Daily driver: bisecting italy in a benz bomber

I was more than a bit concerned. To put it mildly. A 600km trek across Italy in limited time. And a Mercedes Benz.

Words by: DUNCAN QUINN

I was more than a bit concerned. To put it mildly. An invite to visit Biserno from the legendary Marchese Ludovico Antinori. A 600km trek across Italy in limited time. And a Mercedes Benz.

The last time this had happened I was leaving Reims in a Benz at midday en route to Château Palmer where a friend had arranged for a private visit of Château Margaux at 5pm before catching up with him up with him for a chinwag. Needless to say in the world of fancy wine this is pretty close to the holy grail of invites. And thus was excuse enough for trying to concertina a 700km or so trip into less than five hours. At least that was how I looked at it. Unfortunately the gendarme with the baked bean tin Peugeot and radar binoculars didn’t agree. So we never made it further than the station and the ATM for the Euro750 fine. The Palmer the next morning was legendary. But Margaux remains to be revisited as and when time, and gendarmes, allow.

Thus it was that we set about bisecting Italy starting from a roof-deck in Fermo and heading for a farmhouse off the map on the outskirts of Bolgheri.

Little were we to know this would involve negotiating tiny medieval streets, autostradas, country lanes, speed cameras, streams and cypress trees. The perfect test of an all-rounder.

Which was just as well, as Mercedes Benz had been kind enough to offer us a CLS 350 CDi to play with. Picked up with 20km on the clock in Villeneuve-Loubet on Saturday, and returned 2,200km and four days later, it proved itself the perfect ride for a long, rapid loop of Italy.

We bleeped our way through tiny cobbled streets, forded streams, and charged up the autostrada enwrapped in air conditioned bliss. With enough oomph to take charge and keep progress brisk, but perhaps not enough to scare the natives, it could possibly have been the perfect ride for the trip. My posterior agreed entirely, bouncing out of its leather perch after 600km as if the drive had only taken a few minutes not several hours.

And the wine was sublime.

But that’s another story.

Words by DUNCAN QUINN