Jul 16, 2019
The eighth edition of the renowned Ferrari Cavalcade brought the world of Ferrari owners and their beloved cars to explore this year’s international gathering in Campania, Italy.
This yearly event is specially organised in Maranello, the home of the Ferrari headquarters. Here, a select few customers from around the world have the chance of a lifetime – a unique driving experience tailored by the organiser, one which money cannot buy. For the past seven years, only Ferrari owners were allowed to join in these super-extravagant experiences – until now!
Surprisingly, for the first time, Maranello decided to open its doors to four lucky journalists, who were specially hand-picked to take a glimpse and venture into the world of the Ferrari Cavalcade extravaganza. To be honest, I was totally shocked when I got the invitation from Ferrari Hong Kong to be one of these very lucky four. How can I even describe that feeling? I guess it’s like winning the golden ticket to visit Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.
Along with me, the others were Condé Nast Traveler China's managing editor, Zhang Aihui; famous Italian influencer Fabio Attanasio from Milan; and Italian journalist Enrico Dal Buono, also from Milan. Frankly speaking, I wondered how Maranello had managed to pick the four of us among all the journalists from around the world? Of course, I am deeply grateful for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity – and to call this a dream press trip is surely an understatement!
Our four-day, three-night trip started in Napoli. We were picked up early in the morning from Naples International Airport and arrived at our destination at the Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria in Sorrento, where we would be spending the next few days. The hotel, which dates back to 1834, is set in a lush garden on the cliffs overlooking the Gulf of Naples. Naturally, our first call of business was lunch. The Asian crew included me, Zhang and of course, most importantly, our chaperone, Aaron Li from Ferrari China.
During lunch, we found out that the first day of the Cavalcade event had actually started on the day of our arrival. More than 100 Ferraris were specially flown in for this event, and more than 200 collectors and enthusiasts made up the crews, representing some 20 countries around the world including Italy, Germany, the US, the UK, France, Spain, China, Thailand, Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan and beyond. Models included the Ferrari Portofino, 488 Pista Piloti, SP3JC, J50, 812 Superfast, GTC4Lusso, LaFerrari, F12, F50 and Enzo, just to name a handful.
Each day, the international convoy embarked on a surprise journey, with all 100-plus Ferraris from the Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria setting off for a different daily route designed by Maranello. Drivers and their co-drivers were only equipped with a route map, created for this tour to guide them from one checkpoint to another, and with each car having a two-minute headstart to get to their designated points. The challenge was on!
Mind you, the Cavalcade experience is not just a race – it’s a total Ferrari lifestyle, combining driving experiences that normal global Ferrari collectors wouldn’t be able to enjoy anywhere else in the world. Imagine driving through the Campania region, exploring the scenic routes throughout Benevento to Corso Garibaldi; from Parco del Partenio to the slopes of Mount Vesuvius; from the coast of Salerno to the Amalfi Coast; and driving to the centre of Naples to park at the Royal Palace of Caserta, then on to the Piazza del Plebiscito. Finally, on the last day, with all the cars parked at the port of Capri, a final parade from Capri to Anacapri, all behind the wheel of your beloved Ferrari! Mamma mia – to me, this is beyond any dream holiday!
The first day for me was a simple one – recharging myself under the scorching Italian sun, as well as recharging all my batteries for my film equipment in eager anticipation of the following big day. Nevertheless, the perfect Campania weather couldn’t be more perfect and I just couldn’t resist soaking up some vitamin D by the pool while sipping on my favourite Italian aperitif, the Aperol Spritz!
The following day, all four of us lucky journalists finally met up at the morning briefing, organised by Dario Esposito from Ferrari's brand & corporate communications department. We signed all the necessary insurance and agreement documents – in fact, the briefing was short and sweet. The two Italians were in one car and us two Chinese were in another. Both cars happened to be Ferrari Portofinos, marked “Special Guest” on both sides of the doors. Each group was given the key to the car and, importantly, a separate phone that was equipped with an app for all the things we might encounter along the way. We were reassured that the GPS system on the official phone would take us to each checkpoint during the second day’s drive without any worries.
Finally, we ventured out of the hotel’s reception doors – and were blown away by the sight of all 100+ Ferraris parked along the driveway, ready for the day’s journey. Of course, for me it was the perfect Instagram moment – and one to start shooting some of my film footage for #legend. More than 100 shots later, it was finally our turn to get into our cars and set sail on our virgin Cavalcade voyage. Zhang, my co-driver from China, was kind enough to let me be the first to take the wheel. Once the engine started, it was natural that the next button to press was the one to put the convertible roof down on the Portofino! Ready, set... and go!
