Wined and dined with the best regional foods of the land, equipped with more horsepower than ancient Roman cavalry, and privy to design and technology secrets of modern day driving machines, our Lamborghini experience during a trio of days in Italy will live on in memory as nothing short of an Italian Fairytale.
Once upon a time, in a faraway land, two Oregonians found themselves invited to the celebration of a mythical creature: the famed Italian Lamborghini driving machine…
These young travelers from the west coast of the United States timidly prepared to meet the great figure of Automotive Royalty that grew up from the green hills of ancient Emilia-Romagna to become a world renown symbol of majesty, speed, and design.
Our story finds them rummaging through their luggage in hopes of finding something appropriate to wear to the ball. Scratch that. They didn’t rummage long: there was only one option – a black dress for her and a collared shirt and black jeans for him. The same outfits they’d worn for two weeks, crossing the ocean on a ship… But that’s another tale.
Our story actually finds them approaching the 2012 Lamborghini Driving Academy’s first night’s welcome dinner in the green hills just beyond the city bounds of Bologna, Italy.
Day One: Welcome & Dinner in the Bologna Hills
Butterflies in our stomachs from anticipation, we arrived at The Admiral Park Hotel and walked up nervously to a shiny orange Aventador radiating more magic than a fairy godmother’s transformed pumpkin. We’d dreamed of excitement on our trip around the world, but this was something else entirely.
There she sat, resting quietly, hinting at the excitement to come tomorrow on the Imola Track.
In less than 24 hours, Ted would be behind the wheel.
As soon as we crossed the threshold into the entry, we were greeted by Lamborghini’s friendly and gracious social media director, Alice (she’s shy and doesn’t like pictures…but I managed to capture one on Day Two!), and Daniella, Annelissa, and Alessandra, the team of genuinely sweet ladies responsible for running special events.
A welcome letter almost as thrilling as the roll of parchment in Cinderella’s hands spelled out the night’s coming highlights:
…In order for you to be properly prepared for your on-track experience, we will be expecting you in the hotel lounge bar by 6.30pm first for a welcome cocktail, and then to provide you with a short introduction to the Academy schedule followed by a detailed track driving theory session which will be carried out by our Chief Driving Instructor.
Afterwards, we would like to invite you to dine at the internationally renown Michelin Star Trattoria “Da Amerigo” located in the delightful village of Savigno in the Bologna Hills. Here you will taste the real home-made food of the Emilia-Romagna region together with the local wines selected by patron and chef Alberto Bettini.
After delicious drinks and aperitivos and friendly introductions to the other six Driving Academy classmates from around the world (North America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia all represented!), the evening’s theory lessons began in the darkened classroom.
Chief Driving Instructor Max Venturi gave an expert’s overview on the fundamental keys for speed on the track: hand/foot positions and braking/accelerating patterns on the corners. (See classmate Michael’s summary of How to Drive Fast and Safe.)
Theory lessons complete, we set out for dinner in a private coach, crossing stunning scenes of rolling country hills illuminated by sunset light as we made our way to Da Amerigo for a beautiful dinner featuring the finest of north-central Italian foods.
Lamborghini welcomes guests from every corner of the earth, and they do so well at sharing the flavors that make this land uniquely home. The fullness of experience hung rich in the air as flavors of Emilia-Romagna came dancing to our table course after course.
Amerigo 1934 – Restaurant, Dispensa and Inn
Via Marconi 16 Savigno (Bologna)
A menu created with our most classic dishes, inspired by the flavours
of the surrounding hills and countryside
Raw Beef from the Modenese White Cow and Black Summer Truffle
With Scallions, Extra Virgin Olive oil from Romgana, and Camillone Salt
Nothing is Thrown Away from the Rare San Luca Artichoke
A variety of ways to taste each part of this historic vegetable
Tortelloni Filled with Goat’s milk Rocotta from the Savigno Plains
Served with Butter and Wild Herbs
Lasagne with Green Asparagus from the Samoggia Valley
With Parmesan made with the milk of the Modenese white cow from the Rosola Dairy in Zocca
Beef Cheek Braised in Barbera Wine
Served with pureed potatoes from Tole and Crunchy Red Onions from Medicina
The Original ‘Gelati di Crema’ like Grandma Used to Make It
Coffee and Liqueurs from the “Dispensa”
Vallona – Ca Novina Brut 2006
Corte D’Aibo – Bianco Bologna Spungola 2011
Orsi San Vito – Pignoletto Vigna del Grotto 2010
Sandoni – Barbera Ritorno 2007
A meal is more than the sum of its parts. The menu tells pieces of the story, but the real magic is in the traditions and histories woven through each ingredient: the Mediterranean sunshine and ancient Roman soil that gave life to the artichokes, the farmer tending her goats to produce the same cheese as treasured centuries ago, healthy chickens laying eggs of saffron yolks to color Grandma’s classic gelato brilliant gold…
Dazzled and dined, we headed for a night’s slumber to prepare for the following day’s show of valor, strength, and skill.
Day Two: Driving School on the Imola Track
We arrived mid-morning in the Italian town of Imola and made our way down streets filled with bicycles, shopkeepers, and spring blooming roses. This ancient outpost is no stranger to speed: in 80 A.D. a Roman amphitheater hosted two-horse(power) chariot races.
A jaunt over the Santerno River spanning bridge at the town’s edge brought us to the world famous Imola Racetrack, “an extremely technical and difficult to drive circuit, with complex corners, which can be driven at high speeds and which demands outstanding professionalism.” Here, Lamborghini rolled out the red carpet and transformed the racing pit to a comfortable lounge.
