Lakes and mountains. Water and ice. As if from the title of a book, this tour is a small sample of the natural grandeur that that you can find in the center of Europe in only two countries, Italy and Switzerland.
The Italian lakes (Lake Maggiore and Lake Como) are seas enclosed by high mountains. They are seas because their extent is of such magnitude that you do not get to see the other shore. A haven of tranquility that immerses you in the most authentic nature.
Possibly the roads and mountain passes of the Alps are the best in Europe to drive through, whatever you are driving, but is always better in a fabulous classic car. The curves that demands that both machine and pilot strive to the maximum, the amazing landscape that surrounds it or that aura of mysticism that such beauty gives to those who contemplate it are the ideal combination for lovers of driving.
This was the context that Classics on the Road designed for the Jaguar E-Type Club and Jaguar XK Club of United Kingdom for ten days in July 2017, being the first of the two tour of the year to be held with Classics. Five E-Types and six XKs were part of this adventure.
From the French city of Reims, where the kings of France were crowned, the tour started southwards, after a visit to the vineyards and winery of which it is undoubtedly one of the best and most famous champagnes in the world: Taittinger.
Crossing beautiful towns like Joinville, Grand, which preserves a great Roman amphitheater, Neufchâteau and Epinal we arrived at Gerardmer, in the region of Alsace. Any corner is this area of France is a haven of peace and radiates a dreamlike tranquility.
On the third day of the Tour of the Swiss Alps and Italian lakes, we stopped at Mulhouse, the home of the legendary Peugeot brand car and the place where is the best car museum in the world: the Cité de l’Automobile. This museum, which was born from the private collection of the Schlumpf brothers, textile magnates and lovers of cars and racing, have about 500 cars of 98 different brands, specially Bugatti. Of the French brand, epitome of luxury and unparalleled sportsmanship from its birth to the present day, the Cité de l’Automobile retains 120 cars, including two of the six manufactured Bugatti Royale, which for the connoisseurs is the most luxurious car never created.
Is for all known the specectacularity and magnificence of the roads and mountain passes of the Alps, well known especially for lovers of motor and cycling. Some of the most beautiful passes of the Alps took us from Switzerland to our next stop, the Italian village of Stresa, on the shores of Lake Maggiore. In only a few kilometers we descend from the highest peaks of Europe to a lake 200 meters above sea level. Does anyone give more?
Grimsel Pass, Simplon Pass or Furka Pass were some of the mountains passes with which the E-Type and the XK fought, coming out victorious to enjoy the magical views and a comforting coffee well deserved by drivers and co-pilots.
The next two days the group enjoyed the beauty and tranquility of Lake Maggiore and the mythical Lake Como, visiting some of the most spectacular villas. In the west of Lake Maggiore, on the coast in front of Stresa, there are three small islands called Borromean Island that has magnificent villas surrounded by spectacular gardens that have been introduced in the popular imaginary as the ideal when we think the palaces of centuries past.
The largest of the Borromean Islands is Isola Bella that has a Palace that Carlo III, of House of Borromeo, ordered to build for his wife, Isabel d’Adda, from whom the island takes its name. The gardens of the island are undoubtedly among the most beautiful gardens in the world, and were the place of sumptuous parties and theatrical events for the nobility of Europe during the XVIII century.
In Como, the most perfect and wonderful villa that you can see there is the mythical Villa Balbianello. Built in 1787 by Cardinal Durini, the guided tour of the gardens and the building is a real treat not to be missed on a trip to Como.
The last owner of the villa, the Milanese businessman and explorer Guido Monzino, left the property to the FAI (Italian Ambient Fund), a non-profit organization created in 1975 and since then has been dedicated to restore and musealize the building, bringing to the public the numerous examples of the artistic and natural wealth of the Italian heritage. Monzino’s rich collection of Chinese, African and pre-Columbian art, together with 18th-century English and French furniture remains intact in the villa.
In addition, it has been location for scenes of numerous films, from the Attack of the Clones of the Star Wars saga to Casino Royale of James Bond, an unbeatable place for the best secret agent of Her Majesty.
On the following day we drove to the north to head back to the Swiss Alps, to Saint Moritz, the luxurious mecca of every ski enthusiast, where the Jaguar E-Type & XK Tour stayed two nights to enjoy six mountain passes, among which was (at least for Classics on the Road) the best mountain pass in the world: Passo dello Stelvio.
Passo dello Stelvio or Stelvio Pass, with an altitude of 2,747 meters, a length of 24 kilometers, an average difference of 7.6% and 48 curves, is close to the border between Italy and Switzerland, within the National Park of Stelvio. The first road was built between 1820 and 1825 to connect the province of Lombardy with Austria, when those territories were part of the Austrian Empire. Since then practically has not received any modification in the layout. Driving in the Stelvio was a great experience!
The last days were more comfortable in driving but equally interesting and spectacular, and the members of the E-Type and XK clubs enjoyed a visit to a place that seems a fairytales scenario.
The Neuschwastein Castle, located in the south of Germany, in the heart of Tyrol, which Walt Disney used to draw the castle of Sleeping Beauty, that castle photographed thousand of times builded in a risk framed by a spectacular natural landscape, was another of the alpine stops that we made during the Swiss Alps and Italian lakes Tour.
The castle was commissioned by King Ludwig II of Bavaria as a retreat and as a tribute to the composer Richard Wagner. In fact, the musician lived there during long seasons and there he composed some of his best works, such as Swan Lake, maybe inspired for the real lake that can be seen from the castle.
The palace was conceived as a personal refuge for the king, a strange and solitary person who disregarded the political affairs to spend his fortune and almost leading to bankruptcy to the Kingdom of Baviera, spending that money in arts and building sumptuous palaces and castles all over Bavaria.
Neuschwastein was opened to the public after the king’s death in 1886 and since then more than 61 million people have visited the castle. Visitors will also have the opportunity to visit the nearby “Marienbrücke” (Maria Bridge), built 90 meters above the Pöllat River from where there are a breathtaking view over the castle.
The tour ended again in France, in the beautiful and typical village of Obernai near Strasbourg, after spending the night before in the german village of Oberstaufen, driving along the shore of Lake Constance.
Ten days of enjoyment at the wheel, seeing amazing landscapes, relaxing in luxurious hotels and enjoying great restaurants, doing visits to unique places… The Jaguar E-Type & XK Clubs Swiss Alps and Italian Lakes Tour 2017 will become a great memory that will remain always in our memory.