Our route during my first round for the day was leaving Sorrento, off to Serino, through some of the highways and up the hill of Monte Terminio. Then, we had a pit stop and swapped places. I was the co-driver for Zhang from Montella, via Valico delle Croci di Acerno, up to Montecorvino Rovella and finally reaching our afternoon's designated pit stop by the port of Salerno. The first part of our drive was mostly along scenic country routes and beautiful mountain views until we finally ascended back down to the sea views of Salerno.
On arrival at Salerno, we marveled the sight of all 100+ Ferraris already parked all along the port of Salerno, with a huge amount of bystanders waving their Ferrari flags ecstatically in celebration of their Italian pride and the Ferrari heritage!
Zhang and I regrouped first with our chaperone, Aaron Li from Ferrari China. We headed to the Museo Diocesano, which had been taken over by Ferrari as an open buffet venue for all the drivers and guests to recharge before the second leg of our journey. After a quick lunch, since we were the last ones to arrive, we decided to head back down to the port and got ready for our onward journey. This time, instead of Zhang, Li would be my co-driver, as Zhang decided to take some time off by himself to do some sightseeing; he would rejoin us at Positano.
Imagining manoeuvring 100+ Ferraris out on the streets of Hong Kong. It's surely not an easy task, let alone 100+ Ferraris on the streets of Salerno – hats off to the Maranello team for making the impossible possible. After a long wait for the first 50+ cars to set off on their journey, it was finally our turn and this time, since we were travelling in a large convoy of 50+, there was absolutely no need to even look at our GPS. We simply sat back with the roof down, soaked up the sun, blasted music from our in-car system and put the pedal to the metal!
Leaving the city centre of Salerno was such a thrill. Since I'm a city boy at heart, driving a Ferrari in a city is all about see-and-be-seen. I was totally in my element, enjoying every bit of my driving experience in this convertible and screaming for extra attention! We started our second leg of our tour through the city streets of Salerno, driving along the Amalfi Coast through the little town of Maiori, where we stopped for some gelato. We then headed uphill to the coastal parts of Positano, high up on the mountain, looking back down on the beautiful ocean. Everywhere we went, there were tons of Ferrari admirers along the routes filming our convoy – so we were revving up engines and going totally mental!
With a convoy of 50+ Ferraris, we also needed a lot of local help from the police to make sure the narrow streets could squeeze all the Ferraris past at the same time. Naturally, we were in no rush at all, as we were soaking up the sun and enjoying the unbelievable views that the Amalfi Coast has to offer. Every so often, we would get ourselves into a bottleneck and needed desperate help with the long wait – but as long as I was in a convertible Portofino, who was I to complain?
Zhang planned to meet up with us at one of the checkpoints at Positano to take his turn, but unfortunately for him, there were no stops during the Positano route. In the end, I practically drove the entire second part of the afternoon all by myself, back to our final destination at the Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria. Needless to say, it was one of the best moments in my life – simply priceless!
Once we returned back to the hotel, I have to say it was hard to part with my beloved Portofino. My first encounter with the Ferrari Portofino was actually on a track day in China last year, but after this experience in Sorrento? I'm absolutely in love with this car, period! Never before had I driven in a luxury sports car up to eight hours a day along some of the most scenic routes that Italy has to offer; I thoroughly enjoyed every moment from start to finish, and it's an experience I most probably will never get again in my lifetime. (It’s beside the point that my crispy forehead was burnt under the scorching sun, but hell, at least I had a great tan after.)
The following day, we had some free time to do a bit of sightseeing around the coastal region of Capri before the evening. We were joined by the newly appointed chief communication officer of Ferrari, Jane Reeve, for a lovely drink at our hotel before we set sail to Capri to join the rest of the VIP guests for a 1950s La Dolce Vita-themed dinner party held at the famed seafood restaurant La Canzone del Mare. Jane and I seemed to be the only two people who took the dressing-up part seriously – we even got up on stage, pretending that we were part of the '50s acts, and we have photos to prove it! The night finished with a live Italian band singing '50s classics and a very special performance by synchronised swimmers.
All in all, my sincere gratitude goes out to Ferrari Hong Kong, Aaron Li from the Ferrari China team for being the best host ever, and last but not least, Jane Reeve and Dario Esposito from Maranello for making this one of the most enjoyable and memorable trips that I have ever had. Grazie mille a tutti!