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di Barb Palmer

Pubblichiamo il resoconto (in lingua originale) della partecipazione dei cinquecentisti neozelandesi al Meeting Internazionale di quest'anno.

A wee bit about us, Tim and I live in the South Island New Zealand.

We are the proud owners of a 1912 Unic Delivery Van, a 1923 Fiat 501, a 1963 500 D, a 1969 500 F and a 1959 Citroën 2CV, an eclectic mix of cars that get motored often.

We have a passion for the Fiat 500 and run a local 500 Facebook page and organize rallies often.

After taking part in the Global Fiat 500 Worldwide Meeting during Covid restrictions in 2021 I thought it would be great to actually go over to Garlenda and experience the meeting for real. So it was decided, after a bit of persuasion on Tim’s part, that we registered for the event and the planning started.

Eighteen and a half thousand miles later we arrived in Garlenda and met up with our friend Ashley Fini, from Auckland, who had been travelling around Italy. We headed for the Fiat 500 Club Italia Headquarters and met many of the people that I’d been communicating with over the past couple of years, including Sandro, Francesca and Alessandro, nice to finally put a face to the names. Amazing to think an organization this big is run from a small town, around 22.000 members worldwide with a population of only 1.250.

We were very lucky as their museum was shut but we all got the VIP treatment being shown around and being introduced to many of the committee, including the founder of the club 40 years ago, Domenico Romano. We gave them a copy of the History of the CFLC, stickers and various memorabilia from New Zealand. After finishing at the headquarters, we picked up the 500F that we were lucky enough to borrow for the event.

For anyone that turned up on the Thursday there were aperitif’s in Albenga, so after picking up the 500 we headed for Albenga. Unfortunately the rain had started so Tim was getting used to driving on the right in a new country with torrential rain and trying to work out their road rules with the help from Ashley in the back seat. We made it there to the amazement of others; these New Zealanders are hardy souls. After drinks and nibbles we were invited back with the Fiat 500 Club for pizza at the Fiat 500 Bar and Restaurant in Garlenda. We had such a great night, managing well with our lack of the Italian language. We met some lovely people and Ashley traded an All Blacks’ cap with a very keen Frenchman, Didier from Monte Carlo.

Day 1- we assembled in Villafranca Park along with 900 other 500’s, an amazing assortment of cars and models, completely overwhelming, where to look first! Tim and Ashley headed for the Spare Parts Tents and soon enough the suitcase was fill with an assortment of parts to take home! We met lots of interesting people and their cars; they were certainly surprised that we came all the way from New Zealand. I handed out heaps of Bambina stickers, pens and souvenirs, some of which we swapped with other enthusiasts from other parts of Europe. We set off for a sightseeing tour to Borghetto in a long line of 500’s, as far as the eye could see. The traffic on the side roads were stopped by the Polizia so we all had a straight run through to Borghetto Santo Spirito where we parked up along the coast, an amazing sight for the locals that watched from the streets waving to us as we drove past flying our New Zealand flag with pride. We took our own route back to Garlenda through the picturesque countryside to the strong aroma of fresh basil, so fragrant. Ashley was on navigation and me on flag waving, we certainly had lots of laughs watching the Italians and their driving, some hair raising! We returned to Villafranca parked up and were fed and entertained for dinner before leaving on a night run to Albenga where there was a band entertaining the huge crowd. This was an absolutely amazing drive at night through the tunnels with 500’s tooting and a snake of cars weaving around the corners to crowds of people watching and waving from the streets. We could have stayed there all night long, but another big day was planned so we headed for home.

Day 2- we headed for The Grand Tour to Alto, high in the hills 650m above sea level. A lovely winding drive around the hills where we certainly witnessed the Italians driving at their best, lol. A beautiful Italian lunch was served to us all; the Italians certainly know how to cater for a crowd! We headed back to Garlenda exploring more roads in the local villages, seeing and experiencing the true Italy. We arrived back in Garlenda to dine out with Jill Forde and friends from The 500 Club Ireland and the UK. We certainly had a lot to talk about and in fluent English too! After dinner we had to be back at Villafranca at 9.30pm for the Gala. We managed to get our 500 through the crowds where we drove up on stage flying our New Zealand Flag to the playing of the New Zealand Nation Anthem, something we will never forget, it was absolutely amazing. We got interviewed on stage and were certainly treated like royalty. Everyone loved us and to finish they all sang Happy Birthday to me, as I was celebrating the big 60. The best birthday ever I would have to say.

Day 3-we assembled again at Villafranca Park, rows and rows of cars, something of this magnitude you would only see in Italy. We departed for Pietra Ligure, a historic town on the coast 28km from Garlenda. Another scenic drive through many towns on route with residents waving, we even had one cheeky Italian trying to flog our flag! We weaved our way through the crowds at the historic centre where we all parked up and checked out the local shops consuming cold beer and Gelato, something that became a regular occurrence with the hot days being around mid to high 30’s. We arrived back into Garlenda and finished with pizza at The 500 Bar to end our adventures in Liguria. Tim, Ashley and I had an absolutely amazing time and it exceeded all our expectations and on that note we’re going back in July 2025. We would like to thank Sandro Scarpa and The Fiat 500 Club Italia for their generosity and kindness shown over the four days, something we will never forget. Our time in Garlenda was absolutely amazing and were overwhelmed by the kindness shown by everyone.

Life is short, book that trip and make the memories.

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