Jakki Phillips jets off to Italy to put three mag­nif­i­cent Maser­atis through their paces and sam­ple la dolce vita

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We put three mag­nif­i­cent Maser­atis through their paces and sam­ple la dolce vita in Italy. 188 Tucked be­tween Mount Yotei and Niseko An­nupuri in Hokkaido is Niseko Vil­lage

Italy is syn­ony­mous with su­per­cars, so if you want to ex­plore the coun­try in style, you’ll be need­ing a hot set of wheels. And they don’t get more smokin’ than a home-grown Maserati. Touch down at Mi­lan’s Malpensa Air­port, then head to its Avis branch to col­lect your trusty steed. The Avis Pres­tige col­lec­tion of­fers the Maserati Ghi­bli Gran­lusso and Le­vante Grans­port. For this trip, my friends and I start off driv­ing the Le­vante, the mar­que’s first foray into sport util­ity ve­hi­cles (SUVS) and its best­selling model, par­tic­u­larly in China, which is now the mar­que’s big­gest mar­ket. I’m not plan­ning to do any off-road driv­ing; I just want a high-rid­ing, sturdy-yet-stylish 4x4 that af­fords me a sense of com­fort and safety while cruis­ing Italy’s nar­row, wind­ing roads. The Le­vante’s sexy Ital­ian curves make sure other driv­ers know who’s the queen of the road.

The Home of Maserati

Maserati was founded in 1914 in Bologna, but the Fiat-owned lux­ury car­maker is now based in Mo­dena, a 180km roar along the mo­tor­way from Mi­lan. My jour­ney has been mapped out for me by the Maserati team. It’s an itin­er­ary that cel­e­brates la dolce vita—the sweet life—and in­tro­duces me to beau­ti­ful coun­try­side, fine food, rich cul­ture and, of course, the thrill of the open road. At the Mo­dena head­quar­ters, I learn about the state-of-the-art tech­nol­ogy used to build Maserati’s sa­loons, sedans and SUVS. The com­pany of­fers tours that are free for its clients and ¤30 for ev­ery­one else. They must be booked in ad­vance—e-mail fac­to­ry­[email protected] A 90min visit in­cludes a snoop around the assem­bly line and the test­ing and fin­ish­ing ar­eas. We also drop by the swish per­son­al­i­sa­tion zone where clients can opt for in­di­vid­u­alised up­grades, in­clud­ing be­spoke silk in­te­ri­ors by an­other Ital­ian lux­ury house, Ermenegildo Zegna. Maserati is the only brand in the world of­fer­ing this ser­vice. Af­ter our tour, we spend the rest of the af­ter­noon test-driv­ing two more of the mar­que’s sweet­est rides: the Ghi­bli S and the Qu­at­tro­porte GTS.

Luciano Pavarotti Mu­seum

In tribute to Luciano Pavarotti, who was born on the out­skirts of Mo­dena, we blast the late Ital­ian opera singer’s great­est hits as we glide along quiet coun­try roads, en­joy­ing the head­turn­ing growl of the Ghi­bli’s engine when we swerve around the oc­ca­sional chug­ging trac­tor. Our des­ti­na­tion is the leg­endary tenor’s for­mer home, which is now a mu­seum hous­ing an in­trigu­ing col­lec­tion of mem­o­ra­bilia, in­clud­ing let­ters from celebrity ad­mir­ers, a se­lec­tion of his favourite Hawai­ian shirts and a room ded­i­cated to dozens of quirky por­traits. We re­fuel at Pavarotti’s favourite restau­rant, Europa 92, which, as luck would have it, hap­pens to be right next door. casamuse­olu­


This charm­ing medieval city of­fers end­less strolling and peo­ple-watch­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties, so park up for a few hours and stretch your legs. Fol­low the maze of cob­ble­stone lanes that weave around Pi­azza Grande and Pi­azza della Pom­posa, stop­ping off for a cool­ing gelato or an en­er­gis­ing jolt of espresso. Be sure to visit the 12th-cen­tury Ro­manesque cathe­dral, a Unesco World Her­itage Site, and its ma­jes­tic bell tower.

