Audi driving experience: Doing Dolce Vita My Way

by: Susan Shanti

I had always dreamed of driving a supercar through scenic Europe. When the opportunity arose with Audi Club to participate in the Audi driving experience through the Alps in an R8 performance Spyder, I was instantly excited. It was my first time traveling alone overseas and that made the trip even more special.

I arrived on a Saturday and met up immediately with the woman I had been partnered with Grace Lim, a huge Audi enthusiast and Service Consultant from Audi Great Neck in NY (formally Biener Audi). We hit it off and were both excited for the experience, and especially for the car. 

Sunday was a fun day where we explored a castle and experienced Rothenburg and Nördlinger. It was nice to have that extra day before the driving tour that helped all of us acclimate to the new time zone. That evening we gathered for dinner with the whole group, which was a great way for us all to meet and get acquainted.

Monday morning, we were up bright and early for breakfast and the drivers’ meeting – still a little weary from travel, but excited to drive! The drivers’ meeting was very informative; our instructor Fredrik did an amazing job briefing us. Next, we were assigned our cars. Grace and I were assigned a Kemora Gray R8. Happily, I slid into the driver’s seat and became familiar with the car. I was impressed with the styling and the ease of the cockpit. It was comfortable and I could access the MMI system with ease.

The Audi driving experience handled everything. Our luggage was handled by Sina, the nav system programmed by Fredrik and we had Thomas there with us along the drives for support, mechanical and otherwise, if needed. These three people really made the trip over the top, taking great care of us and becoming good friends.

The first day began in Münich, which meant the Autobahn – another dream come true! What an exhilarating experience in this performance supercar that delivers exactly what you want on demand.

On the road, our first stop was for lunch at a beautiful little resort called Alpenhof Murnau in Bavaria. Lunch wasdelectable and the hotel and grounds were gorgeous. The u-shaped drive with all ten R8’s was a great photo opportunity. 

After lunch we began our breathtaking drive through the Alps. Of course, we had the Spyder top down to take in more of the incredible views. The R8 was performing so well and felt so comfortable, that Grace and I went off a bit on our own. 

We found this little town called Merano, on our way to the hotel Arosea. Merano was quaint and sweet. We purchased some roasted chestnuts from a street vendor and meandered our way through the streets on foot. The church bells were chiming and the sun setting. It was what fairy tales are made of. The car was spectacular, whether on mountain switchbacks or cobblestone roads. Thankfully this supercar has clearance, something that really impressed me about the R8.

Grace and I were very thankful for the navigation system as we relied on it often, especially when exploring on our own. Getting back to the group was always a cinch, thanks to Fredrik pre-programing our next destination. 

We made it to the next stop, our hotel for the night at Arosea Life Balance Hotel. This beautiful hotel in the alps is eco-friendly and breathtaking. Dinner was delicious and it was fun to get more acquainted with others on the trip. Everyone in our group was friendly and got along so well.

In the morning breakfast included an omelet station, fresh juice bar, bread station, honey from honeycomb, fresh fruit, a variety of cheeses and much more tasty food. Anything you could want really was available.

Fredrik had the cars programmed for us again and we handed our luggage off to Sina, who made sure it was always looked after and in our rooms at each location upon arrival. It was only our second day in the cars and already we had experienced so much! 

We were off through the Alps making our way south to Lake Garda. I took the wheel first on this beautiful morning – a bit rainy, so fun to see how the R8 handled. No surprise, the car handled the wet pavement of the Alpine roads amazingly. 

Grace and I went off route a bit to explore once more. I highly recommend this. We found a great little place to stop for hot chocolate and sweet treats. A small village called Spormaggiore was a great spot for a photoshoot. The scenery never disappointed. Every place we drove was picturesque: St. Pankraz, Cagno, Revo, Andalo, Molveno, San Lorenzo Dorsino, Stenico and Madruzzo. Yes, driving through the Dolomites is dramatically beautiful.

Grace and I arrived at Lake Garda and ran into two of our Dolce Vita driving friends in the group. While we were looking for a good place for pictures, we just happened upon them, which made for a fun photoshoot. 

Next came pizza for lunch at a lakeside town called Riva del Garda. The rest of the group had arrived at Lefay, our next hotel destination for lunch, that we missed as we were enjoying exploring. Eventually we made it to Lefay Resort & SPA Lago di Garda in Gargnano, which was up a gorgeous winding road. This resort was stunning and we arrived just in time to freshen up and change for dinner. The group was invited for cocktail hour and had a great time catching up with each other about that day’s tour through the Alps. Dinner, once again, was impressively delicious and was followed by an evening of camaraderie and cigars in the lounge.

On day three, we were presented with the largest breakfast I’ve ever seen. Everything you might imagine for breakfast seemed to be represented. The cars were programmed for lunch in Verona. We also had planned fuel stops, which were fantastic, as Fredrik would be there to fuel the cars for us. It was such a great service to look forward to. 

The countryside of Lake Garda is stunning. Grace and I enjoyed the view with the top down and made our way exploring off route once again. On this day we discovered Desenzano del Garda. This part of Lake Garda is a must see, with beautiful architecture it is a great place to grab a coffee and take in the view the lake. We got some great photos of the R8 here as well. 

Making our way to Verona, the group was gathering for lunch high above the city where a magical view was an unexpected bonus. That afternoon we explored Verona on foot with so much history and richness to see. 

The evening came too soon, our final evening gathering together at Lefay Resort. Fredrik presented us each with a certificate from Audi driving experience and we all enjoyed our last dinner together as a group.

On Thursday morning we made our way back from Italy to Austria for lunch at Interalpen-Hotel Tyrol. The drive into this place is incredible. You actually drive into the lobby. It’s a stunning property, with even more incredible views. One final meal together was enjoyed, the regional favorite Wiener Schnitzel, before heading back to Münich. 

Turning the cars in made for one last moment to remember this great experience and say thank you to the team of Sina, Fredrik and Thomas for making it so special. The experience was a dream come true, with the bonus of driving the R8 Spyder! I didn’t expect to fall in love with the car, but that is what happened. This might be one of the best ways possible to tour Europe. Thank you Audi driving experience and Audi Club North America, my life is changed for the better. I am forever grateful and a big fan of the R8 performance Spyder.

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