes or so but the outcome was always the same and the session was delayed for over two hours.
Thankfully we had plenty of beers to keep us going and despite being soaked to the bone and absolutely freezing, we stuck around to see Lewis Hamilton take pole and indeed the record for most pole positions of all time! I was actually amazed at how many people just gave up and left before the session even restarted, although if they were Ferrari fans it was probably a wise decision as the home team’s drivers had something of a shocker.
After the earlier bus debacle, we decided to hang around in the fan zone with a few more beers and see what they had to offer. Cue a number of cheesy/wonderful (delete where appropriate) tourist pictures.
Thankfully the sun was shining and we were much less hungover on race day which made things ever so slightly less stressful. Not only that, but we were actually able to avoid those bloody buses as on race day the train put on specific trains from Milan Centrale to Biassono-Lesmo.
While arriving at Monza station leaves you a good 4/5 kilometres from the circuit, the Biassono-Lesmo station drops you off straight outside, albeit at the complete opposite side. In fact our walk from this entrance to our seats at Parabolica – plus the much larger crowds – must have taken us the best part of 40 minutes.
After a much longer wait for a beer than the previous day we finally took our seats just in time for the really impressive air show. I’m always amazed at just how close together these things seem to fly – certainly much braver men than me!
The race was very much a routine one-two for the Mercedes drivers and finally after four grands prix I saw the driver I was supporting take the chequered flag as Lewis Hamilton dominated from start to finish! I was very much outnumbered in the stand as with it being Ferrari’s home race we were surrounded by a sea of red, but that didn’t stop me being vocal in my support as the video below will show!
It was a hell of a lot more crowded on race day than qualifying and with neither of us wanting to miss the race and get caught up in crowds, we had to find alternative ways to source alcohol throughout the race. Thankfully, help was on hand through a bunch of charlatans wandering around with cool boxes full of suspiciously warm bottles of Heineken.
I caught someone’s eye as he passed along the bottom of the stand but there was only one problem: we were halfway along the sixth row and he was right at the bottom.
What followed was a Chuckle Brothers style ‘to me, to you’ scenario in which we involved everyone in the stand in the transaction. We passed down the money from person to person, then realised we hadn’t paid enough so had to send more down before he sent the booze the other way, again from person to person. Warm Heineken never tasted so good.
Once the race had finished the crowds heading out of the circuit were borderline unbearable and came to an almost complete standstill in a tunnel. Certainly not one for the claustrophobics in attendance.
One man in particular took exception to someone in the crowd of 96,000 having the audacity to touch him whilst standing in a packed tunnel and proceeded to start shouting in a woman’s face while her family appeared ready for kicking his head in. It’s good to be back in the west.
After that all calmed down (and we stopped rubber necking) another trip to the fan zone was on the cards while the crowds died down before heading into the city for an aperitivo at the Aperol terrace overlooking the Duomo. It’s a tough life.
We had dinner not long after and at this point we both realised it might be home time. We were sat outside the restaurant as a tram came past and suddenly we heard the shattering of what we thought was glass. With both our glasses still on the table we immediately put two and two together and assumed someone had thrown a bottle at us from the tram.
We were up in arms telling the waiters and other customers that we’d been targeted by Milanese ruffians, and to be honest we were quite shook up. It was only when the waiter came to clear up that we realised it wasn’t a bottle at all – Rick had knocked his side plate off the table with his elbow!
In hindsight, I think a bottle would have been a better story for the blog. Suppose you can’t have it all!