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Italy by Ferrari

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Tuscany is often touted as being one of Italy's most beautiful gems. Six of its ten provinces have been made UNESCO protected sites.

It is definitely a favourite destination of Getaway viewers (and crews) and a few years ago we did an Italy by Vespa story which stirred a lot of interest. That company has expanded in a big way and is also doing Italy by Ferrari tours, so how could we resist? The tours go through Tuscany or the Italian Alps, Lake Como or Sicily — destinations where the driver can experience the true performance of the vehicle. Venice is not an option!

All participants who drive one of the Ferraris must hold a current driver's licence for at least three years and have a half-day tuition. The cars are built for precision driving and do not have a gear stick. All shifting is done on the steering wheel, and rather than braking in the usual way, you just shift down.

The much-coveted car was founded in 1929 by Enzo Ferrari, and his company sponsored drivers and race cars before moving into the production of street-legal vehicles in 1946. The red Ferrari is one of the world's most recognisable status symbol and is the one to beat in Formula One racing where it has enjoyed success since the 1950s. So popular is the black prancing stallion on a yellow shield, it has expanded into merchandising pens, perfume, computers and high-tech bicycles.

We set out in Florence, the capital of the region of Tuscany. Much of it lies in the plain of the Arno River and has a large, urban sprawl, while its north-east is in the Apennines and remains unspoiled.

Long ruled by the Medici family, Florence was a centre of medieval European trade and finance, and is often considered the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance. It has breathtaking art and architecture and it is believed that around 350 of the 1000 most important European artists of the second millennium lived or worked there.

Just a couple of hours down the road is Siena, set on three hills and possibly Italy's best-preserved medieval City — its walled portion looks much as it did in the Middle Ages. Some visitors day (or even half-day) trip there, but those who know it say it is worthy of at least two days.

Siena's heart is Piazza del Campo, a concave half-shell form, paved in herringbone design. The town emblem is a she-wolf suckling the infants Romulus and Remus. Statues and other artwork depicting them are seen all over the city. Its university was founded in 1203 and is famed for its faculties of law and medicine. It also rivalled Florence in the arts through the 13th and 14th centuries.

Duomo, Siena's cathedral, was begun in the 12th century and is a magnificent example of Italian Romanesque architecture. Its main façade was completed in 1380 and its campanile and baptistery are fantastic. Unlike most Christian cathedrals, its axis runs north-south, and it houses Nicola Pisano's famous Gothic octagonal pulpit which is supported by lions. The Sacristy has perfectly preserved Renaissance frescoes by Ghirlandaio, and the baptismal font has bas-reliefs by Donatello, Ghiberti, Jacopo della Ouercia and 15 other sculptors.

Wheat, wine grapes and other fruit are extensively grown and everywhere you turn there are tempting dishes and bottles of local Chianti to enjoy.

San Casciano dei Bagni was the perfect place for refuelling and enjoying a coffee. The Etruscan settlement grew thanks to its profusely flowing 42 thermal springs and its strategic position to the via Cassia and via Francigena. They were developed by the Romans and Middle Ages feudal aristocracy made great use of them. They were particularly crucial during the period from the Renaissance to the middle of the 18th century.

Today the thermal waters feed the ultra-modern Fonteverde Spa Centre. The centre of wellbeing is in the Sienese hills with views of the majestic Mount Amiata, olive groves, vineyards and streams. There you can indulge in therapeutic sessions, bathing in warm, seven restoring pools, holistic centre, beauty centre and massage by water jet.

The Medicean residence was built in the 17th century by Grand Duke Ferdinando I de'Medici and has been gloriously restored. It has 66 rooms and 14 suites. The richly decorated property has terraces with sublime outlooks and it artfully blends the aura of the Renaissance and present-day comfort.

Restaurant Ferdinando I serves traditional Tuscan cuisine and a selection of Italian Spa cuisine dishes. There are plenty of other enticing restaurants in the area.

Location

From Florence to Siena — both in Tuscany.

Cost

Italy by Ferrari has tours throughout Tuscany, starting in Rome. They start at $8350 per person and include your Ferrari, three nights five star accommodation, most meals, instruction and guide.

Emirates has flights to Rome.

Fare from;
  • Perth, $2158
  • Melbourne, $2205
  • Brisbane, $2208
  • Sydney, $2222
  • Adelaide, $2824
  • Darwin, $3547

Valid for sale until March 31, 2008 and for travel between October 4 to November 11, 2007.

Prices quoted are correct at April 19, 2007

More information

Italy by Ferrari
6/16-18 Cooper Street
Double Bay 2028
Ph: 02 9327 1001
Fax: 02 9327 6175
Website: www.italybyvespa.com
Email: eddyk@bigpond.com

Emirates
Ph: 1300 303 777
Website: www.emirates.com

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