The compassion of our hearts and souls yearns to be mystified by exploration, discovery and enlightenment. Moreover, our minds are never still and seek entitlement from the unknown or what is foreign to daily routines. Thus, journeying to breathtaking hideaways and captivating lands far from home is what keeps us evolutionary. In other words, we all could use a bit more purpose in life. So when the time for a much needed vacation breeches your mundane routine then answer the call with a travel itinerary that will lead you somewhere spectacular such as the enchanting grounds of the Portofino and Fiesole areas in northern Italy. And if you want to capture the natural fluidity of Italian style then acquire the keys to a requisite sports car to complete the fantasy. I think a Lamborghini Gallardo will suit the occasion just fine.
Our Northern Tour began with a proclamation from Lamborghini to celebrate the range of their most successful vehicle in the company’s history: the Gallardo. With over 12,000 units sold since inception, the Gallardo is a driving compulsion and accentuates what a perennial sports car should look and feel like. The Bull’s V10 engine, carbon fiber laden sculpture and exotic lines leave one with no choice but to drive it proudly and exuberantly as if they conceived it themselves. For Lamborghinis are iconic and some of the most important supercars of the modern day era.
I landed in Milano, Italy with verve and social anxiety to be back in the land of saints, philosophers, architects and designers. A three hour drive would bring me to our lunch gathering at Ristorante LaTaverna del Gallo Nero in the small township of Varese Ligure to meet with the rest of the group. LaTaverna, which received a Michelin star from 2008 to 2012, was a very cozy cafe playing 60s classic music. The atmosphere was reminiscent of biblical nativity scenes where evangelists and archbishops sat at long wooden tables in stone castle dens for dinner. The food was amazing and succulent. Afterwards we took pictures of the constellation of Gallardos parked at the town square while residents and locals communed in wonderment. Shortly after, we drove off as a team of six down the narrow brick streets of Varese Ligure which are more like alleyways in big American cities.
My drive partner and I took out an Orange Borealis LP570-4 Spyder Performante to begin the journey to our next location. Carbon fiber accentuated the body while race inspired bucket seats kept me in place during tight corner accelerations. With hardly any two Lamborghinis being made the same, our vehicle’s soft Alcantara with orange cross-stitching emphasized the interior’s design. An LP with a “2” after its moniker is a 2-wheel/rear-wheel drive vehicle while a “4” denotes all-wheel drive. Of course our disposition while touring the serenity of Italy’s countryside in an Italian symbol of mobility was congenial. Mostly all were infatuated with the brigade of colorful Gallardos passing by with pride. Kids cheered joyfully, adults gazed with amazement and businessmen snickered. We waved back and beeped our horns in honor of the warm welcomes. At each stop the Lamborghinis attracted a mob of friendly and fascinated onlookers. Imagine six raging bulls in Red Mars, Orange Borealis, Blu Caelum, White Monocerus, Yellow Midas, and Green Ithaca passing by your playground or congregating in front of your cafe.
After a run though the mountains for a video and photo shoot we hit the motorway for a game of cat and mouse in route to Portofino. The most exuberant moments were downshifting and accelerating through the series of tunnels that cut through the hills. The tone of the exhaust notes was like listening to Luciano Pavarotti over a glass of Pinot Noir. Perfecto! Our Performante was peaceful until you let loose on the gas and unleashed its power; it then screamed like a grizzly bear fresh out of hibernation looking for food. Put it in “Corsa” mode for unadulterated entertainment!
The end of the day led us up the winding driveway of Hotel Splendido in Portofino which overlooked the Mediterranean Sea. It was a momentous day of driving. The property’s narrative is Victorian luxury with modern relaxation accoutrements. It’s home to well-established guests looking for extraordinary measures of enchantment and compelling testimonies of harmony. Notable guests include Humphrey Bogart, Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Peter Gabriel, Rod Stewart, Naomi Campbell, Ron Howard, Larry King, Calvin Klein and Rod Stewart to name a few. Each quarter is tailored to sophistication with no two of the 69 rooms and suites resembling the other. My most endearing memory was of the dual terrace that offered an empowering and magnificent view of the harbor. If that’s not enticing enough then the hotel’s personal boat can play host to a romantic dinner cruise while the sun is setting.
Later that evening we walked briefly downhill for dinner at Ristorante Chuflay in Piazzetta Portofino which sits at the base of Castle Brown. This small port was both a pirate’s cove 300 years ago and also played a significant role in WWII. It was a very serene and calm evening as the piano player choreographed American traditional hits to glasses of Italian wine being toasted amongst a new set of tourists. With food and wine the main staple of Italian tradition, the chef prepared our pesto from scratch showing why the pasta sauce is so delightful.
The next morning we had breakfast on the terrace while enjoying the beauty of the Mediterranean amongst a strong morning light. The agenda was to tour Forte dei Marmi two hours away for lunch and then head to Fiesole for the evening. I’m sure if anyone was asleep we awoke them with the roar of a half dozen V10 Lamborghini engines. My first choice to begin the journey was the Blu Caelum LP550-2 Spyder. It rained a bit so we closed the cloth top, which kept the cabin surprisingly quiet. Upon arrival, Lamborghini set up another photo shoot featuring the Red Mars Super Trofeo Stradale that instantly garners attention (only 150 were made worldwide) before cruising to lunch at Ristorante La Magnolia. Once again, the ingredients and flavors instilled in Italian cooking appeased us all to the fullest. Shortly following, the crew simply wanted to relax by the tranquil pool and waterfall next to our dining area. Yet, back to business. So we exchanged keys and directed the cars further into Tuscany.
A warm welcome by the town’s occupants followed our arrival to Fiesole where we would camp like posh aristocrats at the historical Villa San Michele. Valet quarantined the entrance for our fleet of Lamborghinis to display properly. Originally erected in 1411, the estate was first an oratory before its conversion into a monastery and later becoming private property. In 1982 the Orient Express claimed rights to the majestic villa-themed hotel and to this day its management poignantly caters to the social elite with fulfilling experiences of compelling testimony. The elegant garden view that overlooked the city from my villa’s entrance constantly swept my breath away. I’m sure it did the same to Michelangelo who lived in this area and Leonardo da Vinci who had his first flying lessons here.
Dinner was set at the hotel’s Ristorante San Michele. It was our last night in the province so we dined as if would be “The Last Supper.” Where else would we find Sfogliatina tiepida agli Asparagi Salsa al Limone, Tortelloni di Melanzane e Caprino Salsa al Timo, Risotto di Scampi e Cannellini di San Genese, and Sorbetto al Frutto della Passione alongside Benefizio Pomino and Verduzzo di Ramandolo vini? Magnifico!
Our last day of driving featured mostly highway jaunts to Lamborghini’s headquarters, company museum and factory in Sant’Agata Bolognese. This time I went with the menacing Super Trofeo Stradale. There was no time for child’s play and full throttle would be my mission.