The 2002 Ferrari Contri D'Arte was a true-blue-blooded, three-day rally that swept across the Tuscan Countryside, on the way celebrating Italian culture, Ferraris and the passion of their devoted owners.

Appropriately enough, the fourth Ferrari Incontri D'Arte Tour of Tuscany began at what is, perhaps, the most comprehensive Ferrari museum in the world: the Maranello Rosso Collezione. The museum itself, in the tiny republic of San Marino, reads like a ponderous history of the Ferrari's unrelenting saga and so set the mood for what was to come. Every auto featured in the museum is a sensational representation of the Ferrari milestones, from progressive design advances to spellbinding speed victories.

At the Maranello Rosso Collezione, owned by Fabrizio Violate, Ferrari motoring guests enjoyed a fine welcome in the fabulous art gallery, complete with cocktails with which to christen the journey. To commemorate the start of the 2002 Incontri D'Arte, participants each autographed a lampshade (for later display in the museum) before moving on to the court area, in the atrium, for a superbly presented "light and fresh" buffet and preheat conversation. To further set the mood for the trip, attendees were shown segments of the upcoming film "Ferrari." This is an exciting Italian film--presented in English--that chronicles the life and times of Enzo Ferrari and is sure to become a classic. Maranello's general manager--and Violate's right-hand--Sandra Lodi Vetrano, indeed has much to be proud of, including her meticulous organizational and communication skills, without which this year's Incontri D'Arte would not have been nearly as spectacular. Each stop along the way was choreographed with the precise intention of giving participants an historical and cultural experience so rich and true to life as to make all human senses dance with life.

A particular Ferrari from Violate's collection occupies the spot of honor at each Contri D'Arte, and this year it was his competition 250 GTO Berlinetta, #3851. The Contri recognized this thrilling car's 40th birthday and the fact that Violate is the longest keeper of a GTO (since 1965). Of course, Violate chose his GTO for reasons other than longevity. This car was produced as a blazing competition Berlinetta, built and raced from 1956-65 and had the most wins of all makes and marques the world over. Subsequently, this is the car that made Ferrari a household name.

The Maranello Rosso Collezione, the GTO and the Incontri D'Arte embody all the well-earned glory that is synonymous with the Ferrari title.

So began three glorious days (April 26-28) in which 43 assorted Ferraris and their owners motored along the picturesque Tuscan countryside. Ever present throughout the tour with Violate--in his pulse-quickening GTO-- were his black lab, Clyde, and his signature stubby cigar, as well as a well-worn alpine hat.

Each of the vehicles waiting to begin the tour was numbered in GT style, and the lineup of warming Ferraris turned the museum's parking area into an undulating, singing sea of red dotted with yellow; a true visual and aural feast for the faithful. Then, in a flash of chrome and rubber, they were off.

The drivers steered their steeds up and down paved and unpaved roads, thickly lined with ancient-looking trees, and all overseen by the magnificent sky and post-card landscape. The Ferraris and the Italian countryside complemented one another in a way that can only be understood by those with a passion for both. Passionate, as well, describes how the drivers drove. This was not some grandpa-esque tour wherein the participants meandered along at a snail's speed. Contrarily, time and again these drivers gave their ponies a long rein--and run they did, on to the next highly anticipated destination of grandeur.

Escorts stopped side traffic in some instances as the Incontri D'Arte Ferraris were given the right of way. All had to keep up with the lead Ferrari, which at all times was Violate's GTO.

The first stop would be the mountain town of Dadia Tedalda. Here, drivers found waiting for them a quaint, thousand-year-old stone church, covered in ivy. Participants were welcomed inside by townspeople costumed as monks and priests.

Down and around the cobblestone path leading away from the cottage-like church was a buffet that included traditional honey-tiramisu custard and an abundant array of Italian pastries.

After the well-received refreshments, a tour of a rustic leather shop and its artisans was enjoyed by all, as was a nearby open-air play featuring talk of all the Ferraris coming to town as its subject. The play was presented in Italian, of course, but language was no barrier to everyone's full enjoyment of the charming, old-world street production.

Upon the participants' arrival, citizens of each town on the Incontri D'Arte's itinerary gathered--literally lining both sides of the entry streets for blocks--in a sort of huge, informal welcoming committee, shouting and waving enthusiastically at the passing parade of Ferraris. This was to be followed by each town greeting participants via more formal welcoming committees, each giving drivers gift baskets and lists of where to go and what to do in that particular area.

Another fringe benefit in the Contri D'Arte experience was the security officers of the Republic of San Marino, which escorted the Ferraris afore and aft atop their police cruiser motorbikes, from tour beginning to tour end.

In addition to security, there were also Cerni Auto Assistenza mobile repair and towing vehicles close by in the theoretical event they should be needed. It was a good thing; there were some casualties. A 330 2+2 had a fan belt bust; someone got water in their ignition system; and a 355 hit a tree! This was no problem for the highly skilled mechanics of CERNI, who were only too eager to show off their Italian skills.

