Viva Italia: Ferrari 458 Italia

Paul Barshon

I ruefully said goodbye to the Ferrari 458 Italia in Row U, Section 6, of an underground parking garage in Portsmouth, England, an ignominious close to a journey that had begun in Maranello, Italy, and culminated with a thrilling dash up the hill at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in West Sussex: four days and four countries of driving bliss. I said goodbye to the incarnadine beauty and marched straight out to the hotel. It was like choosing not to look at a dear one lying in an open casket, preferring instead to remember the good times and all the grace. Having soared too close to the sun during the past four days, I now went forth without wings.

On the previous Monday, I was starting a routine week when the call came to get on a plane that very afternoon. Clearing customs in Bologna, Italy, fewer than eighteen hours later, I walked through the airport lobby and nodded at a man holding a Ferrari placard. He drove me past a Parmesan cheese factory and some balsamic vinegar producers on the way to Ferrari headquarters in Maranello. Here, I met photographer Paul Barshon, and we were off. Needing to share the new Italia with another reporter en route, we set out in a Ferrari California, the retractable-top spider. Following behind the Italia let me familiarize myself with the control layout that the two cars more or less share. As we tooled along the autostrada, I saw how Italy's membership in the EU has caused the nation to get serious about traffic enforcement; we kept to a reasonable 75 mph, and the engine only snarled when we occasionally hurried around another vehicle. With the radio playing classic rock, it wasn't so different from crossing Indiana. But before reaching Turin, we headed north-northwest, aiming the prancing horse on the hood for a point between the Matterhorn and Mount Blanc.

Heavy rain fell as we climbed away from the Italian city of Aosta, and clouds hewed to the ridgelines in Great St. Bernard Pass, which was still thawing out at the end of June; meltwaters hurried down to the Po River and thence to the Adriatic Sea. (Meltwaters beyond the summit flow to the Rhône.) The customs house was unmanned-another result of European unification-and we drove into Switzerland, passing through the Great St. Bernard Hospice, with buildings on both sides of the narrow E27. Nearly a millennium ago, Bernard of Menthon, archdeacon of Aosta, founded this place of rest and refuge for travelers, who previously had been prey to brigands. By the seventeenth century, a special type of mountain rescue dog had been put to work, taking the name of the place. We glimpsed a pair of the beasts along the road, presumably in training. We also greeted some young French cyclists who'd climbed to 8000 feet above sea level without appearing to breathe hard until they saw the Italia and the California together.

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