A VERY BRITISH SPIN THROUGH TUSCANY
For a different perspective on this sublime Italian region, Matthew Bell takes to the road in the new Aston Martin DB11
For the English traveler in Italy, few things are more rewarding than to meet the approval of a local. This is especially true in Tuscany, where even a Roman may be frowned upon. Such is the belief that Tuscans do it all better- pasta, wine, politics (there are still lots of Communists around here). But for an Inglese, we ragtag bunch of ill-dressed tourists, who descend at Pisa airport every summer to claim this dreamy landscape as our own, approval is usually thin on the ground.
So I couldn’t help but do a little dance in my heart when a man hunched over a Vespa gave me the thumbes-up. The reason, of course, was the car-a gleaming Aston Martin DB11, the latest model from this very British marquee. Drive a Ferrari around Italy and you are treated like royalty: young men scream and shout, older ones clap – even old hags give a cheer. But an Aston? It is a such un-Italian marquee, or rather, so English, that I had wondered how it would go down. It is not flashy, and it never comes in red. But as we slid through a groomed chequerboard of striped orange fields and tall green cypresses it struck me that I might have found the bit of a Venn diagram where England and Italy overlapped.
Tuscany in an Aston Martin both so elegant, so understated, so refined.
The car wasn’t technically mine but that didn’t matter. For a moment it was, and I intended to gobble up as many hills as I could. I was experiencing the Art of Living. This is the name Aston Martin has given its new programme of driving experiences all around the world. So you can skid around an ice pan in New Zeland or cruise through the vineyards in California, all in a new sports car, which you hand back, filthy, at the end.
The sybarite’s choice, through, has to be Tuscany, where you’re never far from a good lunch. My base was Villa Collalto, a large private home belonging to a noble Roman family, 15 minutes north west of Siena. If you can prise yourself away from the pool, there are hill towns in all directions, joined up by a network of hairy, zigzagging roads. Which makes Tuscany perfect for driving: there’s a challenge around every corner. It’s almost because the roads are so bad that they are fun; they are narrow and adversely cambered, and dive left and right with nowarning. This is no country for pootlers, though they are another hazard – the old men drifting towards you in an ancient Piaggio Ape truck.
I headed south, to the winemaking town of Montalcino, where the delicious Brunello wines are made, then east towards Lake Trasimeno, where Hannibal defeated the Romans with his elephants in 217BC.