La Dolce Vita: Celebrating The Dino’s Birthday With A Ferrari 308 GT4 Road Trip Through Italy
Photography by Susana de Val and Markus Haub
This summer the Dino celebrates its 50th birthday. To celebrate the occasion, this year’s Ferrari Club Germany Dino Tour took place in and around Maranello. We participated with our 308 GT4 from 1977—might look different, but it still says Dino on it—and attached a few extra days to the trip making the whole thing nearly 4,000km covered in 12 days
We started on a Tuesday near Frankfurt to Sölden, in Austria. We arrived a bit earlier in the afternoon to get to dinner and bed quite so soon, so we used the time to go up the Timmelsjoch until the tollbooth and the Top Mountain Crosspoint at 2175m. Two years ago, Europe’s highest-altitude motorcycling museum opened here with more than 230 exhibits, including numerous cars in the mix; definitely worth a visit! Towards evening it was almost deserted up here, and we enjoyed the view and silence for a while before driving back down to Sölden and the hotel.
The next morning a nice day awaited us, and since we had gotten in the mood for mountains the night before, we were eager to start our day of driving. Back up to the tollbooth, and past that the road starts getting even better; the valley widens, there is still some snow here and there, cows graze on the roadside, and we can’t help but stop for a photo—we’re slowing down enough already, so why not? There is surprisingly little going on up here though, for I imagined it to be much more crowded in this season, at the end of June. But the big holidays don’t seem to have started yet, so maybe we’re a bit early; no dutch caravans, only some cyclists.
The pass is 2509m, and it’s pretty cold up there. We cross the border into Italy and continue on the Jaufenpass in the direction of Sterzing before going on through the idyllic Penser Valley to Bolzano. The air is getting milder as we move and it smells like genuine summer as we make our way across the wine land. The mountains are flattening out here, and we drive the last piece to Truden, in the national park, where our second hotel is located.
It is Thursday now, and we want to arrive at the meeting point—another hotel near Bologna—to join the Dino group in the afternoon for the birthday party. The route takes us to Cavalese and then over the very narrow, winding Manghen Pass (2047m) via Levico Terme, over the Passo di Vézzana (1402m) to Camporovere, where we turn right into a small valley. At the end of the road we hit the Autostrada, which we take to Bologna and then a short distance further to a somewhat remote hotel with a beautiful name: Palazzo the Varignana. This will be our base for the next three days. The engines of the arriving guests make a constant background hum in the spacious grounds, and in the garage already packed around 80 Dinos inside, distributed between the 206/246 models and 208/308 GT4s like ours. For the meeting on Saturday, we start to see more of their owners. They come from all over Europe: England, France, Austria, Germany, Belgium. One participant even had his 246 fly in from Massachusetts in the US, and then made a trip through Europe with his daughter! How we spent the next two days in Maranello, at the Fiorano test track, and in the factory will be in an article to come soon.
So skipping ahead to Sunday, we continue our big trip after a few intensely fun days in Maranello and make our way towards Tuscany. Past Imola to Forli, then to Rocca San Casciano over the Colle de Carnaio on the highway towards Perugia. Actually, I wanted to choose the route a bit further east that takes the rural roads, but that would probably have been too optimistic for our window of time. We go past Lake Trasimeno, continue on the winding roads to Cortona until just before Montepulciano where we are already expected in the Villa Cicolina; a wonderful spot to rest with a large garden and a pool from which you can look into the vine-covered hills. Paradise.
The next day is again a long stage. It is also very hot. Across Tuscany, past Siena, cypress-filled hills, mowed crop fields, Poggibonsi, we head in the direction of Florence. A little south then via Montelupo, Carmignano, and Montesummano-Terme that takes us back up into the mountains. Here it is getting really curvy and quite lonely. No tourist gets lost here. It ends in Lucca and from there we drive on the highway, taking the fastest route to La Spezia. Here, high above the city, is our home for the next two days. Tomorrow we will hike in the villages of the Cinque Terre. It will be nice to have somewhat of a rest after driving so much, and also the Ferrari probably didn’t mind a day off either! I’m wondering at this point how she has no cooling problems despite the heat. Everything works fine, and the newly revised engine (which took all last year) is fantastic—perhaps that’s my answer. The car feels 200 kilos lighter than it used to somehow, and she hardly asks for any oil.