Ac­etaia Villa San Don­nino

For a taste of Mo­dena’s lus­cious lo­cal spe­cialty—tra­di­tional bal­samic vine­gar—we head out of town to the pic­turesque Ac­etaia Villa San Don­nino, a renowned fam­ily-run pro­ducer that has been craft­ing bal­samic vine­gar for more than half a cen­tury. Un­like su­per­mar­ket bal­samic vine­gars, which are of­ten only aged for a few years and cut with wine vine­gar and ad­di­tives that em­bel­lish the colour, the “black gold” flowing here is made from 100 per cent grape juice and is aged for a min­i­mum of 12 years. The taste is mind­blow­ing—thick, rich, syrupy and tangy. If you have time, sit out­side in the gar­den and en­joy a scoop of vanilla ice cream driz­zled with the Ex­travec­chio, which is aged for more than 25 years. Sound dis­gust­ing? Well, it’s ac­tu­ally de­li­cious. For a tour, e-mail ac­[email protected] vil­lasan­don­

Um­berto Panini Mo­tor Mu­seum

To learn more about the his­tory of the tri­dent-bear­ing mo­tor­ing mar­que, we swap into the Qu­at­tro­porte and fullthrot­tle it across town to the Um­berto Panini Mo­tor Mu­seum, where we dis­cover a world-class col­lec­tion of rare and highly valu­able Maser­atis at a rather sur­pris­ing lo­ca­tion—a cheese farm! Both the farm and the car col­lec­tion were the pas­sion pro­jects of lo­cal en­tre­pre­neur Um­berto Panini, whose fam­ily owned the Panini sticker empire. When Um­berto died in 2013, th­ese trea­sures were passed down to his son Mat­teo, who con­tin­ues to man­age the mu­seum and the 120ha Hom­bre Farm, with its 500 cows. Tours of the pri­vately owned col­lec­tion are free but must be booked in ad­vance. High­lights among the 19 iconic Maser­atis are the A6GCS 53 Ber­linetta (the most valu­able), the Tipo 61, known as the Bird­cage be­cause of the 200 small steel tubes that make up its trel­lis chas­sis, and the El­do­rado, which be­came fa­mous in 1958 for be­ing the first sin­gle-seater car in Europe to be spon­sored by a brand not linked to the world of mo­tor­sport. The brand in ques­tion was El­do­rado, an ice-cream man­u­fac­turer. For wheels of a dif­fer­ent kind, head to the farm shop. Hom­bre is fa­mous for its Parmi­giano-reg­giano, pro­duc­ing 12 wheels a day from 6,000L of or­ganic milk. For crumbly, nutty, gran­u­lar in­dul­gence, try the Stravec­chio, which is aged for more than 30 months. hom­

Mas­simo Bot­tura

Drive like a boss, eat like a king. Af­ter a hard day be­hind the wheel there’s only one place to dine—os­te­ria Frances­cana. Owned by chef Mas­simo Bot­tura, a Mo­dena na­tive, it has been in the top five of the World’s 50 Best Restau­rants list every year since 2010 and is cur­rently nu­mero uno. As a re­sult, you’ll need to book at least four months in ad­vance for a din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence at this fa­bled 11-ta­ble, 35-seat restau­rant, which is tucked away in the cob­bled back­streets of the medieval city. Ex­pect clever, con­tem­po­rary dishes that look like pieces of mod­ern art yet taste like the best of tra­di­tional Ital­ian cook­ing. Bot­tura’s cre­ations in­clude a de­con­structed dessert called Oops I Dropped the Lemon Tart and an ed­i­ble land­scape show­cas­ing the re­gion’s finest pro­duce ti­tled In the Coun­try­side: Snails, Hare and Aro­matic Herbs. A 12-course tast­ing menu with wine pair­ing costs ¤450. os­te­ri­afrances­

And Fi­nally …

Af­ter driv­ing the Le­vante, Ghi­bli and Qu­at­tro­porte, it’s im­pos­si­ble to pick a favourite. I’ll just have to test­drive them all again back at home. Ar­rived­erci Italy!

DRIV­ING FORCE The Maserati Ghi­bli S Gran­lusso

OLD AND NEW Mo­dena’s Ro­manesque cathe­dral. Op­po­site page: Tours of Maserati’s head­quar­ters in­clude a visit to the per­son­al­i­sa­tion zone

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