Mont Blanc Tunnel

A view from the driving seat.

After the best night’s sleep ever, it’s all aboard Bussy McBus face as we begin our journey to our home base of Padova in Italy. But first I need to load the luggage on the bus. This is like a giant game of Tetris as every square inch of space needs a piece of luggage carefully slotted in, remembering to keep the camera gear on top to avoid our stops becoming a giant game of Jenga.

While everyone is settling into their seats, it’s time to set the tacho up, card in, account for my activities since the last time I was in the driver’s seat and away we go. Next stop: the ancient town of Monza via the Mont Blanc tunnel.

As we begin our climb up the zig zagging mountain road, a local lorry on its side at one of the off camber hairpin turns is a good reminder that these roads can offer a challenge, even for the locals. As we approach the toll booths for the tunnel, we spot a monument on the left side of the road dedicated to the 38 people who lost their lives in the 1999 tunnel fire. Our group of photographers ask to stop to visit the monument. Whilst they pay their respects, it’s a chance for me to reflect on the dangers that an innocent looking tunnel can present. Driving rules are strict in the tunnel for what seems very good reasons.

Safely through the 11.6km tunnel, we continue our journey and, as we slowly descend from the mountain, the onboard computer on the minibus is beginning to show signs of the outside temperature creeping up and as we pass through the Italian border we hit 23 degrees. It’s only mid-morning; it’s going to be a hot one!

Smoothly through the Italian border and onto the Autostrada heading towards Milan, the first thing I notice is that it’s a lot busier than France. The driving seems to have reached a new level of crazy. Cars, vans and lorries are sweeping across 3 lanes of traffic with what seems to be reckless abandonment of any sense of self-preservation! However, that said, we didn’t see one accident.

250km of playing dodgems with the crazies and we arrive in Monza for a three hour break to take a look at the town and our first photo shoot of the Italian leg. While Helen gets Alexa ready, our photographers are completing their daily challenge.

Parking in Monza is a bit of a challenge for a 7m minibus and, shortly after our shoot starts, we spot a traffic warden. And so begins a two hour battle of epic proportions as I play hide and seek with a very determined chap. The final score, Steve 3 Traffic Warden 0. See you next year my friend, for round 2!

Photoshoot wrapped, pics in the bag, everyone refreshed and it’s back on the bus to Padova. Because today is a long haul, we stick to the Autostrada and, as the kilometres tick down to approximately 50km to our destination, the weather takes a sudden turn for the worse. There’s now heavy rain and strong gusting winds which is making a heavy bus a bit more of a challenge. The weather stays that way until we hit Padova and the hotel is a welcome site.

With everyone checked in and the bus unloaded the weather improves and Andrew and I are straight back to the bus, heading into the town centre to pick up Nadia, our second model joining us on this trip. With Nadia safely on board, it’s time to head back to the hotel for a bite to eat and, after 476km covered today, an ice cold Peroni.

Written by Steve Miller

Dancing in Monza