‘La dolce vita’ isn’t just a throwaway phrase we use to describe every Italian coastline posted on our Instagram account, it’s a concept the BH team is well acquainted with, thanks in most part to the brands we interact with. Fortunately (and suitably), no brand has leaned into the concept of the ‘the sweet life’ like Ferrari, who once flew me and approximately another 100 media to Byron Bay, in domestic business class, for the launch of the Portofino.
New models and one-off creations have been arriving thick and fast from Maranello, and COVID hasn’t helped fans keep abreast of the news, with international and local events, and launches, all but cancelled. We had hoped to catch a glimpse of the new 296 GTB when it arrived down under months ago but the state government had other plans. We did manage to get in front of the Roma in July last year but plans to get behind the wheel had thwarted us until recently when Ferrari offered us the keys, and an overnight stay at Dovecote – arguably Australia’s finest coastal home.
First revealed in 2019, the Ferrari Roma debuted as an all-new front-engined grand tourer with a new turbocharged V8 powerplant, and 8-speed transmission. However, it wasn’t just the mechanical highlights breaking ground – it was the design, dripping in allure and elegance. While it’s undoubtedly bewitching at standstill, you can’t truly appreciate its curves until you see it on the road, harking back to the ’60s when Ferrari was building what are now the most beautiful, and collectible cars, ever made.
The Roma’s design is said to draw inspiration from the 250 GT Berlinetta Lusso but the long undulating bonnet and rear wheel arches scream 250 GTO to me. I also get a sense of the 612 Scaglietti – a car I never really cared for until I hit my thirties – and also a bit of the Monza. It is, in my opinion, the most gorgeous car the brand has built in my lifetime, and a refreshing departure from Ferrari’s mid-engined aesthetic.
Ultimately, what the Roma was designed for, and what I’m pleased to confirm presents, is a true daily supercar where comfort, ride height, storage and performance have all been prioritised. Packing the car on Sunday morning I was bemused with just how much space was available for luggage. You’ll have no trouble fitting the full-size RIMOWA or golf clubs, in fact, you’d probably get the Hypto Krypto in with both the seats folded down. On the rear seats, folded down is about as useful as they will ever be. Their inclusion is gratuitous – no child, let alone adult will ever fit legally in them.
But that is probably my only qualm with the Roma because the rest of the car is a triumph. The cabin is captivating and unique, the seats are supremely balanced for long-range touring and effervescent squirts, and the steering wheel is nothing short of perfection. Yes, I pined for a bit more aural theatrics from the 3.9L V8 – as I do all modern-day supercars – but there’s no doubting the 456kW on offer, especially when the Roma is in Race mode. Perhaps it’s the cavernous contrast between Comfort and Race that makes the latter seem so entrancing, but I’m happy to admit when I arrived at Dovecote on Sunday afternoon I had completely underestimated the car.
When I climbed back in on Monday morning and directed myself towards the National Park with the Manettino dial pointed north, I experienced an entirely new creature, itching for more throttle and slapping me in the face with it when I teased the pedal. The gearbox shifts without a moment of hesitation and that perfect steering wheel does a preposterously good job of guiding the car through corners. It’s impossible not to smile.
Nor is it when you step foot into Dovecote. The 2019 Australian House of the Year, designed by Atelier Andy Carson is astonishing, not only in what they achieved but the sheer audacity of conceiving it. The contemporary cantilevered form was a striking contrast to the graceful lines of the Ferrari Roma – I don’t recall a more enjoyable photoshoot. In true Ferrari form, the experience wasn’t limited to the car or the house.
We were treated to a delightful afternoon massage, overlooking Werri Beach below, followed by a fabulous meal prepared on-site by Chef David Lee, with locally baked bread and matching Italian wines. We retreated to the floor, in front of the suspended fireplace, for a final glass of Freeman Secco, made from Australia’s only plantings of Rondinella and Corvina grapes before turning in for the night.
Climbing into the car on Monday morning to escape the howling winds atop the Kiama Headland, I realised just how serene the cabin was. The Ferrari Roma is as fit for purpose as anything – adept at swallowing leisurely highway miles or attacking empty country sweepers – confident you have enough clothes in the boot to be gone for weeks. And therein lies the idea of living ‘la dolce vita’, getting into the car and driving into the sunset, without a worry in the world.