Summer drives in Europe

The Grand Tour

With its ambitious scale, striking ambience and old-fashioned charms, the Grand Tour lives up to its majestic moniker in more ways than one…

With the right car, the right company and a healthy desire for exploration and discovery, nothing beats a good old-fashioned road trip: ploughing your own automotive furrow across increasingly grandiose climes; pausing to contemplate imposing mountains and vast coastlines; and appreciating your carefully selected playlists between the spectacles – yep, the road trip is the life.

The famous 500-mile 3-country Grand Tour starts in the refined surroundings of Geneva’s Lake Leman waterfront weaving its way along the south shore into France and then dropping from Thonon-les-Bains to begin the climb to the "gateway to the European Cascades", Chamonix.

Before you reach the mountainous firmaments of checkpoint D though (see map) you get to savour the peculiar joys of the seven-mile Mont Blanc Tunnel that shortens your route from France to Turin by 30 miles and to Milan by 60.


Once you emerge from the tubular trappings of the longest highway tunnel in the world, you are thrust into the Aosta Valley: the smallest and least densely populated region of Italy and into Turin where the idiosyncratic foods and traditional buzz of Italian cities begin to seep into your consciousness.

Then, from Turin, you continue south for Alba, encountering the more pleasing climes of the Mediterranean, the window edging further down as enlivening breezes sweep gently over your troubles and your upholstery.

Savona – once home to original adventurer Christopher Columbus – marks your first encounter with the Italian Riviera and traversing “the coast of the setting sun” (west from France to Genoa) and “ the coast of the rising sun” (from Genoa to Cape Corvo). Expect charming fishing ports, picturesque hills and beautiful landscapes aplenty.

Exit La Spezia and, though your flirtation with the swanky coastal towns concludes, you initiate the climb to Lucca and Abetone up the enchanting Apennines and then gently descend in to the equally distracting “Athens of the Middle Ages": the fabulous Florence.

If you’re on a tight schedule you may want to avoid the twisting restrictions of the city centre but you can still gawp in awe at one of the most beautiful cities in the world from afar.

It’s an exhilarating penultimate passage for drivers of all abilities and ages and leads to the final part of the Tour: the increasingly minor and rather charming routes to Bologna and Modena, then back up to re-engage the majesty of the Alps en route to Milan: the fashion capital of the world.

That’s Geneva, Mont Blanc, Portofino, Florence, Bologna and Milan all in one automotive escapade. A Grand Tour indeed.

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