Violate in the lead, the motorcade entered Monte San Savino, a rich red and orange Italian sunset greeting the drivers as they pulled into the walled city. This destination served up a delicious feast, flowing champagne and performers executing traditional Italian dance on the grassy area of the castle roof fortification.

The stay in San Savino ended too soon for some, and quickly drivers found themselves in Borgo San Felice, securing their two-night stay at the Relais & Chateaux. Guests agreed the hotel was like a city unto itself, with many separate period-style buildings combined with a giant winery and gift shop to produce splendid old-world ambiance, but with all the modern conveniences. Following a relaxing aperitif in the wine cellars, Fabrizio Violate was honored with the winery's number one bottle of that year. After a medieval-style buffet and a well-earned night's rest, all were on to their next stop.

Mother Nature gave a rainy welcome to the participants as they entered Siena and the Palio (famous for its horse racing). For the first time in 40 years, cars were unexpectedly allowed to park in the square's historic Piazza Del Campo, which was quite a savory honor, indeed.

The feeling of being alive in ancient times was dramatically brought to life at Castellido Verranzzano. The winery, which dates back to 1485, welcomed its elite guests by allowing them to explore their cool, dark medieval caves which house huge slabs of meat. Equally striking were Verranzzano's stone castles and wine cellars, where wines are stored in eight-foot-tall terra cotta vessels shaped like ornate vases with tightly fitting lids, rather than the traditional barrels. Subsequent to the visual treats, a feast fit for a king with many wines and foods--including bittersweet fava beans in the pod--were presented to the travelers, before once again navigating the open Italian countryside.

Castello di Meleto was fast approaching. Upon arrival, participants' eyes met with the stately elegance of another historic castle, inside boasting frescoed walls and a massive theater room, set off by antiques, art in gilded frames and period furniture. Outside and to the left of the castle was a wine shop where participants could purchase some palatable souvenirs. After selecting their intoxicating reminders of the Incontri D'Arte, drivers partook of yet one more buffet, this one brimming with bruschetta and Parma cheese, nuts and bottles of Castello De Maletto vineyard's choice wines.

Somewhere on the road, an unlikely addition to the convoy fell in behind the group: a 1936 Singer, doing its very best to keep up. Even though it was decidedly not a Ferrari, none of the participants raised any objection to the Singer's novel presence.

As if not to be outdone, the city of Impruneta (just south of Florence and the last stop on the course) welcomed the participants with the Italian version of live Dixieland music and traditional Tuscan spirits. A subsequent highlight was the tour of a historic terra cotta manufacturing facility. Methods of terra cotta production dating back to Roman times were demonstrated for the Contri D'Arte drivers. Ancient techniques of curing the terra cotta--from roofing tiles to elaborately hand-sculpted, six-foot tall tree pots--were explained here as well. As a prelude to the grand finale of fireworks and champagne, lunch was had in the sixth-century Villa Corsini. The food itself filled two rooms, with another devoted exclusively to deserts. After lunch in the grand style to which participants had at this point become accustomed, an exclusive celebration lithograph--signed by famed Italian artist and car collector Francesco Scianna--was presented to each participant. The breathtaking lithograph featured Fabrizio Violate's 250 GTO in the foreground, while in the background a splendid rendition of the famous Battle of Modena roars. Participants also received, as part of a goodie-bag, red quilted vests for the men and canvas ones for the ladies. All the drivers agreed, time and again during the occasion, that the 2002 Contri D'Arte was far and away the finest car event any of them had been involved in, ever.

The last evening of the Contri D'Arte unfolded with a strange mixture of sadness and celebration. Participants' last memory of the event would be the elaborate fireworks display which burned its last image of "40th anniversary GTO" into participants' memories of the balmy Tuscan night.

Indeed, this year's Contri D'Arte was more than a simple road trip could ever hope to be; it was a meeting of the minds, and all agreed on what a Ferrari should be: driven.

Italian Motoring Nirvana
Three days of aggressive Ferrari motoring along endless miles of intoxicating Tuscan country switchbacks; a cornucopia of planned stops, featuring extraordinary food and casks of fragrant wines; dancing on grassy rooftops of ancient castles with frescoed walls, period art and furniture, and medieval caves with hanging meats. Impassioned open-air theater and live music under the stars as well as ancient sculpture and artisanship...

No, this is not a dream. Nor is it some lonely housewife fantasy sprung from an impossible romance novel. Rather, it is a very real sampling of the long list of ingredients that became the motoring delicacy enthusiastically consumed by several dozen select Ferrari owners from all over the world. What it is, is arguably (or not so) the most elite and culturally rich road-trip in the world: the 2002 Ferrari Incontri D'Arte.

The Contri is an exclusive, invitation-only revival that stretches across the Tuscan countryside, celebrating Italian culture and Ferraris in a way that only those with a passion for both will ever understand.

Beginning at the Maranello Rosso Collezione owned by Fabrizio Violate, the express caravan of 43 exquisite Ferraris wound their way from San Marino, to Borgo San Felice, Monte San Savino, Siena, and Chiante--plus all worthy points in-between--and back again to Borgo San Felice.

