On any Italian Autostrada, driving a rosso Ferrari Portofino is effectively like driving a police car. OK, the siren is different; it’s a throaty roar as those triumphant eight cylinders find their way to the 7500 rpm redline, sonorously announcing your impending presence to traffic ahead. You lack strobing blue emergency lights, but that doesn’t matter to those seeing your Prancing Horse grow larger in their rearview mirror. Everyone yields. Hastily. Italy’s roads are yours to use and abuse.
Should the red mist (temporarily) creep into your field of vision and you respond by matting the accelerator, you’ll get plenty of reverent nods as you streak by, as though you are doing a great civic duty by piloting this 591 hp supercar to the hilt in the wild. Italy’s zealous love of bella macchinas—particularly when the marque is local—is why gearheads adore exploring the nation and its magnificent sinewy roads.
While Italy currently finds its footing during a devastating pandemic, I’m still remembering the country as it was during my honeymoon this past summer: vibrant, welcoming, and full of unrelenting speed. My wife and I cemented the crux of our itinerary, a 10-day road trip around Italy (she’d never been) and I wanted to share my favourite haunts from trips past to create new memories with her.
We stepped off in Milan, spending a night exploring the packed piazzas, devouring carbs and gelato, before moving onto Tuscany. Punta Ala was home for two nights, specifically the Baglioni Resort Cala Del Porto, a secluded five-star resort situated high above the port, offering stunning views of the sea. Our daily agenda consisted of a short walk or bike ride to the nearby beaches for dining al fresco before retreating to the soothing hotel bar for Aperol spritzes.
Sufficiently sun-kissed by the lazy days, we headed south to Rome, where we traded in our dismal rental for a shimmering Portofino, perched smack in the middle of our hotel’s porte-cochere. My wife let out a low, approving whistle upon seeing Ferrari’s handsome replacement for the entry-level California model. The sleek and sexy lines were beckoning, but I was eager to uncork that twin-turbo 3.9-litre V-8 as we wound our way out of Rome’s harried center towards Sorrento. Patience and pedal restraint were required for the first traffic-filled hour, a shame given that the Portofino’s exhaust is vastly muted below 3,000 in the rev range.
I finally heard Maranello’s aria crescendo some sixty miles south, on a fantastic set of switchbacks in the region of Lazio. Tight hairpins zoomed up as I clacked through the gears, but the E-Diff and F1-Trac traction system in the Portofino kept everything tidy. Coming out of any corner, the ECU brilliantly applied the maximum amount of torque to keep us moving forward with astonishing quickness without drama. The V-8 mill is so prodigious that Ferrari tampers how much of the 561 ft lbs of torque is available in first through third gears, though that never blunts how fast the 3,700-pound convertible feels. You’re still ripping to 60 mph in the low-threes, and everything intensifies when the top is down.
The miles melted by in the Portofino. It’s 1.1-inches wider than the California and the space in the cabin is appreciable. A 10.2-inch touchscreen handles infotainment needs without issue, and my wife found the optional second touchscreen—allowing control of the navigation system, and displaying performance data—super helpful in admonishing my lead foot, gesticulating at her own speedo. The seats are plush enough for an achy back on the highway yet keep you planted during a hard corner on backroads. Our two carry-on suitcases did fit in the trunk, though it took several tries to perfect the exact placement so the roof had enough space to retract.
Arriving in Sorrento, wide lanes winnowed to cramped stone-paved alleys and it was the only time I wished the Portofino was more compact. Parked at our hotel, the £200,000-plus supercar was the subject of as many tourist photos as the island of Capri just off to our right. On the way out of town, bombing up towards Florence, we stopped at a food truck on the coastal highway near Sperlonga. Here, the owner beamed at our chariot before upgrading our sausage roll orders to the deluxe option, gratis. Leaving the lot, a family of four implored us to rev it and I obliged, the exhaust soon drowning their cheers.
Florence is a beautiful mix of old and new, applicable from the architecture, art and culinary scene. Our lodging for the evening was the Baglioni Relais Santa Croce, an exquisite 18th-century palace nestled in the historic city center. An elaborate chandelier hangs from ancient wooden trusses (still visible on the top floors) that were based on a Leonardo da Vinci design. The Sala Musica, a grandiose ballroom beside the bar, doubles as the lounge, the walls featuring ornate cutouts that would’ve been occupied by orchestral players centuries ago. Enoteca Pinchiorri, a three Michelin-starred restaurant, plates some of the finest fare on the first floor, with fresh ingredients sourced from a farmers market steps from the hotel. One night in Florence will never be enough.
As our honeymoon wound down, we nosed the automotive stallion home to Maranello. After mistaking the Scuderia F1 engineering building as our drop-off point—“No, signore; this is where we prepare for racing,” a kind staffer explained—we found the correct spot and parted ways with our rolling work of Italian art. We’d covered more than 650 miles in the Portofino, each one indelible. Before decamping home, we visited Museo Casa Enzo Ferrari in Modena, the birthplace of the man himself. Poring over his childhood home, seeing an immaculate collection of priceless 250 GTOs on exhibit and strolling the same grounds that Enzo once did was a humbling and enriching experience.
Across the street from the museum is an exotic car rental shop. A young guy emerged as we passed by, walking back to our hotel. “My friend, the only thing better than seeing a Ferrari is driving one!” he shouted, gesturing to a glistening 488 GTB. Amen, sir. And the best place to do it is in Italy.