It’s late November in Italy and the day is one of great anticipation as the non-stop, high-speed train hurtles at over 300 km/h whisking my companion and I down from the high mountains of Felena towards our destination, Modena.
Unlike Africa, where you’re inevitably met by a shimmering burnt orange African sunrise, the contrast of an early winter, slow, sunrayed dawn is hovering overhead – desperately trying to pierce the winter mist – while fields of farmland disappear from view rapidly. Thankfully, we are not battling having purchased the last two available tickets in a first class private suite where the railway cabin crew burst through the glass sliding doors every 20 minutes or so to offer more coffee and biscuits – or whatever your heart desires. My head is still spinning at the cost of all this travel pampering. It has consumed about R1 800 for a two-hour train ride, proof positive that the Rand’s conversion rate now lies somewhere between waste paper and banana leaves.
As a tourist in Europe you’re quickly ex-communicated from the pleasure of it all by the sheer costs that are awaiting to mug you in every transaction. The hordes of waiters can quickly make another 100 Euros for lunch disappear at any one time for a modest meal. So hunger gaps can become the order of the day and the ability to avoid some refugee boat people trying to flog you off with a lousy copy of the Leaning Tower of Pisa also becomes just another deft con trick.
Anyway, you are supposed to be enjoying this bewildering array of culture. It all comes from the sweet life of becoming a publisher which I have been for over three decades now, a dyslexic wonder that has a good track record of survival ability, that’s my story, anyway. Thank goodness for good sub-editors who do the spelling and stuff. It’s difficult to pinpoint the onset of wonderlust, combined with other feeble observations that came my way after photographic impulses were well entrenched many years ago.
Naturally I have been able to travel and interview many key people. It is that incurable enthusiasm that drops us off, finally, at the doors of this town painted red, called Modena, at the Maranello headquarters of Ferrari, and soon I’m off to see some real road-going marvels.
Being given a ground up restoration, our technical facilities guide is Massimo Genitoni who markets one of Italy’s most modern spray booth technologies, Metron. He has arranged a personal tour of Carrozeria Zanasi. They are the prime outsource company who handle the vehicle painting at one of Ferrari’s factory production sites, but Zanasi have a further two facilities. Today, Umberto Zanasi, who at the ripe old age of 84, is due any second to collect us for a rare glimpse of this amazing department that both restores and maintains some of the most valuable and exotic Ferraris anywhere in the world.
The process of body repair to pristine levels can be exaggerated by a wait of between 10 to 24 months before one of life’s little excesses reappears in perfect condition. The born again attention to detail is incredible with intense craftsmanship every step of the way. The realisation dawns on this day that travel leads to sudden and instant companionship. I will probably never meet these people again – but they will live with me forever.
Travel leads us to what connects us which is far more astonishing and precious than what separates us. While we might look miles and miles apart in the distance that we live, we are closer than we imagine in the world of vehicle repair.