La Dolce Vita: Italy’s 20 Greatest (plus five duds)

Abarth.small

The great Carlo Abarth with a collection of his creations

There are of course, endless connotations of what constitutes the superlative in a car. For example, it’s obvious that if you’ve got to tip-toe over a country mile to get to your local Tescos, up hill and down dale dodging lackadaisical pheasants and strange me in tweed, then your idea of The Best isn’t going to be represented by a Scuderia.

If, however, your aim at any given time is to rise up at 4AM on a Sunday morning and move as dynamically and irresponsibly as possible on a public highway, to the soft rising of the late summer sun and the symphony of five hundred wailing cavali, then the Discovery is not going to cut it.

But there’s the rub. When talking about vehicles imagined, designed, built, driven, raced and consumed in Italy, we’re talking about a special kind of vehicle. Italians don’t really do practical. Italians make the kind of vehicle that means more than the workaday, that provides function much closer to racing form as a matter of course than anywhere else in the world.

Lovers of Italian vehicles (and for that matter, Italian design, Italian cooking, Italian art, literature and film – are the sort of people that crave experience and leave practicality and sensible-ness to the Belgians.

Baring this in mind, we have chosen our favourite 20 Italian cars – and we have chosen the top twenty that fits most into the category of Passion, flair and quickness. And also, there's a handful of cars, which, for us, don't live up to the billing . As Enzo Ferrari said “the most beautiful car is the one that wins…”

  • Ozzie

    Nice list, and some great pics: but surely the old 500 remains a classic, even if it was a bit difficult to drive. And was the LP 400 really better than the QV countach? Not driven either myself...My friend owns a Montreal and sure it looks fantastic but drives like a dog. Keep up the cool posting in any case....

  • manlee

    Oz showed me the site yesterday. Interesting stuff. pic of the Montreal. But what about the Ferrari 246 Dino? What about the 250 GTO? 16 Million Euros can't be wrong. Perhaps Nick Maison is wrong after all

  • Nick

    Harsh on the Alfasud, and generous to the Supermirafiore! The Fiat makes the top 20 on the basis of a couple of rallye specials, but the ordinary road cars were never regarded in period as having great road manners. By contrast the Alfasud (which was well-engineered but shoddily built) showed that drivers of small cars could enjoy great dynamics - it was years before there was a better handling front-driven car, and without the Alfasud who's to say the 'boys from Dagenham' would ever have bothered to make the modern day Focus and Fiesta drive as well as they do?

  • Rob

    Also harsh on the Montreal, just driven mine on a round trip from the UK to Portugal, 2976 miles. Not as nimble as the smaller 105 coupe, but definately not a dog. Alfa have never produced a car which can be described as handling poorly!

  • Spindruft

    ISO Griffo, De Tomaso Pantera both seem to be missing

  • Malcolm Place

    Team,
    I read all this info about Italian wheels which are notorious for breaking down and falling apart yet there is never a mention about the Corvette which repeatedly wins in its class at Le Mans.
    It may have a push rod motor but it wins races and in my opinion the C5 looks like sex on wheels.
    It doesn't have an elastic band which needs changing every 15000 miles with the engine out for a timing belt.
    It also does a healthy 20 miles to the gallon with a six litre motor.
    I have owned one for the last four years and if you want to drive a car with grunt, try a corvette !

    Malcolm Place, Crowborough

  • l

    There is a great list of the worlds most beutiful cars there but as mentioned before you have forgotten about most greatest of them all the ferrari 250 gto.

  • X19file

    How come the Fiat ( later Bertone ) X1/9 is never featured in these lists??
    It was ... & still is in some ways... a car well ahead of it's time.
    If you can keep the rust devil away, it's an Absolute Joy!!
    Always should have been developed further, but to pull away from my friend's Nissan Skyline up Sutton Bank gives you some idea of the Brilliant handling!!

  • Incony

    OK, if you had lots of money, the sky was the limit. If one had not, Cars like the Lancia Beta Spider and the Gamma, turned heads, but both were self destructive.

    Still folks remember my Gamma and the Beta Spyder, they remember
    them as so unique, no one else had one, often it was the first one they had ever seen, but i did it...:) the Spyder
    was just great to drive. So was the Gamma, the sound of the Gammas flat four, just like a song, and the Spyder would just go and go, two litre heaven.But, when either went AWOL, usually an engine problem, they were an expensive pig to fix, if they didnt rust away first. I spent as much time fixing them as driving them, but it still gives me great pleasure to know i owned them, and remember what they gave me.. heaven, and never having any money. :)

  • David G

    I used to have an old 500 - surprisingly fun to drive and chuck around corners but tended to annoy other drivers when you park in spaces they can't, fit through gaps they can't or overtake under any circumstances. Cold to drive in a Manchester winter as the heater is useless and the sunroof doesn't attach at the sides (built for Italian climate I suppose)
    Starter lever is somewhat unorthodox and the hand-throttle plus webasto roof means you can stand up and drive it like a tank commander .... except you can't reach the brake. But an absolute icon and classic - it has a simplicity of design that belies its Italian origins.

  • Martin C

    How dare you not include the Fiat 131!
    Shame. What a car too

  • Mark

    Bugatti EB110? I love that car - it's ridiculous!

    Also, despite owning italian cars for about 6 years now i still am not the biggest fan of the new 500.

  • wayne

    I may be biassed, but the only truly good looking / practical / affordable and a good drive is the Alfa Spider S4.
    No need to comment it's a given !!!!!!!!!!!!
    Xl/9 was that in a cartoon about a rocket ?

