“The Grand Tour”

“With a good cigar in his mouth, a man is perfectly safe, nothing can touch him, literally”. No one could have defined one of the most intriguing and dangerous accessories for pure manliness than the great Paul Thomas Mann.
While Governments rightfully invest a lot of time and resources to convince people that tobacco is dangerous for the health, there is a consistent portion of people who can do nothing but enjoy the flavor of a fine hand-rolled cigar.
Although cigars are becoming increasingly popular than ever, proper naturally aspirated V12 Gran Turismos are an endangered species . Much like tobacco, high petrol consumption is dangerous for the lungs and for the environment. Call me a revolutionary destined to die early, but V12’s and cigars are two things that speak the language of happiness in my mind. Certainly, you can’t abuse them, but a proper measure of these two hobbies is one of the great pleasures of life. In many ways, 12 cylinder cars are a complete representation of what a GT should be: elegant with great performance and perfectly usable.
While Ferrari is a master in making V12 GT’s with hypercar figures, Aston Martin is the pioneer of proper elegance in automobiles. Still to this day, I never heard anyone speaking negative things about those intriguing GT’s coming out of Gaydon UK and neither about their drivers.
Pretty much like Maserati, Aston Martin has always been the Marque of choice of people with fine taste. If “difference” is what makes the world a more interesting place, Astons sure know how to paint it with more character. Never to be considered as loud and pretentious like most supercars, Astons are for mature individuals who can appreciate true performance grand touring.
Aside from the excellent GT8, GT12 which are aimed to the sportiest clients, they’re not extremely focused on raw performance. However, they’re pretty emotional and they drive brilliantly indeed. Take the Vanquish, the top of the line Aston you can buy in these days: a long wheel base coupè with lines that will make your eyes water with happiness. Italians know it better, but sometimes the British can pull up a serious challenge!

To explore the wonders of two of the world’s most sinful hobbies, we picked up a 2013 model finished in Carbon Black and used it for a joy visit the Nostrano del Brenta cigar manufacturer and a tour of the Montegrappa valley.
Starting from the quite crowded Bassano, we pointed the nose of the Aston north towards the tobacco plantations on the nearby mountains. In regular driving conditions, the Vanquish doesn’t differ much from the practicality of any daily driver. Smooth gearshifts in automatic, great ground clearance, acceptable visibility in the front yet scarce from the rear windows, which makes traffic driving a little worrying. There is no unwanted engine noise resonation inside the cockpit, and the sound insulation is perfect: overall build quality is very good.
Ride compliance is acceptable and the car never feels rigid on the suspensions as rolling down the road and you can relax and enjoy the ride properly. The true spirit of the Vanquish comes out when you get onto fast two lane roads and put it into “sport” and stiffen up the suspension. The car feels balanced and responds quickly and it is very intuitive and deals with its weight brilliantly.
The chassis torsional rigidity is remarkable for such a heavy, long wheelbase GT: while not blisteringly quick as the F12 or any mid-engined supercar, the Vanquish copes very well with fast direction changes.
Even with the firmer suspension, it doesn’t rattle around the sensations it gives you is a very robust car built to withstand the rigors of the road frequently.
On the road between Bassano and the Nostrano del Grappa Factory, we had the time to savor the Aston wonderful qualities: acceleration is progressive until 4000 rpm and then it revs up to 8000 rpm with a never ending surge of power. Under the heavy load of the all-aluminum, quad-cam engine, the Touchtronic 3 gearbox responds well with smooth gearshifts and consistent feel.
Consider the Vanquish to be the less extreme sibling to the F12 or AMG GT as it is smoother and not just about lap times.
As we arrive at the cigar factory, we’re greeted by Massimo Zerbo and Giuseppe Zuccolo, the two men behind Italy’s newest Cigar factory.
Many still ignore the fact that years ago, some monks brought over some Havana tobacco seeds from America and planted it in the hills of Montegrappa giving birth to the Tobacco variant we see today.
Ever since XVI century, the whole region grew tobacco to make cigars, which tasted completely different from the other typical Italian ones. Sweet, smooth and delicate in flavor and with notes of wood and of toasted nuts, the Nostrano del Brenta are unique and different from anything else.
As we were allowed to park the car inside the factory to take a few pictures, a whole aroma of dried tobacco leaves entered the cockpit, mixing with the one of the leather. Could this be paradise? I thought nothing could beat the smell of Gnocco fritto inside a Ferrari in Modena! With the low, blue lights inside the Factory to protect the dried leaves, the Aston looked more beautiful than ever: the pictures here will do the car’s design justice more than any word.
The Montegrappa region is full of history and suitable for some great discoveries. Back in time, it used to be under the reign of the Republic of Venetia and it was the land of choice for high-ranking military officers, politicians, and noblemen.
The great beauty of the whole region is enriched by the great neoclassic architecture of the Villas that were built alongside the course of the Brenta river.
History passage through the valley of Montegrappa has been recorded in no better way than by the Villas that form the identity of the region. Architectural wonders of the Reinassance and the Neoclassical style blending beautifully with the mountains that stand above the Brenta river.
Villa Ca Erizzo Luca is one of the most beautiful and most representative Villas of the region: built in the XV Century, enriched by Andrea Palladio architecture in the XVIII Century, richly decorated inside and the base of the American Red Cross during WWI. It is known as “La Nave” meaning the ship, because of its location close to the boat which used to transport people from one side to the other of the river Brenta.
History still lives through Ca Erizzo as Ernest Hemingway was stationary with the Red Cross there during the years of First World War, where he served carrying the wounded and transporting the injured in the safe places behind the trenches. Farewell to Arms was inspired by the great scenery of Montegrappa, where the cypress trees, the gardens, and the exquisite historic architecture from a place like no other.
Ca Erizzo Luca is privatly owned and hosts a great collection of stuffed African wildlife, a collection put together by the owner of the Villa to form a Natural History Museum, which is open to the public.
Thanks to the generosity of the owners, our Aston could enter the gates of this historical place roaring like a lion but with the moves of a swan. Elegance is becoming a lost art in automotive design, just like the naturally aspirated V12’s which power the most exclusive of GT’s.
Yet the pleasure of seeing, touching and experiencing things like a fine automobile, a good cigar in a great historical setting is unique and very pleasing. Old fashioned enjoyments are still very pleasant to this day. The ancient walls of Ca Erizzo and the immortal roar of the Aston are two things to reming how “classic” is sometimes a euphemism for “best”.
History is not just a thing confined to the past and destined only to be read: sometimes is better living it and what used to be a memory will become a very vivid reality.

Thanks to our friend www.topmarques.it

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