Book a room, drive an MX-5

Total MX-5 - - CONTENTS - Miataland is open year-round, apart from a 15-day break in mid-fe­bru­ary. You can check avail­abil­ity of rooms and make reser­va­tions di­rectly by vis­it­ing ei­ther or

A dream come true – an Ital­ian hol­i­day re­sort for MX-5 fans where you can drive some of the owner’s 39-strong col­lec­tion of cars

The vis­ual, ar­chi­tec­tural and culi­nary de­lights of cen­tral Italy, ex­pe­ri­enced from the driver’s seat of cars from an epic MX-5 col­lec­tion – wel­come to the won­ders of Miataland Pho­to­graphs: Daniela Loof

Crazy about your MX-5? Of course you are.we all are. But some folk are a lit­tle cra­zier than oth­ers. An­drea Mancini would hap­pily con­fess to be­ing a stalwart of that lat­ter camp. The Jaguar Land Rover Italy Fi­nan­cial Ser­vices, Sales and Mar­ket­ing Man­ager cur­rently owns 39 MX-5S, in­clud­ing some very rare mod­els. By any mea­sure that demon­strates a level of en­thu­si­asm for the Mazda road­ster that the rest of us can only marvel at. But An­drea has taken his passion for the MX-5 a stage fur­ther; he’s opened a re­sort ded­i­cated to his dream car, and he’s called it Miataland. And you can stay there and drive some of An­drea’s ex­tra­or­di­nary col­lec­tion.

What MX-5 en­thu­si­ast wouldn’t want to visit Miataland? Sim­ply get­ting there can be an ad­ven­ture in it­self, even if you opt to fly into Italy and rent a car at the air­port. An­drea’s re­sort nes­tles in the Um­brian hills, near to the small town of Col­la­zone, a place as au­then­ti­cally ru­ral Ital­ian as you could wish for. It’s south of Florence and north­east of Rome: Peru­gia is only 25km away. The land­scape here – and you can see great swathes of it from Miataland’s lofty po­si­tion above the val­ley – is mag­nif­i­cent and the roads are

won­der­ful, as An­drea will ex­plain as he sends you forth in one of his MX-5S to ex­plore the re­ could have a fan­tas­tic time here even with­out an MX-5 to con­vey you around the coun­try­side, but with one, roof down and a warm Ital­ian breeze tou­sling your hair, the ex­pe­ri­ence is mag­i­cal.

An­drea’s fas­ci­na­tion with the MX-5 stretches back to the car’s 1989 launch – from the mo­ment he first saw one as a teenager vis­it­ing the 1990 Rome mo­tor show he be­came a lit­tle bit ob­sessed, and used to stop off al­most daily at his lo­cal Mazda dealer as he walked home from uni­ver­sity. Not that he could af­ford one as his first car… ‘I shared an Au­to­bianchi A112 Abarth with my mother ini­tially,’ re­calls An­drea, ‘but my real first car was a stun­ning VW Golf GTI mk2, a three-door in grey with a sun­roof. I still have a fond­ness for some of the hot hatches from the 1990s, but the MX-5, the Mi­ata, is my real passion.

‘I didn’t buy my first one un­til 1998. It was a used mk1, a grey im­port from Ger­many, and it was black with a tan roof and the 90bhp 1.6-litre en­gine. It was noth­ing spe­cial, re­ally, but to me it was ab­so­lutely beau­ti­ful. I re­mem­ber my first ever drive in it, top down, from my work­place in Rome out west to the coast, and that won­der­ful feel­ing of the wind and the sun… And your hand on the steer­ing wheel is like hav­ing your hand on the front tyres!’

