After two weeks traipsing around Europe relying on red open topped double decker buses as our transport, my partner and I were very much looking forward to getting on the roads ourselves. Six months earlier back home in Sydney I booked a small premium vehicle online. An Audi A3 was featured but I knew that was not necessarily what we were going to get. Upon arrival at Avis in Venice, the attendant told me I had a choice – the new (Italian made) Jeep Renegade that I really wanted to try out, or an Alfa Romeo Giulietta. With a drive around picturesque Lake Como and a week seeing the sights of Tuscany planned, I thought there’d be no better way to immerse ourselves in Italianness than in the Giulietta.
A short time later our white Giulietta pulled up front and our two large suitcases slotted into the boot. USB power and AUX cables connected up, before too long we were on the road to Verona. The 1.4 Turbo of the Giulietta had just enough urge to keep me satisfied but we weren’t going to win any drag races – unless it was with one of the numerous tiny Pandas and Ypsilons around us. Stains on the seats and ceiling screamed ‘rental car’ but curiously the Alfa itself didn’t. It felt tight and well-made which I wasn’t really expecting. The dashboard has a unique design and is far more interesting than some of its contemporaries, however the plastic lump beside the air conditioning controls wasn’t pleasant to rest my leg on. My feet were a bit big for the pedals if I wasn’t paying attention, but despite this, sitting in the Giulietta was quite a nice place to be.
The Alfa kept up well with the traffic and felt very at home on the high speed autobahns. Visibility was good with the pretty Italian countryside whizzing past and ride quality and road noise suppression exceeded expectations. After a quick visit to picturesque Verona, we headed to Lecco on the shores of the gorgeous Lake Como. We planned to drive the V shaped coastline between Lecco and Como – a drive I had been looking forward to for years. Despite the rain, the scenery was stunning and far outweighed any expectations I had. The Alfa performed admirably – mostly we were cruising along slowly but the times I gave it the boot or swung into a tight bend, the Giulietta responded with Italian flair. For the drive we were doing, the Giulietta was perfect, driving an Italian car in such a special location was a memory to last.
Unfortunately not all Italian roads were perfect for the plucky Giulietta. A week in a villa near Greve in Tuscany found us heading towards our villa on a dirt road. The Giulietta really wasn’t suited to dirt roads with its low slung stance scraping its under carriage on any rock bigger than a packet of Tic Tacs. Lots of concentration and careful tyre placement was needed to avoid damage to the car. We successfully managed to negotiate the roads with minimal scraping to find the villa but the Alfa was left there in favour of a friends hire A4 Avant with slightly better clearance. At that point we wished we’d chosen the Renegade.
After our week in the villa we traversed the dirt roads again to hit the roads to Rome. Again the Giulietta handled the highways with aplomb, and it wasn’t till we hit the hectic and crazy roads of Rome did we even have to worry about anything. The Roman roads were worrying with Italians going every which way – you really need eyes in the back and sides of your head to be fully confident driving the roads of the Italian capital. A slight blind spot looking towards the side rear meant that extra caution was needed changing lanes whilst we were relieved the poor road quality and cobblestones failed to upset the Giulietta’s composure. Luckily we arrived at Avis to return the Alfa damage free. We found that in our time with it, the little Alfa managed to worm its way into our hearts.
That’s not to say that we’d fork out $30K to buy one. There’s just a few too many compromises to buy one at $30K. If you compare that you can buy a Mazda 3 SP25 for the same money, you know you get a whole lot more in a Mazda. And in a package that you won’t have any doubts about reliability. We loved the Alfa, absolutely, and to drive one in Italy was a memorable experience. An experience that would have been even more special If it was in a 1976 Alfa 105 2000 GT Veloce – once of the most beautiful cars of all time.