Smiling servers in black shirts and white ties offered to prepare any coffee drink under the sun and kept a fine array of finger foods replenished all day long…
Sustenance for the course, of course.
There, just outside the doors, stood cars like gallant steads, waiting for the action to begin.
Ted suited up, stepped out from the pit, slid behind the wheel of the Gallardo, and started with a 200 km/h burst of excitement as he took his turn driving solo around the course.
Ted stepped out of the car at the end of the first session and walked to the edge of the track to lean against the rail. I’ve never seen him look so thrilled and so shaken all at once: all smiles and white knuckles. It’s no wonder, though. The description of the course’s challenges and turns is enough to make me tense up!
After the first taste of speed, driving instructors ushered the students to the back area of asphalt and began guiding them through a series of cornering drills and steering maneuvers.
Sprinklers slicked the surface, allowing for punches on the gas pedal, weight transfers on the brakes, and controlled slides around coned corners. Excellent practice for a track that sets forth the challenge of 9 right-handed and 13 left-handed turns at breakneck speeds.
It’s no surprise that one past attendee traveled seven days round trip from New Zealand to Italy and back home just to attend the two-day Driving Academy.
The sounds of engines, the flashing whiz of machines nearly flying by as they complete the 4.909 kilometer circuit, the smell of fuel and tires and the energy in the air…this experience is like nothing else.
Ted’s favorite moment came when they pulled around the Aventador, a seven hundred horsepower beauty (soon to be driven by Bruce Wayne in the next Batman movie), and let him take the wheel.
If the Aventador could talk, it would tell you how scared I was, how I didn’t trust it at first, how I learned to trust it later, and how I finally surrendered to instinct and drove.
-Ted (I’ve Always Dreamed of Driving a Race Car)
Meanwhile, this farmgirl signed papers and strapped on a helmet, preparing to take a few spins around the track with the instructors while Ted raced behind.
(Yes, there I am, iPhone in hand. Video from the drive is at the bottom of the post Farmgrown Lamborghini Legends.)
At the end of the day, the kind employees working underneath the proverbial hood of the shiny Lamborghini exterior proved the real heroes of the fairytale.
Alice, born and raised in this area, possesses a genuine passion for her culture and region, and went out of her way to share with us the true Lamborghini experience.
Likewise, Daniella, Annelissa, Alessandra, and Laura offered their hospitality and enthusiasm, and instructors Max, Peter, Filippo, and Richard gave patience, encouragement, confidence, and freedom to the drivers on the course.
Ted beamed as Filippo and Max presented him with his Lamborghini Academy certificate after a full day on the course.
Day Three: Factory Tour & Museum Visit
After experiencing the power and thrill of the Lamborghini machine live and in person on the raceway, our final day with the famous car makers included a trip back to where the legend was born: the farmlands of Sant’Agata Bolognese. The company headquarters are pictured below in a vintage photo from decades past, but even today, the buildings sit among fields, and we saw tractors driving by on the country roads.
We signed confidentiality papers and promised not to reveal any company secrets (wink, wink), but we can tell you this: the factory floor where Lamborghini is currently producing their Gallardo and Aventador models is an incredible place where people are using their hands and their ingenuity to craft gorgeous details of leather, carbon fiber, and steel.
The price tag and the current two year wait time from order to delivery for the new Aventador begin to make sense when you take into account the skill and precision behind each vehicle.
These cars that go 0-100 km/h in 2.9 seconds are slow works of art.
Lamborghini has no back-stock. Each car is made, on order, for an individual buyer.
The production line completes six Gallardos and four Aventadors per day, for a total of approximately 2,500 cars in a year’s time. There is no overtime; there are no weekends. The 250 employees manufacturing the vehicles work 8-5 shifts from Monday through Friday and go peacefully home at the close of the day.
In the meantime, for car lovers who can’t wait to get their hands on the steering wheel or see beautiful collection in person, there are two options:
The Lamborghini Driving Academy
Open to Lamborghini owners and sportscar enthusiasts alike.
Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A.
Via Modena, 12, I-40019 Sant’Agata Bolognese (BO), Italia
Phone +39 051 6817.611
M-F (excluding holidays), 10.00 am – 12.30 pm & 1.30 pm – 6.00 pm
Adults: €13 Museum Entry or €40 Museum Entry & Guided Factory Tour
Lastly, one final mention goes to the Wizard of our Lamborghini fairytale.
Filippo Zadotti: one of Ted’s instructors and my chauffeur during an epic spin around the track, a 33 year old professional Italian driver who started his career driving go-carts at age ten.
“At six years old my father bought me a small dirt bikes hoping so, in vain, to quell my desire. He tried again with a bee with three wheels on which I spent all my days. The passion was anything but calming. He then persuaded to help me get started making me competitive with the go kart. And now here I am, twenty years later, to wear a fireproof suit for work and slip a helmet or motocross racing with exactly the same enthusiasm as when kicking to turn the Motina cross.” – Translated from his website
What a kind gentleman on the track. He spent the day watching his rear view mirror and sending instructions by microphone to the drivers behind. He took corners calmly with a single hand. And he shyly confessed that yes, it was he who drove the orange Aventador through the streets of Rome at five in the morning to make this epic video, the same car that Ted drove, the star of the fairytale, the reminder of dreams come true:
Thanks for reading our series from Emilia-Romagna: A region of Northern Italy ripe for exploration. And thank you especially to Lamborghini for hosting us at their 2012 Driving Academy. If you’d enjoy coming along for the ride, follow us on Twitter (@twoOregonians), like our Facebook page, and stay tuned for more photos and stories from the racetrack and behind the wheel.