Travelling To Bella Italia In A Citroën 2CV Just Like In The Old Days
Images: Prisca Reininger
My friend Marco and I decided to go to Italy this summer with my beloved Citroën 2CV. The “duck”, as we refer to it, is very special because it was lovingly modified into a convertible by my parents in 1989 and has since been a two-seater with a large boot—ideal for travelling.
I have been on vacation several times with my “red speedster” and each trip has been an exciting, unpredictable and unique experience. Marco was coming along for the first time, an absolute newcomer to historic vehicles, he had never been abroad in an old car.
After a year of worrying whether it would be possible to travel, we set out in late June 2021. But first there were a few things that needed to be done. Even though she is a genuinely reliable “duck”, I stowed all possible spare parts—from the ignition coil to V-belts to the turn signal lever—in the trunk.
A bottle of oil for the air-cooled engine was a must. And then there's the steering wheel lock—there were no electronic immobilisers in the 1940s, when the production of the 2CV began.
Finally, we were ready for our little adventure.
Since driving on the motorway in such a time machine admittedly was not much fun with just 29bhp, we chose the route from Munich over the Achen Pass to Innsbruck. From there we drove via the idyllic, but very winding, Brenner pass road to Vipiteno and on to Bolzano—just like when the Brenner motorway was opened in 1971.
It took us about eight and a half hours to cover the 270km. With a modern car we would have covered the distance in less than five hours. But speed didn’t matter, preferring to enjoy the landscape and, thanks to independent suspension (the 2CV was designed for fields and unpaved roads), we rocked comfortably towards the south.
From Bolzano we made our way to a small mountain village, where the “best bacon in the world” is served. Packed with the finest South Tyrolean smoked goodies, we wanted to head towards the sea, but our plan was thwarted by overheated brakes. We immediately parked in the shade and opened the bonnet to allow the brake discs (located directly on the gearbox) to cool down.
So “Christine”—my “duck”, named after the ’58 Plymouth Fury from Stephen King's novel (and movie) of the same name—was now parked on the side of the road. The sight attracted passers-by, and those familiar with the area recommended a workshop specialising in historic vehicles.
Although we suspected that the brakes would be operational again after cooling down, we didn't want to take any chances, and went to the workshop. There the mechanic gave us the all-clear and added with a wink: "This happens all the time here, even with modern cars!"
I should have known Christine was just being a little diva as she plays games like this every time on her first day away on vacation. After that she climbed every incline, even impassable roads, as if nothing had happened. I could sense that she was just as happy about the holiday as we were.
Despite the wind, the temperature rose every minute, and you could tell from the driving style that we were really in Italy. We were constantly being honked at by passing cars, with drivers waving and taking photos. We were most amused when Marco flinched at the first honkings—he thought he had done something wrong. But over time he got used to the horn and returned the greetings as enthusiastically.
Time flew and we arrived at Livorno, on the coast. From there we cruised comfortably along the scenic coastal road to the Monte Argentario peninsula. On one of the headlands, we looked for a campsite and set up a small tent right next to Christine for the night.
After a refreshing morning swim in the sea, we headed inland to meet our friends near Todi, in the province of Perugia, as the seven of us had rented a country house with a pool in the middle of nowhere, in Umbria.
As our top speed was restricted to just 115 km/h, our return journey would take a few days. It was raining on the day we started our journey back, and “ducks” was clearly not designed for driving in the rain, as she mutated into a "mobile paddling pool".
Water dripped through the cracks in the ventilation flap and along the steering wheel, into the driver's cabin. The only choice was to try and plug every opening with rags that we had on hand. We even had to stop for a while, as we could barely see the other cars through the narrow windshield.
Totally soaked, we arrived at a family home near Bardolino on Lake Garda in the early evening. The young owner was very enthusiastic about our oldie and offered to put the “Due Cavalli” (Italian for two horses), as the 2CV is called in Italy, in her garage. She too drove the typical Italian historic runabout, a cute little Fiat 500. Unsurprisingly, we talked shop, exchanged notes on our experiences, and showed each other the few improvements of our “bread-and-butter” treasures.
After a cool dip in the clear green water of Lake Garda, the journey home took us along the east bank to Rovereto, where we took the motorway to Vipiteno. As we followed the country road to Innsbruck and then on to the B177 we could feel the air getting cooler.
At our last “hurdle”, the Zirler Berg, we drove aggressively—okay, kind of sneaked up the four kilometres with an altitude difference of 388 metres. Christine snorted and struggled, but eventually managed it with flying colours. We complemented Christine and patted her on her dashboard. When we arrived home, tired but happy, we even had a reason to celebrate—shortly before Munich, the odometer crossed 90,000!
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