Viva Italia: Ferrari 458 Italia

Paul Barshon

The preplanned route that had been doled out back in Maranello called for our leaving the Alps and passing through Bourg-en-Bresse. In 1884, the American writer Henry James published A Little Tour in France, in which he labeled Bourg as "a town quelconque," that is, "ordinary." So we changed our heading for Annecy, at the northern end of the similarly named lake. Coming up the western shore, we watched a hang glider float high above. One of the Italia's virtues is its tall and, I dare say, Honda-like windshield, which affords excellent visibility and avoids the common flaw of capturing irksome reflections from the dashboard. Without a gear lever or transmission tunnel, there's ample knee- and elbowroom, and the overall level of comfort is noteworthy. The same is true for the quality of the interior trim. Every surface is exquisite to the touch. The instrument panel offers a jumbo tachometer withan integrated gear indicator, and this unit is flanked by multifunction displays that earn major kudos for Ferrari, being both attractive and effective. The dual-zone air-conditioning worked perfectly, too. My only complaint concerned the fiddling required to enter a destination into the nav system.

We glanced at sunbathers on the lakeside beaches and pleasure boats on the water's surface. When we stopped at a fruit stand in Saint-Jorioz, an employee who gave her name as Silvina delivered her curvaceousness onto the Italia's delicate aluminum forequarters, vamping for the lens. When we stopped in Sevrier, the chief of the three-man police department, Manuel Calatraba, wielded his camera phone, saying, "For my collection." But in Annecy itself, another policeman compelled us to affix the front number plate, which had been in the cargo hold. How else would the speed cameras track us? The plate subsequently blew off, I ran over it, and it went back into the cargo hold. Touché, Clouseau!

I will never be able to reconstruct the exact route that led us to Château de Varey in the afternoon, but finding this thirteenth-century castle, we turned uphill and moments later penetrated the narrow entry archway. "Ferrari!" exclaimed a boy in the courtyard, who couldn't have looked more surprised if a flying saucer had set down. A couple dozen youngsters immediately assembled, not to mention a few of their teachers, who informed us we'd arrived at a summer school for kids with learning disabilities. I set the electronic parking brake, positioned my right foot, and stamped out a counting lesson: 7000, 8000, 9000! The kids' gleaming eyes displayed clear comprehension. After each étudiant had sat in the front seat for a photo, we departed.

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