Readers repeatedly ask us: “How we get our families to accept the fact that we spend every second weekend driving along winding roads in the mountains?” It‘s quite easy: every now and then you invite the love of your life to a go on a spontaneous Grand Tour to Italy. The fact that some of the most beautiful passes in the Alps are on the way comes as something of a surprise, even to yourself.
What makes Italy such a practical choice is that you can always find a good reason to start up the engine, look on the map for suitable roads with a serpentine profile, and then follow the sun south. This summer it was “The Floating Piers” created by Christo and Jeanne-Claude, the artist couple famous for wrapping objects, on Lago d’Iseo in northern Italy, which served as the first destination for our long Gran Turismo weekend. For a total of sixteen days, the orange-coloured pontoons connected up the islands on the lake to create a breath-taking walkway, which did not quite undulate on the water, however, as many visitors had expected: when we arrived at the floating piers at 5 o’clock in the morning, there were the kind of crowds you would expect on Fifth Avenue in New York on the last Saturday before Christmas. Instead of the anticipated 500,000 visitors, a total of no less than 1.2 million ultimately turned up! When confronted by such masses of avid magazine readers and professional Instagram users on pilgrimage, it is good to know of a quiet spot where one can debate the pros and cons of Christo and Jean-Claude’s latest project over a glass excellent wine and probably the best tortellini in northern Italy: the Ristorante alla Borsa in the centre of the village of Valeggio sul Mincio at the southern end of Lago di Garda may at first sight seem unprepossessing, but the pasta dishes that Alceste Pasquali and his wife Albina Stanghellini have been serving their customers for almost 60 years are nothing short of artistic masterpieces!
Armed with a generous serving of “Tortellini di Valeggio“, we are fortified enough to set course for the next stop on our neo-Grand Tour: well over a year ago now, the Fondazione Prada arts foundation inaugurated its new art campus designed by Rem Koolhaas in a former distillery on the southern outskirts of Milan. Even the former industrial complex consisting of old distillery buildings and warehouses, glass exhibition cubes and a main house in gleaming gold is phenomenal – but the exhibition programme is first-class and can easily compete with the largest contemporary museums and exhibition spaces. A group show entitled “L’Image Volée” is currently on display curated by the great German photo illusionist Thomas Demand, who cleverly addresses the systematic theft of ideas in art history. Works produced by Edward Kienholz, Robert Gober and Louise Bourgeois are also included in the centre.
An illustration of the perfectionism of the Fondazione Prada can be clearly seen in the museum’s café, which has become a place of pilgrimage for the global hipster elite. The Bar Luce was designed in typical Milanese retro style by none other than film director Wes Anderson. And in fact the bar, from the retro furniture to the carpets and pinball machines, has been so lovingly decorated and furnished that it only needs Bill Murray und Jason Schwarztman chatting about Lombard birdlife over an espresso and sfogliatelle to create the perfect Hollywood feeling. The Fondazione Prada has not yet finalised its cultural project in Milan: next to the former distillery, a gallery tower is rising from the ground – and a branch of Fondazione Prada is also due to open soon in the city centre.
Unfortunately, the weekend coming to a close and so, after this inspiring art and coffee infusion, we take the road back to the Brenner and home in Munich – not, however, without breaking the journey to enjoy a cultivated meal: the Pretzhof, a short distance from Sterzing, is one of our absolute favourites among the farm-to-table restaurants in South Tyrol, true to their motto of “genuinely healthy from the mountain“ and without being handed a standard menu, what you are served here while viewing the surrounding peaks are wonderful seasonal and harvest-fresh dishes from their own production. But it’s worth the trip for the farmhouse bacon alone. Those who are still unable to break free from the Italian “Dolce Vita“ can alternatively visit Johnson & Dipoli in Egna / Neumarkt – this small and lively restaurant has the atmosphere of a bistro and is one of those magical places where you really only wanted to stop for a small hors d’oeuvre and then find yourself spending the entire evening there, breaking open one bottle of red wine after another, and making friends for life. On the journey back home, one should of course take the Alpine passes a little gentler than usual. (c) Stefan Bogner & Jan Baedeker