His burn­ing en­thu­si­asm for the road­ster thus ig­nited, An­drea was in­spired to set about build­ing a col­lec­tion of MX-5S, with a fo­cus on the lim­ited edi­tion mod­els, al­though he has plenty of stan­dard cars, too, in both lef­t­and right-hand drive. De­cid­edly non­stan­dard, though, are the Fer­rari 250

GTO ‘replica’ mk1, and the 5.0-litre 400bhp su­per­charged V8-en­gined mk1 Mega Mon­ster im­ported from the US. The lat­ter avail­able to be driven by guests at Miataland, as are a pair of su­per-rare fac­tory hand-built light­weight M2 Eunos Road­ster mk1s, but only by those An­drea knows par­tic­u­larly well.yet even if you’re not on that list, there are oth­ers mod­els – a tur­bocharged Maz­daspeed mk2 – that will broaden your per­cep­tions of what an MX-5 is ca­pa­ble of. An­drea re­ports that to date the most pop­u­larly re­quested cars are his reg­u­lar mk1s, and the lat­est mk4s, both road­ster and RF.

The idea for Miataland grew out of a day when An­drea in­vited a gang of his car en­thu­si­ast friends to drive some of his col­lec­tion. To sev­eral of them the dy­nam­ics of the lit­tle Mazda were a rev­e­la­tion, a les­son in why driv­ing plea­sure is born out of so much more than fe­ro­cious straight line per­for­mance and colos­sal horse­power fig­ures. Hav­ing seen the fun they’d had, An­drea de­cided that shar­ing his cars with oth­ers wasn’t just the ‘right’ thing to do, but also rep­re­sented a busi­ness op­por­tu­nity.

‘Of course, there are other mo­tor­ing re­sorts and mu­se­ums with car col­lec­tions at their core,’ ex­plains An­drea,‘but the very spe­cial fea­ture of Miataland is that you can drive the cars. My plea­sure is to share my Mi­atas with real en­thu­si­asts from around the world; it’s in­cred­i­ble to lis­ten to their feed­back after they’ve been out in a mk1 Mi­ata.’

But to achieve his vi­sion – a five-star re­sort where you can im­merse your­self in all things MX-5 – An­drea needed to hunt down a prop­erty with suf­fi­cient space to ac­com­mo­date his col­lec­tion, an at­ten­dant work­shop, guest rooms and a sep­a­rate house for him­self. And it needed to be in a re­gion with great roads, his­toric cities and towns, breath­tak­ing land­scapes, and ter­rific food.‘i dis­cov­ered Um­bria while I was search­ing for the per­fect lo­ca­tion for Miataland,’ re­veals An­drea. ‘I think it’s one of the most beau­ti­ful re­gions in Italy, per­fectly in the mid­dle be­tween Rome and Florence. Not far from the sea, and with lots of tour­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties and

plenty to see and do.’

As for the es­tate he dis­cov­ered in Col­la­zone, it couldn’t have been bet­ter for An­drea.‘there are two main parts. The 200-year-old villa in which I live, and an­other, newer build­ing for guests, ren­o­va­tion of which started about 40 years ago and is now fin­ished!’what sealed the deal, though, was the barn. While in more re­cent times it had been used for sta­bling, it had orig­i­nally been con­structed about 30 years ago to house a car col­lec­tion… A story straight from the Land Of Meant To Be.

Buy­ing the prop­erty was one thing; trans­form­ing it into Miataland has been a two and a half year jour­ney that reached its com­ple­tion this April.‘we have six rooms, four suites and two dou­ble rooms,’ de­tails An­drea.

‘And their dé­cor is in­spired by Mi­ata colours: M2 Blue, Soul Red, Mariner Blue, Bri­tish Rac­ing Green, Sun­burst Yel­low, and Chaste White.

‘All of the rooms have some very spe­cial de­tails, in­clud­ing lux­ury show­ers, hand­made beds, top-class stereo systems, and mood light­ing con­trols.we’re very proud of the ma­te­ri­als we’ve used, too – oak floor­ing, for in­stance, mar­ble and hand­made tiles in the bath­rooms, satin sheets. In the com­mu­nal lounge there’s an im­pres­sive li­brary stocked with Mi­ata, Mazda and other au­to­mo­tive books, and guests can re­lax at our in­fin­ity pool with glo­ri­ous views over the sur­round­ing coun­try­side.’

