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Tim Moore: Just how did caravanning get this cool?

Airstream, the iconic US caravan-maker, has launched its first range designed for Europe. But would the sleek curves and power-assisted gadgets be enough to help Tim Moore convince his family that caravanning really could be fun?

Middle age isn’t all bad. Here is just one of the unsung bonuses: if you passed your driving test before 1997, you’re already qualified to raise merry hell on public roads at the wheel of a car-plus-caravan “outfit” of up to 8.25 tonnes in weight. So when you see someone under 30 towing a caravan, be content that at least they know what they’re doing, having proven so in a stringent supplementary test. Except you won’t, because unless they’re stealing it or are en route to some Top Gear-sponsored demolition derby, no one under 30 tows a caravan.

Two things threaten that demographic. First, recession: a domestic caravan holiday is cheap, which explains why bookings at Caravan Club sites are up by 40 per cent this year. Second, Airstream – the only caravan it’s OK to want, or indeed ever to refer to by name – has just released a modish European range. These factors are fated never to work in tandem, however, because Airstreams are tremendously expensive.

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Why less-visited Ferrara is as fabulous as Florence

Author Sarah Dunant set her latest novel in Ferrara, a town that captivated her with its rich history – especially that of its grand medieval convents

The first problem I had when I started writing a novel set in a 16th-century convent in Ferrara was that my spellchecker kept trying to turn the city into a car. It was one of many realisations that this history-rich place on the banks of the River Po is one of Italy’s hidden treasures.

We’ll get inside the convent later – first, Ferrara itself. I arrived there early one summer morning on a train from Florence. My walk to Florence station had been an obstacle course of cars and crocodile files of sweating tourists so busy adjusting their commentary earphones that they barely managed to lift their eyes to see what particular Renaissance wonder the guide was instructing them to appreciate.

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