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Classic Drives Italy

For many, cars are not merely a way of getting from A to B. In particular where classic cars are concerned they are part of a dream, an experience, or a way of life.

So we’re going to look at creating those dreams – you’ve got your classic car, where’s the best place to drive it?

Even if you’re not yet the owner of a classic there’s an experience to be had, with bespoke rentals a great way of getting behind the wheel of something super-cool.

In this edition we’re off to the land of La Dolce Vita - Italy.

And if we inspire you to start looking for one of your own, check out our for sale section.

Where to go

Italy has a lot to offer those in pursuit of a car-related adventure. It is, after all, home to many of the world’s most glamourous car manufacturers – from Ferrari to Alfa Romeo.

For those who want a drive that is both rewarding and stunning, the Stelvio Pass, between Bormeo and Stelvio in the Italian Alps, is second to none. But that’s pigeonholing it a bit too much for us – the Stelvio is a drivers’ road for major petrol-heads.

We’re more about the overall experience here, the romance and the dream that goes with an Italian road trip. So for that reason, look no further than Via Aurelia, which dates back to Roman times, on the Italian Riviera.

The route, between Bordighera and La Spezia, in the Liguria region, is everything that’s wonderful about Italy. A coastal route, of course, it is glamourous in that old-fashioned movie kind of a way.

It’s all about elegance and luxury – something that has vanished from so many other places. This route takes you through beautiful quintessential towns and villages – the perfect places to stop off for an espresso in the sunshine – as well as stunning countryside with many a place for a Prosecco picnic.

Expect tree-lined cliffs, spectacular views of both lush countryside and the ocean and many places to eat and drink and soak up the Italian lifestyle.

What to take

There is plenty of choice for which stylish Italian classic to take on this most scenic and romantic of drives. And while you could obviously splash the cash on a classic Ferrari, we’ll look at more affordable motors.

Considering the amount of pretty villages and towns, with their narrow, cobbled streets, the Fiat 500 (the original from the 1950s and 1960s, obviously) is the perfect car. With its cute looks and tiny, thrummy engine, it became a symbol for the people in post-war Italy and suits those little roads perfectly.

For a bit of glamour, only the Alfa Romeo Spider will do. Produced from 1966 to 1993, it’s the older ones that are most desirable (remember The Graduate?), but the more recent models will still do for those on a budget.

The Fiat 124 Sport Spider – recently revived by the Italian giant – is pretty much as glam as the aforementioned Alfa and it’s nearly a Ferrari, too.

And if you can’t shake that Ferrari dream and have a few million quid to spare, we’d highly recommend the Ferrari 250. We can all dream, right?

What to see

You will be utterly spoiled on this drive. For a start, Bordighera is home to delightful facades and many gardens, while San Remo is probably the most well-known place on this route.

As well as hosting a music festival every February, there are palaces, trees and a sea fort – with the Mediterranean sea in front and the hills behind.

Sticking by the sea, stop off at Cervo, a town stuck in the 17th Century and all the better for it. Think narrow lanes and quiet streets. Likewise Albenga has a medieval centre, including an 11th century cathedral, while Alassio is a few hundred years newer and is the place to people-watch.

Finale Ligure is home to a hugely popular 1950s vintage bar, while the nearby village of Finalborgo is still walled-off, harking back to its Roman frontier past.

Noli, which dates back to the Middle Ages, hosts a lively market, while Varigotti is a tiny port village that is a must-see alongside its tranquil beach.

How to get there

Obviously getting to Italy is pretty easy – and affordable. Just fly into Genoa or Nice, which is just over the French border – something that can be done on various budget airlines.

If you’re doing that then you’re obviously renting a car – search out classic rental firms before you go. If you’re taking your own classic, it’s a hop across the Channel and then down through the continent.

There are hotels to suit all budgets along the route, which can be leisurely driven in a few days.

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