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Trip Report A road trip to Florence

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We love a good driving holiday and having used the train for our last trip to France and as, at the time, our next big trip was going to be Japan we thought it was about time we did another road trip. Having driven to Athens for the Olympics in 2004 we are used to holiday driving and long journeys - we share duties 50/50 and both love being behind the wheel. We wouldn't want to do it too often but love it when we do - the freedom of being able to explore, to stop off when you want and to see and experience a far greater variety than you might if you just fly or train in to a destination is not to be underestimated.

As ever, this site was an invaluable resource in making our trip way better than it would have been had I not trawled the forums for information, so thank you to all who made our trip a success - I hope that others find something useful in this trip report, despite the fact there are no disasters, no funny stories, no run-ins with local law enforcement, etc, etc.

I get that this type of trip won't be for everyone but if you've never done it, do give it a try. Especially if you are used to driving in Britain - European roads are so much nicer to drive on, so much less traffic and appreciably better driving. This trip report is not just about giving back it's also hopefully to encourage and if it makes a tiny iota of difference to someone taking a road trip it would be hugely pleasing. On this most recent trip the worst traffic jams and delays were on the first and last days on our own roads - this was no great suprise but very dispiriting nevertheless. On our longest driving day - 10 hours, we encountered just one delay due to roadworks that held us up for about 15 minutes.

The trip was partly to celebrate our 20th anniversary and partly to meet up with son Joshua who had been in Italy for the summer. And so we picked Florence as our destination. We'd not been before, which was a disgraceful state of affairs, and so even though we were to be there in August, I'm not good with too much heat, we went ahead and started booking things.

As usual our holidays tend now to revolve around one very special meal in a Michelin three star restaurant and this year it was Osteria Francescana in Modena, a short drive north of Florence. We actually had to put our planned dates back by a week to accommodate the fact that like many restaurants, it was closed earlier in August.

So with the restaurant booked everything else began to fall into place - we wanted to take no more than 5 days off work so the weeks delay happily coincided with our late August bank holiday. We made the decision to start our trip on the Saturday morning rather than the Friday night and this was a good one. Inevitably work is really busy in the run up to a holiday and this trip was no exception, by Friday night I was exhausted and in need of a few drinks and an early night.

I'm a fan of AA routeplanner for driving times and distances and started planning our nights by putting in Manchester to Florence, working out drive times and seeing where was fairly close to the route. Before we left I tested these times against our car's satnav and they were very similar. So I chose Ghent for our first night. I've always been impressed every time I've been to Belgium and having visited Brussels and Bruges, Ghent was next and I knew it had a reputation for being nicer than Bruges due to the lack of tourists. I wanted some time the next day to explore Ghent a bit so the next destination was Metz, just over 3 hours away, as we wanted to see the new Pompidou Centre. From there Interlaken in Switzerland and then Florence our destination for a few days.

Coming back we picked Modena, Switzerland again and then a long days drive to get close to Calais on Sunday night for what we hoped would be a morning's shopping before an early afternoon Eurotunnel and a long drive home.

The basic layout of the trip didn't get altered much in the months leading up to it, although we did drop Interlaken - the hotels were way too expensive, but what did alter were the detailed routes getting from one place to another. As I looked in more detail at each leg of the trip more got built in, particularly roads that would take us off the motorways.

Next some detail.

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