I don't often get to photograph cars, but I am very much into them. So I was delighted to get a call asking if, 'although it's not what I normally do', would I be interested in driving a Ferrari to Italy and back for an editorial story? I immediately said yes, and here's the article that was published.
Words by Andrew Dickens. Originally published in Shortlist magazine.
"We recently had a discussion about pizza in the ShortList office. it’s what we do between high-quality journalism and arguing over the stereo. Pizza has become really authentic in London, said the consensus.
You get wood-fired ovens and some pizzerias don’t even have pineapple on the menu.
I, however, disagreed. Among the talk of 00 flour and artichokes, i’d become nostalgic for the time i lived in italy. “Did you know that bad pizza is illegal in italy?” i said. “it’s true. if you try to import a sub-excellent pizza, they shoot it at the border and ship the remains to Switzerland, which remains pizza neutral. It’s so much nicer.” “Prove it,” they said. “I will,” I said. “I’ll drive to Italy, buy some pizza, turn around and be back in time for lunch the next day. And I’ll do it in a Ferrari.”
So here I am, sitting outside ShortList’s central London offices in a beautiful red Ferrari California T. I’m with Richard Stow (photographer and co- driver) and a six-pack of red Bull.
it’s 9am on a Thursday. Our aim is to deliver the pizzas by 1pm the next day – a bit like the age-old pizza delivery promise of 30 minutes or less. Except that it’s 28 hours. we’ll need to be fast. (Any admissions of speeding over the following pages are purely fictional, honest.)
Our progress has already been curtailed due to my stupidity; an errant digit in the satnav meant that this morning I’d tried to pick Rich up from Walthamstow instead of where he actually lives in Limehouse. Eventually, though, we’re off – roof down, shades on, looking like a much older Ferris and Cameron. continental Europe, here we come.
We choose Aosta in the Italian Alps as our target destination. It’s only 45km from the France-Italy border and, importantly, it has a pizzeria – one that we’ll need to reach by 11pm. According to Google, it’ll take roughly 12 hours non-stop to get there via the Eurotunnel. that gives us 14 hours. No, hang on, time zones: 14 hours.
Man vs Clock
Of course, it won’t be that simple. There’ll be traffic, there’ll be police and we’ll need to stop for petrol, coffee and croissants. Also, the Eurotunnel is full, so rather than a 35-minute crossing from Folkestone, we’re looking at a 90-minute ferry crossing from Dover. minus one hour, then.
To make things worse, my satnav idiocy meant we missed our ferry – and the one we’re on is delayed by 25 minutes. From hurtling through Kent at 120mph, we’re now eating chips and watching the world go by. Slowly.
Once in calais, though, the beast is uncaged. In an orderly manner. Down a ramp. It’s 2.15pm, we’re eight and a half hours from Aosta, but before us lies nothing except beautifully maintained, empty French motorways. Hundreds and hundreds of kilometres of them, all virtually identical, upon which the most exciting thing to happen is Rich returning from a service station with two bags of wine gums for me. So let’s talk about the car.
I’m no expert, but the California T seems pretty amazing to me.
I get the impressive stats: 553bhp, 0-62mph in 3.6 seconds, top speed of 196mph. But what surprises me is how easy it is to drive. i feared that my leaden foot would have us bouncing around car parks like a £200k pinball. As it is, it’s smooth and, dare i say it, ‘ordinary’ when you want it to be. Perhaps it smelled my fear and was kind to me.
Of course, it’s still a Ferrari and it is very, very fast. The kind of fast that makes you feel naughty even when you’re not.
The kind of fast that makes you want to discover the speed where your nerve gives out (about 140mph, it transpires). it’s the kind of fast that, in the space of two paragraphs, has transported us
to the edge of Geneva.
Despite driving in shifts, fatigue is setting in and being near the dullest city on Earth doesn’t help. It’s getting dark, it’s raining and the roads are busier and less straight; all of which slows us down. It’s 9.45pm and we still have 90 miles to go to Aosta and our 11pm deadline. I’m not confident at all.
We reach the mont Blanc tunnel at 10.20pm. halfway through it we cross the border into italy, but we know things don’t look good. It’ll be one thing if we’re late back with the pizza, but to have no pizza at all? Sad face. We emerge from the tunnel and stop for a loo break. And then i see it, an illuminated sign about 300m away. Like a text message from heaven it reads: ‘ristorante – Pizzeria – Bar’.
Forza italia! And f*ck Aosta! We’re in italy, that pizza is authentic, that’s what the ShortList office is getting. We park the car, which brings the chefs out, and i explain the situation in my crumbling italian. They understand, they smile, they whip up seven delicious pizzas. We eat two and pop the others on the back seat. it’s 11.30pm, we’ve driven nearly 700 miles without a significant break – and now we’re about to head straight back.
I’d sum up our emotions now in one word: frrrrpp. We don’t feel terrible, but we know we soon will. I’ve done the lion’s share of the driving to this point, but Rich heroically steps up for, we hope not literally, the graveyard shift. Time is on our side – we’ve got more than 14 hours to get back to the office and, this time, a wonderful, flexible Eurotunnel ticket to whizz us under the channel. Our biggest battle will be staying alert.
One advantage of having the roof down is that the wind in your face at 120mph greatly helps with this. One disadvantage is that, if you’re in the passenger seat trying to get some kip, the wind in your face is a pain in the arse. After five impressive hours rich submits to nature and i take over. i buy a service station coffee and two pains au chocolat. By the time
i return to the car, rich is asleep.
Benevolently, i do not eat his pastry and even put the roof up so he doesn’t get blown awake. this, of course, means i don’t benefit from the wind and after a couple of hours no number of wine gums will sustain me. I pull into a rest area just outside reims. It’s 7am and we’re aiming for the 11.20am train. Google says it’s two and a half hours to calais. We’re in a Ferrari. We can afford to sleep.
We wake up 50 minutes later, feeling great and with time to spare. The sun is beginning to rise, so we decide to take the scenic route to take some nice photos.
I say scenic route; this is northern France, the faceless country. Still, we find a vaguely green bit and the sun looks oK. it’ll do.
The rest of the trip is seamless. re-joining the motorway, we pelt along at very silly speeds, reaching the Eurotunnel early. this allows us to get on the 10.50am train which, tardis-style, gets us into Folkestone at 10.25am. two and a half hours to get back to holborn? Simple. We reach the m25, whereupon the car sprouts wings and flies rich and I home, while pixies emerge from the glove box to serve us cake and bags of diamonds.
You’re not buying that, are you? In reality, it’s 12.30pm and after plain sailing across a continent we’ve hit the drivers’ hades that is London, looking enviously at the gradual flow of the glass in the city skyscrapers around us. For the first time on this return journey, we actually think we might be late. People might have to eat slightly after one. The horror.
Having moved about 12cm in 15 minutes, we finally break free of the Square mile and, at 12.50pm, 10 minutes ahead of time, we pull up outside the ShortList office. The staff come out and, to my great surprise, eat pizza that’s been sitting in the back of a car for 14 hours. that’s it. the end.
OK, so the story’s not that dramatic. In fact, if we hadn’t p*ssed about getting photos at sunrise, my colleagues would be eating cheesy elevenses.
But we have delivered pizza from italy to London by car and done it within 10 minutes of our target time. Is that cool? Yes it is. Was the pizza good? Apparently. Was it worth it? Not in the slightest. We can just get fresh pizza nearby – it’s very authentic, you know.
Images for this story were shot on the Canon 5D mkiii with the 11-24mm lense, and the Fujifilm X-Pro1.