2011 Maserati GranTurismo Convertible - Mare e Monti

Paul Barshon

By midday, the temperature had risen to one degree above freezing, but with the wind chill and open top, the cold winter air still felt like full facial anesthesia. Even in these adverse conditions, it takes exactly twenty-eight seconds to raise or lower the roof, which disappears beneath a flush, leather-covered lid. For enhanced effect, the whole procedure can be staged at speeds of up to 19 mph or while standing outside the car and turning the key in the door slot. All four side windows retract fully, creating an elegant silhouette even with the top up.

When you travel with only two people onboard, a wind deflector can be clipped in to reduce buffeting from behind (by 70 percent). What Maserati can't provide are up-to-the-minute features such as Mercedes-Benz's Aircap and Airscarf. But the far bigger omission is the absence of a decent luggage compartment. When you pop the trunk lid for the first time, it's hard to believe your eyes. The casually carpeted cubicle is only 6.1 cubic feet in size and so oddly shaped that a custom-fitted luggage set is mandatory.

Italy isn't full of only charming ancient cities, a picture-postcard coastline hemmed with an intriguing mix of sleepy fishing villages and chic resorts, and enough historically important sites to keep travelers busy for an entire lifetime. In addition to these trademark attractions, the country also offers a rare mix of secluded mountain ranges and charming inland waterways that beg to be explored at exactly the leisurely pace convertibles are made for.

We didn't have enough time to visit heavenly hideaways like Maremma, Umbria, or Cinque Terre, but we did tour the equally stunning flat marshes and wetlands between Ravenna in the south and Padova in the north. Dotted with lush rice fields and vast reeds, the region known as Polesine harbors a maze of lagoons, reservoirs, canals, and saltwater lakes that attract bird-watchers, hikers, fishermen - and the crew of a light silver droptop GranTurismo. In this microparadise, there are no major villages, no gas stations, no roadside cafés, not even the odd country restaurant. Just the occasional carefully carved-out pattern of manicured farmland within the vast framework of one of the country's biggest nature reserves.

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