I rose at 7:00am to go for a run which allowed me to see a bit more of Monza and its environs, and upon returning from that I found out that my luggage had been delivered overnight, so that was excellent news. I still wore my new designer Italian outfit though, as it was nicer than anything I had packed. At breakfast I met the representative from our client’s client who was staying in the same hotel (it is a pretty complicated arrangement of companies involved in the project, with 5 different parties involved), and after a really good breakfast and a delicious cappuccino we walked over to the meeting location.
The meeting went well and lasted most of the day, being cut off at 5:30pm because some of the others had flights to catch back to their various European locales. I, on the other hand, had pressing business to conduct over the next few days in the Dolomites (the Italian Alps), so I high tailed it over the rental car agency where I had a diesel-powered Fiat Punta waiting for me. I swung by the hotel to pick up my luggage and then I was off, heading east on the A4 expressway towards Venice. As I drove I had an excellent omen, being passed by a Saeco truck:
Before leaving I had just ordered a Saeco espresso machine, so I took this sighting as a divine sign that I had chosen wisely. The town I was headed for was called Cortina d’Ampezzo, a well known ski town (akin to Whistler or Zermatt) located in the heart of the Dolomites. A few summers prior when Roanne and I had been to Italy, we had taken a train to Bolzano thinking that we would have good mountain access from there, but we learned that to get right into the mountains you need to have car (unlike in Switzerland, the greatest country on earth) so this time I had taken that approach from the outset.
I hadn’t done any precise distance calculations from Milan to Cortina, but from my well-honed instincts I had guessed it was a 2-3 hour drive, giving me plenty of time to get there in good time after my meeting ended on Thursday night. Unfortunately, it turned out that much of the drive (at least for the route I had chosen, which was definitely not the fastest) took place on tight, winding mountain roads up and over high mountain passes, which made the drive take considerably longer. I later found out from google maps (maybe I should have done this before the drive, who would have guessed?) that the base amount of time for the route that I took was just over 5 hours, and with my total time (including a few wrong turns and difficulty finding the hotel at 1:00am when I finally rolled into Cortina) being closer to 6.5 hours. I must say though, it was pretty stinkin’ fun to be driving a small manual-transmission car on those super-tight switchbacks at midnight with no other cars on the road. You get into a good rhythm on the uphills especially: gear down to 2nd and brake a little as the turn approaches, then gun it around the steepest part and shift into 3rd as you come out of the turn onto the short straight section between switchbacks, then back down to 2nd for the next turn and repeat up to 31 times (at the bottom of each pass there is a sign telling you how many switchbacks there are, and each turn is numbered).
Needless to say, I was quite tired after finally finding my hotel in Cortina d’Ampezzo. There was someone at the check-in desk, but he seemed a little drunk (I could smell the liquor on his breath also) and at first could not find my reservation until I pointed out that it was sitting directly in front of him on the desk. I guided him through the rest of the check-in process, and then finally climbed the stairs to my room for some well-earned sleep.
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