Milan's Station Centrale, just minutes after 6:00 a.m. on a brisk late September morning, was almost deserted. Our overnight train from Paris pulled into the station a few minutes late, but we didn't care. Our Italian adventure was about to start: 10 days exploring Abruzzo, Tuscany, and the Dolomites.
Why Milan and not Rome as our Italian gateway from Paris? With press day at the biennial Paris auto show last Thursday and a scheduled pickup of our test-drive car in Milan on Friday, an overnight train fit our plans perfectly. My travel companion Susan and I arrived in Italy's fashion capital less than two hours before the Fiat-Alfa Romeo-Lancia center opened. There, a 2010 Alfa Romeo MiTo awaited us.
The MiTo is a sporting, two-door supermini hatchback designed to compete directly with BMW's popular MINI premium compact. And, if rumors are to be believed, the MiTo will reach the North American market sometime in late 2012, when a five-door hatchback is expected to join the line for the 2013 model year. The move will be part of the Italian automaker's long-awaited reintroduction to the U.S. market as Chrysler and Fiat become more fully integrated.
Enough car talk for now. This is Italy, and we have a long day's drive ahead of us to Abruzzo, 700 kilometers (420 miles) away on Italy's Adriatic coast.
This is my sixth trip to Italy and Susan's second. Three years ago, she accompanied me on a business trip to Abruzzo. We fell in love with this region situated between Rome and the Adriatic, with its combination of Alpine-like peaks and miles and miles of beach and rocky coast (150 kilometers, to be exact). Although we visited Tuscany on that trip as well, Abruzzo holds a special appeal. It must have something to do with our local contact, Leonardo DiFlavis.
Leonardo was born here but emigrated to Canada with his family, only to return while in high school. Fluent in both English and Italian, he runs several tour operations in his spare time while studying to be a surgeon. It seems there's no one in the region he doesn't know on a
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