Our 2020 travel plans were dashed by COVID. However, with improving conditions and the introduction of the Green Pass in the EU, we saw a window of opportunity to take part of that delayed vacation without being subjected to unreasonable restrictions. In late August of 2021, Joyce and I took a four-day Mercedes-Benz Classic Car Tour around Lake Maggiore in Northern Italy.
The trip is offered by Nostalgic Driving Experience, based in Munich, Germany. For four days we drove classic Pagoda and R107 SLs along the shore of Italy’s second largest lake and through mountain passes and medieval towns. What’s not to like?
After arriving in Milan, we were met by a private car, which transported us to the Grand Hotel Dino, which has been owned and operated by the same family since 1870 and is one of only five hotels on the shore of Lake Maggiore. After a meet and greet to get acquainted with our fellow travelers, we received our tour books and were off on a drive along the lakeshore to “get acquainted” with the Pagoda. Never having driven a Pagoda before, I became familiar with the amazing sound and driving dynamics of “my” 230SL. A 5-course dinner that evening was hosted by Nostalgic on Isola Bella, one of the four islands in Lake Maggiore and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. On the boat ride to the restaurant, we had a great view of Palazzo Borromeo, a renaissance palace built in 1580.
Drivers on the tour traded cars every day, so day two found us in a 280SL heading south to Mount Mottarone where we climbed to 4500 feet, downshifting around each bend on the serpentine road to reach our cappuccino stop with views of the snow-covered Swiss Alps, Lake Maggiore and Lake d’Orta. As hard as it was to leave this breathtaking spot, we continued to lunch at Orta San Giulio. Here we opted for gelato and a walk through the picturesque cobblestone alleys. Others chose to visit a church built in the fourth century and expanded in the Middle Ages. The drive back to Hotel Dino took us through two more nature preserves until we reached the shore of Lake Maggiore and followed it back to the hotel.
The longest driving day was the third where we got to enjoy a 250SL. After heading north along the lake, we followed rugged gorges and lonely mountain valleys to a cappuccino break at an ancient church, after which we entered Switzerland. Our mid-day stop was in the lakeside artist colony of Ascona, where several of our group had lunch on the promenade along the shore of the lake. After lunch our route was about 40 miles along the western shore of Lake Maggiore to reach our hotel.
On day four we drove a 280SL south to Castel Angera, a beautiful medieval fortress owned by one of Italy’s most prominent families. After a guided tour we climbed 150 steps to the watchtower and were rewarded with a beautiful view of the lake and surrounding mountains. After a hosted lunch we boarded a ferry to cross to the western shore and complete a short drive to the hotel and the end of an unforgettable four day experience.
The adventure may now be over, but the memories are just beginning. We will not soon forget the sound and feel of driving a classic Pagoda through one of the most scenic areas in the world on a first-class tour where every detail is taken care of. As I asked earlier, what’s not to like?
Nostalgic also offers other four-day trips through France and Italy which can be booked in both the W113 "Pagoda" and R107 Mercedes-Benz SLs. Prices start at about €2,095 per person, double occupancy. Similar driving tours in Alfa Romeos and classic Volkswagen Beetles are also available.
Find out more at www.nostalgic.de