For the mo­ment Miataland op­er­ates as a bed and break­fast, al­though An­drea says that for large groups din­ner can be ar­ranged. But there are sev­eral ex­cel­lent restau­rants nearby and your pas­sion­ate host will en­cour­age you to ex­plore the lo­cal tra­di­tional Um­brian cui­sine: he’s

al­most as much an ad­vo­cate for the re­gion as he is for MX-5S.

But it is the cars you’ll be com­ing to Miataland for, and to our minds it would be worth the jour­ney to Italy even if you only got to walk around and ad­mire An­drea’s col­lec­tion. In­stead, a drive is in­cluded in the price of your room.yet be­fore jump­ing be­hind the wheel of any of the cars, there are few things you should know. Firstly, if there’s some­thing in par­tic­u­lar that you fancy driv­ing, you should let the Miataland staff know in ad­vance: apart from any­thing else, the cars need to go through a ses­sion in the work­shop be­fore go­ing out with guests.

Then there’s the in­sur­ance is­sue – An­drea may be a shar­ing kinda guy, but he’s nev­er­the­less very pro­tec­tive of his cars. The in­sur­ance cov­ers third party claims, but as for the cars you’re in, you bend ’em you mend ’em.‘dam­age to the cars is a guest’s re­spon­si­bil­ity,’ ex­plains An­drea.‘i chose this op­tion be­cause it en­cour­ages a care­ful and re­spect­ful ap­proach to driv­ing my cars: for me, it’s the best in­sur­ance for my col­lec­tion.

‘Ad­di­tion­ally, each car is fit­ted with a ‘black box’ that records rel­e­vant data such as speed and lo­ca­tion. Up to now I’ve only had great ex­pe­ri­ences with real en­thu­si­ast driv­ers and guests – no one has tried to race the cars or drive them to the ab­so­lute limit, they’ve sim­ply en­joyed driv­ing them with the roof down, rev­el­ling in the beauty of the coun­try­side.’

An­other thing to bear in mind is that each car has a 60km (37-mile) range limit each day. ‘Within this range,’ smiles An­drea, ‘you can visit As­sisi, or Mon­te­falco – very fa­mous for the red wine – or Todi and Monte Castello di Vibio, or Orvi­eto and Lake Cor­bara, or Peru­gia, Solomeo and Lake Trasi­meno. Spend two or three days here at Miataland and you can have the full cen­tral Italy ex­pe­ri­ence: some guests have done just that as part of a larger Ital­ian tour. And the feed­back we’ve had from in­ter­na­tional guests so far is that they’ve had a won­der­ful time.’

So, is it just MX-5 en­thu­si­asts who visit Miataland? ‘Well, by its very na­ture Miataland does tend to at­tract the MX-5 afi­cionado,’ chuck­les An­drea,‘but re­ally this place is for ev­ery­one. At least, ev­ery­one who likes cars. And for sure, if you’re not an MX-5 owner when you visit Miataland, chances are that you’ll be think­ing of buy­ing one by the time you get home – this has al­ready hap­pened more than once. And I’ve helped sev­eral guests source in­ter­est­ing MX-5S from around the world.’

It’s hardly an orig­i­nal ques­tion, but we can’t help but ask An­drea what is his favourite MX-5 from his vast col­lec­tion? His an­swer is straight­for­ward and pas­sion­ate: ‘Hon­estly, I don’t have a favourite car! All of them are so spe­cial to me, and I re­mem­ber all the sto­ries linked to each and ev­ery one.’

If you don’t al­ready have your hol­i­day booked this year, might we humbly sug­gest that you take a long, hard look at Miataland’s web­site.

Above: Miataland’s in­fin­ity pool is a great place to chill and ad­mire the sur­round­ing coun­try­side

Right: An­drea’s col­lec­tion makes for an awe­some spec­ta­cle and we could spend days in his car house

Be­low: lest you for­get where you’ve wo­ken up to­day… We don’t think there’s much chance of that, how­ever.

Left: cars ready for guests to take out on a lit­tle tour of the Um­brian re­gion.

Stun­ning roads, beau­ti­ful coun­try­side, won­der­ful ar­chi­tec­ture, su­perb food: what are you wait­ing for?

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