DirtFish’s Italy diary: A pilgrimage to Sanremo

Heading from Rally di Roma to Rally di Alba, a diversion via Sanremo was too tempting to resist

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I’ve been fortunate enough to write diary pieces in a lot of cool places. Or I thought I had. Until now. I’m really not sure it gets any better than this. I’m typing beneath a picture of Markku Alén. Over there is Tony Fassina’s Stratos, Petter Solberg’s Subaru and Walter Rohrl’s Audi.

The list goes on. And on. The pictures just don’t stop.

And the best bit? They’re all signed. They’ve all been here. From Rauno Aaltonen to Kris Meeke. And the rest.

Where am I? Dall’Ava Ristorante, San Romolo. We’re 800 metres up and nine miles outside of Sanremo. Everything about this place is a pilgrimage. The road here? It’s only the Coldirodi stage. And if you’re coming to the proper restaurant – which is how Petter Solberg described the place last night – we had to drive it from the start. The proper one. The one down by the toll booth for the A6.

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Off the line, it’s almost impossible to imagine how a 6R4 could possibly fit between the hedges.


Or how anybody could possibly hang on to a Lancia Delta S4 as it bucks and kicks over every bump, crest, rise and jump. Every metre offers another challenge that differs radically from the previous one. It narrow, twisty, tight, turning, turning, turning. Fast. Briefly. Hairpin. Long hairpin. Short corner.

It goes up and it goes on. The climb is pretty much constant. We’ve left the Italian Riviera in 32 degrees and dropped 10 degrees in what is a half mile of vertical climb.

Arriving into San Romolo is as much a deep disappointment as it is a source of absolute delight. Dall’Ava’s is that special.

If you’re ever in the area, make the effort to come up and see Davide Dall’Ava still making his father very proud and continuing a tradition started by Dall’Ava Sr 70 years ago. And when you’re there, prepare yourself not only for some of the finest wild boar you’ll ever taste, but also the chance to meet a hero or two from the world championship.

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Freddy Loix, François Delecour, like you and me, love to come, look at the pictures and remind themselves about everything that’s great about our sport.

We started the day looking for the famous bridge Rui Madeira missed and parked his Toyota on its nose alongside the river in 1994. Down around Ulignano and the La Madonnia test, stopping, starring and shutting eyes to listen to Colin McRae’s flat-four Subaru barking its way past the cypress trees down the valley.

From there it was the hike the drivers hated from Toscana back to Liguria and Sanremo. There was a hope we might have time for a detour to Imola and Tamburello, maybe even a pizza in Maranello. But sadly not. We spent too long on the loose around San Gimignano and had to make Sanremo before sundown. We did.

Tomorrow, it’s back north to Turin for an appointment with some very, very special cars.

Words:David Evans

Photos:DirtFish Media