Publication: Worth magazine
The road trip has been an American passion since 1903, when automobile pioneers Horatio Nelson Jackson and Sewall Crocker lit out cross-country from San Francisco to New York in a cherry-red Winton. More than a century later the lure of the open road remains, but the cars are faster, safer and a whole lot more fun. These five road trips take you through six countries and thousands of years of history in cars crafted for the challenge.
By Claire Willett
1. The northern portion of Ruta 40, Argentina, in an Aston Martin Vanquish
LENGTH: ABOUT 620 MILES
THE ROAD This is a road of many colors: Heading south, the picturesque salt flats, the Salinas Grandes, which extend for over 77 square miles, can be almost blinding. It’s also a road of many heights. In Salta, you’ll ascend the Andes, past shepherds herding goats and llamas, to reach nearly 16,400 feet at the Abra del Acay, Ruta 40’s highest point. Reward your bravery with a glass of the world’s highest-altitude wine, made from torrontés grapes grown by a vintner in nearby Molinos. Catamarca Province is dotted with volcanoes, including Galán, whose enormous crater is partially occupied by a salt lake, Laguna del Diamante. Coming into Rioja, you’ll be flanked by deep-red cliffs and petroglyphs, especially at the Parque Nacional Talampaya, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The road here is mostly paved, except for la Cuesta de Miranda, a 15-mile stretch that demands strict concentration and a lower gear. Make a pit stop in Ischigualasto Provincial Park, site of the oldest dinosaur skeleton ever found, then head to Mendoza on a road so smooth and straight you could be in Kansas were it not for the vineyards tripping down the Andes in your periphery.
THE CAR The Vanquish, Aston Martin’s superlative touring car, packs 565 horsepower into a 3,900-pound frame, but two features make it ideal for Ruta 40’s variable terrain. The Adaptive Damping System lets the driver adjust the suspension to road conditions, while the Touchtronic gearbox means you can change gears automatically or manually. Keep automatic on for the gravel portions; on the pavement, switch to the sport setting of manual and let it fly. Contact: 44.192.664.4644, astonmartin.com
TIP The Vanquish doesn’t have a spare tire, so go easy on the unpaved portions of the route, and give your tires extra pressure (32 PSI is optimal). In higher altitudes, extreme weather comes on fast, so bring warm clothing, plenty of water and extra gas, no matter the season.
WHERE TO STAY
El Manantial del Silencio
Estancia Colomé, Colomé
El Peñon Hotel, El Peñon
Entre Cielos, Vistalba
WHERE TO EAT
La Carta Restaurant, Sala de Payogasta,
El Terruno, Cafayate
Heladería Miranda, Cafayate
Finca Tacuil, Molinos, tacuil.com.ar
1884 Restaurant Francis Mallmann
Godoy Cruz, 54.261.424.3336
Maita Barrenechea, Mai 10,
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2. Amalfi Drive, Italy, in a Fiat 500 1957 Edition
LENGTH: ABOUT 50 MILES
THE ROAD Begin by leaving the Autostrada A3 for the ceramic-tiled storefronts and harbor views of Vietri sul Mare. Buy some majolica flatware at S. Falcone and stroll around the terraced village of Ravello before lunch. Ravello’s gardens bloom throughout the year, and if you come between July and October, you can listen to a classical concert in the same Moorish cloister that inspired the enchanted garden in Wagner’s Parsifal. From Ravello, it’s hairpin turns and tunnels down to Amalfi , once a maritime capital but now a sleepy village. Just before you enter town, look for a huge parking garage carved into the rock face—walk from there. In town, stock up on handmade paper at Amatruda, a family-owned shop, and a bottle of local limoncello. After Amalfi comes the last leg of your journey: a long, steep climb into the pastel maze of Positano for dinner al fresco.
THE CAR This is the classic Fiat reborn. Its retro curves, robin’s egg exterior and outsized wheel caps are modeled on the Nuova, a car that helped democratize car travel in 1950s Italy. But its zippy handling—six speeds in automatic, five in manual—heated seats and leather-wrapped interior are entirely modern. (The car will hit U.S. dealerships in June.) Contact: 888.242.6342, fiatusa.com
TIP The Amalfi Coast Drive is famously narrow and can be crowded with tour buses in the spring and summer. Watch your speed around curves, lest you collide with an approaching bus. If you are confronted with one, back up until it has room to pass. Allow motorcyclists to pass you on the inside; most know what they’re doing.