The people who gave Incontri D'Arte their time and talents are too numerous to be contained within these margins, so allow me to acknowledge them all cumulatively for a job well done (you know who you are; smile).

Heading the list of VIP's is Sandra Lodi Vetrano, GM of the Maranello Rosso Collezione, who provided the starting place and much of the organizational skill which went into making the 2002 Incontri D'Arte the feast for the senses that it was. Vetrano should be proud of her part in creating an experience no one involved will soon--if ever--forget.

A certain Violate Ferrari is recognized at each Contri D'Arte, and this time around, it was the competition 250 GTO Berlinetta, #3851. This year, the car turns 40. That, together with the fact that Violate is the longest keeper of a GTO (since 1965) made it the choice for the 2002 Contri D'Arte spot of honor. The GTO deserves mention here, as well, for the fact that it was the car that made Ferrari a household name the world over. Raced from 1956 to 1965, these cars racked up more victories than any other model in the Grand Touring class worldwide. This GTO still stands as a gleaming representation of a gone but hardly forgotten era of racing. In his GTO with his faithful black lab Clyde, stubby cigar and Alpine hat, Violate led the nomadic band of 43 Ferraris and their owners on their wild journey.

Machining their way across the Italian countryside, serenaded by Ferrari song, participants stopped at multiple points of cultural interest along the "route" to savor the heady local flavors. Although the destinations and activities were planned with precision, the actual roads to these way points were not, which resulted in a large exhibition of grown-up follow-the-leader! Make no mistake; this was not some sluggish tourist putt-fest. Thanks to the outstanding Italian security and repair vehicles escorting the group, no car was ever left unattended, and participants were able to really give their thoroughbreds free rein to do what they do best: run fast. In some areas, local security stopped regular traffic to let the Ferraris roar past. Along with all the culture and calories one could stand, there was to be no shortage of full-tilt driving on this trip.

Throughout, participants repeatedly vocalized the fact that this trip was spectacular in every sense of the word, and was simply the best car event they had ever had the good luck with which to be involved. Hotel accommodations were at the palatial Relais & Chateaux, one of Italy's four-star hotels, located in Borgo San Felice. Lodging at the Relais, was, in itself, an affair to remember. Made up of many individual buildings--complete with a massive winery--the Chateaux was like a medieval-themed (but modernly appointed) city unto itself.

Prelude to the conclusion of the event was lunch in the sixth century Villa Corsini. Here, along with more fabulous food, wine and eye-candy, participants received a Francesco Scianna exclusive signed celebration lithograph of the honored 250 GTO with the famous Battle of Modena in the background. Participants also received a gift-bag containing red quilted and embroidered vests for the men, and canvas ones for the ladies.

As sad as it was, the gleeful motoring of the 2002 Incontri D'Arte had to end; but it did so with a gala dinner and fabulous fireworks display which spelled out "40th anniversary GTO".

As the velvet curtain fell on the 2002 Incontri D'Arte, all glasses were raised in salutary tribute to the land, the people, and, of course, the Ferrari.

Violate: What Becomes a Legend Most?

Ferrari. Ferrrarrri. The magical word spills from the mouth like a deferred lover's first reciprocated kiss, destined-to-be-met with passion, the memory to be forever adorned with heady intoxication.

Why? From what soil stems the fragrant flower of Ferrari mystique? Many may say that, "if you have to ask you don't deserve to know." Contrarily, I think everyone with the desire deserves to know. Thankfully, so does Fabrizio Violate. No one appreciates the historical virtues of Ferrari motoring more than Violate. You see, he owns the Ferrari-flavored candy land that is the Maranello Rosso Collezione museum in San Marino, near the Adriatic Sea. Witnesses to his collection of machines and memorabilia leave with a sweetly exotic taste in their mouths, especially after savoring one of the events the museum sponsors each year. This year, the 2002 Ferrari Incontri D'Arte was the specialty that was served up to hungry participants on April 26, 27, and 28. In concert with his trusted GM, Sandra Lodi Vetrano, they composed a satisfying virtuoso road trip no one involved will ever likely forget. The museum stands--a Ferrari palace--high on a hill surrounded with heavenly views of the peaceful Italian domain. A perfect starting point for any tour of Italy.

Ferrari has been the most triumphant of the racing car manufacturers for the better portion of 100 magnificent years. Violate's collection prevails as an inspiration to those visitors monogamous to the American (or from wherever they come) motorcar dream to take a walk on the Italian side. What visitors find here is a diary of Ferrari performance and design history superbly documented by those who lived it and who can tell it best.

At first blush, Ferraris obviously epitomize copious craftsmanship, durability, speed, grace, loveliness, and all the other virtues requisite of a burning legend. But as connoisseurs of true beauty realize, what lies beneath the skin is often a story far more fabulous and fascinating than what sits atop. The Maranello-sponsored Incontri D'Arte is just another chapter in the best-selling Italian saga that is Ferrari.

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