We don’t manage to get up early, but eventually we leave to catch the train to the last of the five villages—Monterosso—and then we walk off to Vernazza. The path leads over the cliffs and is quite exhausting, so after almost three hours we arrive completely soaked in sweat and decide to reach the other villages by train instead of by foot.
Wednesday, July 4th. Today it’s off to Piedmont. Over the highway, past Genoa. In Savona we turn onto a side street that leads to Alba, the truffle capital of the region. We choose a route through small wine villages and hills of vines. Roddi, Verduno, La Morra, Barolo… We would like to do some more laps here, but today’s destination is Cavour, southwest of Turin, and it’s still a bit of a ways to go. Here we stay on an idyllic farm, which has been lovingly renovated and equipped with guest rooms; old buildings paired with modern construction elements. The hosts are extremely nice as a bonus, and bring an aperitif to the pool and explain to us, full of joy, the details of their robotic lawnmower, who is happily eating his grass in the meadow next to us.
Our journey is slowly coming to an end, but not without some car-specific action. The 308 GT4 is the only production Ferrari that was designed by Bertone, and we drove past Turin to Almese, where we stopped by to see Marcello Gandini. I met him at the Turin Motor Show in the mid-’90s and then visited him twice more with my friend Thomas in his house on the outskirts of Almese where he’d invited us for a coffee. An unforgettable experience.
Sadly, today he is not at home, or seems to have no desire to open the gate. A pity, but he is soon 80 years old and we allow him his break so we drive on to Caprie, where Bertone once had his Design Studio. The building is empty today. In mid-2000 years Bertone came into financial difficulties as a company, then everything went downhill. In 2011, the best pieces were auctioned off (like the concept studies Lamborghini Marzal or Lancia Stratos Zero). The design department went bankrupt in 2014, and is now part of the bankruptcy estate. We ring the bell and talk briefly with the gatekeeper, who comes to the gate with his bike. He knows everything and everyone here, and unfortunately cannot let us in but is happy about our great car, which he recognizes immediately.
Slightly disappointed but with much still to look forward to, our journey continues up into the mountains. In Viù we have a lunch break. This is where a cycling race seems to have passed recently, with everything still decorated with flags and pink bicycles. Today it’s very empty here though, and we are the only guests in the village restaurant. After lunch we continue to Ivrea and finally get back on the highway seeing as the weather is not great and the forecast is even worse. In Aosta we turn right into the high valley of Bionaz-Valpelline, which ends at a reservoir. After a short coffee and cake stop, we turn off to drive up the Great St. Bernard Pass. It’s already getting dark and is already quite foggy, but we make it in time for dinner at the Hospice Hotel without incident. The hotel lies on the Swiss side of the pass that connects to Italy, and was founded almost 1,000 years ago. We arrived at an elevation of 2469m, 218 years after Napoleon did, who passed through here on May 14, 1800.
The next morning the weather was still wet and uncooperative so we decided to wait and spend some time in the museum, the monastery. and with the St. Bernard dogs. There are about 14 of them in summer up here, by our count anyway. Of course, only for the tourists who can go hiking with them, the dogs are not used anymore to rescue avalanche victims or save the lives of lost hikers with a few liquor bottles. One dog is always called “Barry” in remembrance of Barry I, who saved over 40 people.
Despite the fog, we drive down to Martigny, continue past Bern in the direction of Germany. In Weil am Rhein we stop again at the Vitra factory premises, and because it is already early in the evening, we decide to spend a last night in the Black Forest and then drive back to Mainz a day later. We finally arrive at home, filled with great impressions of landscapes, people, and cars, and the GT4 ran perfectly without any technical problems. It deserves a small break now, until we will participate with it at the Classic Days Schloss Dyck in a few weeks.