‘We spent more time behind our knives and forks than we did behind the steering wheel’
Its cars may be facing change, but Lambo’s launches are a tradition untouched
My trip to Sant’Agata for a drive of the Aventador Ultimae was welcome for many reasons. Not least because, thanks largely to Covid, it was the first time I’d been to Italy in almost two years. Given the previous 20 years of my life had seen me visiting Italy at least half a dozen times per year, stepping off the plane at Bologna’s Guglielmo Marconi Airport was a kind of home-from-homecoming.
It had been a long, long time since I’d last visited Lamborghini. So long, in fact, that my fuzzy brain can’t quite recall what it was I went there to drive. I think it was a Murciélago, but could be wrong. Whatever, I had feared that this famous marque’s Italian charm might have been diminished by the slow creep of Audi-fication since the VW Group’s acquisition back in 1998.
It took the modest journey from the airport to Sant’Agata to allay those concerns, for instead of sweeping photographer Andy Morgan and me through the gates of the factory we were whisked straight to lunch. And what a lunch it was. Two-and-a-half hours of pork, bread and pasta-based deliciousness, rounded off with a strong single espresso in the vain hope it would stave off the inevitable calorie coma that followed.
Having been collected and driven back to the factory we were allowed a look around the Ultimae, which had been parked outside reception by a technician who drove it from the workshops in time-honoured Sant’Agata fashion; that’s to say side-saddle, perched on the sill with scissor door pointing at the sky. We wouldn’t get to drive the Aventador until the following morning, but I happily saw this decidedly non-Ingolstadt-approved delivery style as a good omen.
There was a time I’d have got intensely stressed spending the entirety of the first day of a two-day trip not driving a Lamborghini, but if age has brought me anything beyond a few grey hairs and an inability to get up out of a chair without grunting, it’s the wisdom to relax into an Italian supercar trip knowing that it will all work out in the end.
It was in very much this mindset that after sitting in, looking at but not driving the Ultimae, I enjoyed a good stroll around the museum, followed by a presentation from the boss of Lamborghini’s Polo Storico heritage and restoration business and a fascinating trip to the firm’s archives and Polo Storico workshops.
By now early evening, we were then taken from the factory to our nearby hotel – a charming and unpretentious place called the Locanda del Toro, which was bought and renovated by legendary Lamborghini engineer, the late Paolo Stanzani. Now run by his daughter, the walls and bookshelves are covered with memorabilia from his glittering career.
Here we sat down to another lengthy and delicious meal, accompanied by three former Lamborghini employees who were amongst the very first to be employed by Ferruccio himself. Funnily enough they too said – with the help of a translator – that they had been expecting the modern factory to have lost all of the original’s charm, but that while they were amazed by the scale and sophistication of the facility, they felt that the spirit of the place and the people who worked there remained recognisably true to that which they had been a part of almost 60 years ago.
Next morning, my and Morgan’s sanguine approach to Day 1 was rewarded with a great Day 2. One which began with a spirited drive to the spectacular Palazzo Ducale in the historic centre of Modena, home to the Military Academy of Modena and a perfect backdrop against which to begin photographing the Ultimae and gorgeous 350 GT we’d pored over the day before.
The general public are not allowed to drive in the piazza, but this being Italy, and Modena being the heart of supercar valley, the carabinieri had helpfully placed two officers at our disposal. Initial images captured, it was time for, yep, you guessed it, the scheduled two-hour lunch before finally taking the Ultimae up into the hills that had been calling us since our arrival (and first enormous meal).
So things did work out in the end. The fact we genuinely spent more time behind our knives and forks (a total of eight hours’ over the two days) than we did behind the steering wheel might seem absurd, but having had a few days to, er, digest the trip, I have to say it made the Ultimae experience all the more special.
Like all the great supercar makers, Lamborghini is facing a future in which the company’s rich heritage and reputation as absolute masters of internal combustion must somehow remain relevant when its cars finally make the transition to full-EV technology. That’s a helluva challenge, but if this trip is any indication, so long as Lamborghini remains rooted in the land of slow food and fast cars it will always hold an unfair advantage.
This story was first featured in evo issue 298.