If you’re anything like me, you watch The Grand Tour not only for the cars but also for the breathtaking exotic locations. If you’re also like me, traveling to these far-off locales is a once in a lifetime sort of thing because I’m not swimming in money.
But let’s say you are swimming in cash and you want to go on a real-life Grand Tour of your own. Let’s say you enjoyed Season 1, Episode 3 and wanted to go and have your own Grand Tour through Italy. Where would you go? What would you do?
Fear not; we are here to help. Having been to Italy a few times myself, I think I can offer up a fun little Grand Tour of my own, with some fun roads, cool places to check out, and maybe even some good food!
The boys started Episode 3 in Siena, specifically at the Piazza del Campo, a public square that is the site of one of the most unique and exciting horse races in the world, the Palio di Siena. The race is held twice a year right in the middle of the square. It involves ten horses all ridden bareback and lasts for three laps (usually only lasting around 90 seconds).
Unless you already live in Italy, you’re probably going to need to fly here, so your journey will start when you land at the airport in Florence. Siena is actually south of Florence while the remainder of the locations are all north, so there will be a tiny bit of backtracking involved, but you know what? You’ll be in Italy; you won’t care.
One of the main attractions of the square is the Fonte Gaia, or “Fountain of the World.” And right behind the Fonte Gaia is a lovely little restaurant called La Costa where they have some excellent gelato.
The top three rated hotels in Siena are the Agriturismo Marciano, B & B Il Corso, and the Podere La Strega. All three are beautiful places to stay, so the choice is ultimately up to you.
After leaving Siena, it’s time to head northwest in your Italian supercar of choice, and go to a small town called San Gimignano, one of my favorite places in all of Italy. This is a small walled medieval town famous for its large number of tower houses.
It’s quiet, it’s beautiful, and you’ll get an eyeful of Roman and Gothic architecture. In addition, San Gimignano is home to the Gelateria Dondoli, the “gelato world champion.” Let me tell you, they aren’t joking. It was best ice cream I have had in my life.
The drive to San Gimignano from Siena is an excellent opportunity to let your car stretch its legs on some windy vineyard roads. It’s a gorgeous drive through the Tuscany countryside.
Since San Gimignano is only about an hour outside of Siena, it might make sense to keep your hotel in Siena and just take a day trip, but you would be missing out on one of the most relaxing places on the planet.
The top three rated hotels in San Gimignano are The Secret of Pietrafitta, Guardastelle – Agriturismo and Vineyard, and Agriturismo Poggiacolle. it doesn’t matter which one you stay in; you’ll open your window and instantly be lost in the beauty of San Gimignano.
The trip from San Gimignano to Florence is not too exciting; a good portion of it will be on the autostrada, and once you get into the city itself, it’s a nightmare of cramped streets and angry drivers yelling at you from a Fiat Punto.
However, survive that and you’ll end up in my favorite place in the world: Florence. It’s such a gorgeous, vibrant city packed to the gills with history and culture. The boys headed here in the episode so viewers were able to get a quick look, but I assure you; you can stay a whole month and not experience everything there is to see in Florence.
My favorite place to stay when in Florence is a beautiful little hotel called Hotel Mario’s. It’s tucked away and fairly well hidden down one of the side streets, and is right by the rail station and within walking distance to the Piazza del Duomo. I’m sure there are more famous and higher rated hotels in Florence, but I really must insist on staying at Mario’s. You will not regret it.
The Piazza del Duomo is essentially the center of the city and will have anything you want to see. It’s home to The Duomo (that giant dome you see above), the Uffizi Gallery (the museum the boys visited), another museum called the Galleria dell’Academia, home of Michaelangelo’s David.
Also in the area is the famous Ponte Vecchio bridge, where you will find all sort of shopping stretching the length of the bridge.
As for places to eat, it’s hard to narrow it down to a handful, so let me share what our best meal in Florence was. We decided to take a cooking class through the Food and Wine Academy of Florence, and that ended up being the best meal I ever had. The class actually starts you in the marketplace where you buy all the ingredients, then walks you back to the location to cook and eat.
Maranello and Bologna
After leaving Florence, it’s a time for a drive to petrolhead heaven. Within the area of Modena and Bologna, you will find some of the best car companies in the world including Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, and Ducati. The Lamborghini and Ferrari museums were an especially exciting highlight for me, and each location did not disappoint.
The Ferrari Museum is incredibly impressive. It’s a huge location with a ton of exhibits, and if you’re a Ferrari fanatic like I am, you could easily spend more than one day staring at everything. A good place to stay, then, would be Maranello Village, a FERRARI THEMED HOTEL. Yes, that’s right.
Modena and Bologna are about 40 minutes apart, so you could easily stay at Ferrariland and head to Bologna for the day to check out the Lamborghini and Ducati museums. The Lambo museum is as impressive as Ferrari, but it is significantly smaller and features less to do in the surrounding areas. There certainly isn’t a Lambo Village.
The final stop of your Grand Tour will be in Vicenza, where Jeremy sent out a tweet that got Richard Hammond mobbed. This little town is a neighbor to Venice and boasts the stunning Basilica di S. Maria di Monte Berico:
Vicenza has a number of places to eat to suit whatever mood you’re in. I can’t imagine that as a tourist, you would get tired of eating Italian food, but if that day does come, check out Sushi One for sushi (obviously), La Conchiglia d’Oro for seafood, il Covo del Ribelle for Mexican food, and Tonazzo 1888 for excellent meat and pasta.
If a thriving nightlife is what you seek, then the Aries Hotel is the place to be due to its vicinity to clubs. Just don’t expect to get any sleep at night!
As someone who can afford to go on their own Grand Tour of Italy, I assume you would be able to use any of the three cars that the boys used in the episode. Would you choose Richard’s Challenger Hellcat? Probably not. I’ve driven one of those it’s not the most comfortable and relaxing ride. What about James’ Rolls Royce Dawn? If I’m going for luxurious comfort, then the Dawn would be a brilliant choice.
What about Jeremy’s brown Aston Martin DB11? Of the three, this one is my favorite and would be the one I would pick if I had to choose one. But if it were up to me? I would conduct my grand tour in this:
It seems wrong to do a grand tour of Italy and not use an Italian car, right? So why not my favorite Ferrari grand tourer, the Ferrari F12 Berlinetta? I’m sure you’d get more than a few nods of respect when you pull up to the Ferrari museum in this baby.