  • J Rimski

    Fiat Bravo a shocking ommission IMHO! I owned one between the wars - 2nd Gulf War and Afghanistan- and can honestly say it was a combination of style and performance personified.

    Driving position was a little weird but probably built for our Little-legged cousins.

  • John

    No Ferrari 250 SWB? Ultimate Italian car IMO!

  • John

    I've owned two Fiat Coupe 20v Turbos - should have been included here. Stunning design, a fantastic 5 pot engine, seriously fast and most of all financially accessible to almost all. Pity Pinin were taking all the profits! I later bought a GTV Cup - what a dud!! Fantastic drive / handling but the Blackpool lights on the dashboard every trip just got to me in the end - unforgivable.

    Muira does it for me anyway - the rest are also-rans.

  • Hamish

    If I am not mistaken the Mirafiori shown is the Mirafiori Sport (3 door) not the Supermirafiori (4 door)I know because I had one!

    The prettiest little car left out surely is the Lancia Fulvia coupe in my case the one that got away.

  • Ian Robertson

    It's got to be the 500. My first car bought in 1967 for £400 oddd pounds. Went on a grand tour of Europe with my new wife which included a trip up the Grossglockner pass At its peak we were greeted with a round of applause by those who had passed us on the way up! Never gave us a problem and transported Mum Dad and three children plus roof rack. Wish i'd never sold it!

  • mike

    Ah but the classic 500 turns as many heads as all those tempramental supercars, the alfasud was a great drive, the 131 shown is the abarth not to be confused with the everyday car.that was uninspiring - lets start again and consider cars that mere mortals can afford to own and run.

  • Bazzer

    I the Integrale's a little bit boxy for a real Italian classic an there really should be room for the very underated Alfa 166. It's a beautiful thing and realy affordable...

  • A J Webb

    Hello boys and girls, Being perhaps a more mature classic car owner Ive seen many a list ranging from the top 3 to the top 100 or so. Its really interesting to see the resulting, why wasn't this model or that model included or placed higher. Of course in truth its all down to pesonal taste and experience. And theres an ethusiast for every thing thats ever been built. How else would the strange and diverse odditys survive to be the objects of our desire.I saw a wonderful Alfa romeo van last week, beautifully restored. Oh dear whats happening to me? Well it was Italian.

  • Charlie Croker

    I agree with amJohn, Fiat Coupe deserves a mention, coachbuilt, stunning looks (which have not dated), outstanding performance. Still turns heads today, (Not true for many other cars premiered in 1993).

    Can't help loving the 500 too.

  • Jon Hunt

    Hi
    Surely the Alfasud Tii should have been included, Great manners on the Road and that Oh so Lovely Crackling Exhaust Note.

  • S.S Sandhu

    Wayne is in a world of his own, The X1/9 is THE car that should have been included, people are now just finding out about these Marcello Gandini designed cars.

  • alan cooper

    to list the Alfasud as a dud suggests that adrian flux is full of cretins it was THE most sublime everyday car to drive of it's era and critising the multipla only multiplies the crime by failing to appreciate a brilliant piece of form follows function design

    • http://www.adrianflux.co.uk David Wilson

      I like the Multipla (pre-facelift anyway), but it seems we are in a minority!

  • Alastair R Bowie.

    I have owned Fiats for many years Strada Tempra Croma Punto and now a Marea. They have all been great cars, but the Marea has an awesome performance, great car.

  • http://www.lukafoto.com Luke

    Where are the Pre FIAT Lancias?

    First Monocoque body? The sliding Pillar Lancia Lambda. Most famous car in Tintin? The B20 Aurelia.

    And Rally car that put Lancia on the map long before Stratos? The wonderful FULVIA HF - an example of which I just raced at Cadwell and matched race E type 3.8 litre lap times!

  • ciaran

    Well I love the 131 sport, what a car, velvet inside, dark green lighting to the dash board, the colours such as the bright orange, or the dark gray. with tinted windows, awesome car a real classic, the simple engine, and design.
    But I can't go without a word for the 128 3P a little pretender lol

  • Adam

    I resent the fact the 500 and Countach are in the 5 undesirable cars list. The other three deserve it though.

    Well done for including the Stratos, possibly my favorite car of all time.

  • Pingback: Lancia Fulvia: Our 21st favourite | influx

  • Kevin

    so where are the 20 greatest car's ? i can see the 25 dud's

  • John

    Whoever decided the Alfasud was a dud clearly never drove one. It is the sweetest handling front wheel drive car ever. Period.

  • Granville

    Having owned and/or driven the following: - 127 sport, alfasud, strada cabrio, supermirafiori, x1/9, cinquecento sporting, uno turbo, 128 3p, lancia beta coupe/hpe, lancia monte carlo, lancia thema, lancia integrale, fiat 500L, alfetta, 127 special, 127 1050, tipo 1.9TDi, uno 1.7D, tempra, bravo, brava, superstrada, etc. etc. I agree!
    Every time there is a survey like this, all the results are based on pipe-dreams and not realism...

    For the record, the alfasud had the most sublime steering and handling, the 127 sport was the most under-developed supermini ever (almost deadly in the hands of an enthusiastic 17 y.o.!) I test drove a main dealers' integrale for 1 mile before it broke-down!
    FIAT have such a poor dealer coverage where I live (North Yorkshire) these days that its' simply not viable to own one.

  • dave

    How many have you actually driven?

  • Damage

    Fiat 500 style icon no matter what