Aunt Jean's driving school came to a screeching halt when we faced the last leg of our journey - a steep, rutted, gravel path leading up into the mountains. Yipe. We crept painfully for two miles through a cloud of road dust, trying to focus on the cypress trees lining the road. With the villa in sight and the path getting ever steeper, I made everyone get out for the last 100 yards. Our chariot remained parked for half the week as we suffered the indignity of the Trafic (yes, I fought with the kids for the front seat) as our grocery van and touring vehicle.
We dusted off the Quattroporte at week's end for the big surprise - a pilgrimage to Modena and a tour of both Maserati and Ferrari, arranged by Dal Monte. Actually, we didn't dust it off, planning to arrive early and find a car wash. That did not happen. After a fruitless search, we slunk in through Maserati's main gate, a thoroughly dusty mess, and scurried into the main lobby, hoping that no one had spotted us.
We began our magic day in the lobby, looking at cars and an exhibit by famed Modena photographer Beppe Zagaglia. Our guide, retired export sales manager Giorgio Manicardi, then walked us down the ultramodern assembly line, spouting history and performance figures. He had the boys mesmerized.
After an exquisite lunch with Dal Monte, we were sent to Maranello to see Davide Kluzer of Ferrari public relations, and the boys almost swooned when we walked into the sanctum sanctorum of the prancing horse. Seeing the sheer numbers of Ferraris - coming down the line, driving through the historic gate - almost popped their heads off. Then came the Fiorano track and the faithfully preserved house where Enzo had his office and watched F1 races. Tommy and Joe touched his telephone. The finale? Spotting a yet-to-be-revealed 2009 California.
We returned to the Quattroporte (it was spotless and gassed) bearing parting gifts. I am pretty sure that when their ships roll in, the Boniface boys will be Maserati owners. I just play a Maserati owner in magazines; this car, alas, needed to be returned. On the last day, my husband and I eased our Quattroporte down the hill and headed for Rome and home.
With ten miles to go, the thick traffic spit a piece of metal into our path, slicing a tire. D'oh. I made the gut-wrenching call to Maserati . . .