When you think of Italy, some of the things that spring to mind are its gorgeous food, sublime art, winding roads, architecture, and inimitable style, which is a huge part of its culture. Italy is a pinnacle of style and sophistication, which clearly shows from the excellent designs on its sleek supercars, small city cars, and sports cars.
Since the 1880s, when Enrico Bernardi built a tricycle car that led to the production of the first Italian car in 1896, Italy’s automotive industry has grown to be one of the largest employers in the country. Among the top performing Italian cars from time immemorial include the Fiat Uno, which is the 8th bestselling car in history and winner of the 1984 European car of the year, the Lamborghini Gallardo, and the Ferrari 360, which is also among the bestselling automobiles in history.
Some of the best sports and supercar masterpieces the world has ever seen are Italian designs, which are a cut above the rest what with fantastic engine notes and the finest performances. The big names from Italy that have dominated the automobile space year after year include Fiat, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Alfa Romeo (whose illustrious history has produced F1 cars), Lancia (which produced the Aurelia and the Delta Integrale), Pagani, and Maserati. Each of these cars is a symbol of prestige and exclusivity and enjoy a reputation for design and speed worldwide.
This list that follows describes the top 25 cars—both classic and modern—that Italy has ever produced.
25 Lamborghini Countach
This rear mid-engined, Italian-designed sports car manufactured by Lamborghini pioneered the Italian Wedge design language that came onto the scene in 1970. Its design meant that the passenger compartment was pushed forward so that there was enough space to accommodate the engine mounted at the rear of the car. Its name may not have a meaning per se, but it denotes an exclamation of astonishment, and its design truly is something to behold. It comes with scissor doors not just for style but also function, and its aircraft-grade aluminum is both strong and light. This car was employed by Formula One as its safety car during the Monaco Grand Prix, and it's seen over two thousand of its kind built in its 16-year lifetime.
24 Enzo Ferrari
If you’ve watched the movie Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, you may have seen the Enzo Ferrari as Demi Moore (who played the role of Madison Lee) drove it along the beach. Apparently, the car used in this movie was flown to the U.S. from Italy even before the grand unveiling of the model at the Paris Motor show. Named after its founder, Enzo Ferrari, this rear mid-engined car is built using F1 technology plus extras, such as active aerodynamics and traction control. It was designed by Ken Okuyama, a Japanese, who was also the lead designer with Pininfarina, and its engine was based on the design of the V8 engine found in the Maserati Quattroporte. One of the lucky beneficiaries to have received this car as a donation is the Vatican (for real), who got the 400th Enzo Ferrari but later sold it at an auction for $1.1 million.
23 Fiat 500
This little, smart, sassy and retro-styled city car has seen six glorious decades, giving it a timeless style. The Fiat 500, also known as the "Cinquecento" in Italian, was a rear-engined small city car that launched as the Nuova in July 1957, succeeding the 500 Topolino, which was also a little town car but more affordable and practical. This car was released just after the Cold War to meet the growing demands of the post-war market and was a two-door coupe at the time, complete with a sunroof. But this model was later replaced by a rear-engined car: the Fiat 600. It may be cute and little, but this car is very practical, and its cheerful character makes it a trendy choice throughout Europe to this day. This legendary cabriolet now comes in an even bolder and more surprising design as seen in the Fiat 500C.
22 Lamborghini Murcielago
This sports car was produced by Lamborghini, one of Italy’s top automakers. Its production ended in 2010 with only a little over four thousand such cars released to the market, after which its successor, the Lamborghini Aventador (think Chris Brown), was released in 2011. In Spanish, Murcielago means "bat," but interestingly, the car is named after a fighting bull that survived 24 sword strokes in 1879 at the Coso de Los Califa bullring in Spain. Murcielago, the bull, put up a spirited fight with so much passion that the matador spared its life. The car has a mid-engine with an angular designed body and scissor doors. It's also a Hollywood star, as one of the first-generation Murcielago Roadsters was used in not one but three movies: Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises.
21 Alfa Romeo Spider
This car’s name may confuse some people, which is understandable because the name was given with the insect in mind. But the word has a different meaning altogether. Spider, in the automotive industry, relates to carriages—in this case, a narrow two-seat carriage with a rudimentary top, a folding sunshade, and a black cloth top for air circulation. This design resembled a real eight-legged spider, hence the name, but in its actual sense, the term ‘spider’ connotes a horseless carriage, which is now found on a wide variety of car names like "Ferrari" and "Fiat." The Alfa Romeo Spider succeeded the Giulia Spider from 1966 up till 1993, when the last one was produced before the Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione checked in. One of its models, a 1966 series 1 spider 1600, was featured in the blockbuster The Graduate, a 1967 film. Clearly, Italian designs aren't just supercars but superstars, too.
20 Lancia Stratos
This sports and rally car is the brainchild of Lancia, an Italian car manufacturer founded by Vincenzo Lancia and Claudio Fogolin—both racing drivers—in 1906. When Vincenzo died in 1937, his wife and son took over the company, and since then, Lancia has gone on to produce distinctive cars that perform equally well in motor rallies. Among Lancia’s achievements include the first 5-speed gearbox on a road car, first V4 engine, and the first full-production V6 engine. Its production history is equally interesting. Apparently, Lancia wanted to replace their aging Fulvia model, so renowned car designer, Bertone, quickly came up with a stunning design to show them. One thing led to another, and Lancia collaborated with Berton to develop a new rally car from designer Marcello Gandini’s ideas, Gandini being the same guy who designed the Lamborghini Countach and Miura models. It's the first car to be designed (from scratch) for rallying competitions.
19 Ferrari 308 GTB/GTS
There’s absolutely no way you can talk about the best Italian cars without mentioning the Ferrari—at least, a few of them. Ferrari was named after its founder, Enzo Ferrari, and the brand has some of the top-performing cars under its label. Among these are the Ferrari 308 GTB and GTS models, two-seater sports cars, both of which come with the V8 mid-engine. Leonardo Fioravanti is famous for the design of the 308’s body, and he's responsible for some of the most celebrated Ferrari shapes in history like the Daytona and the Berlinetta Boxer. The 308 GTB/GTS models are also famous on television, having been featured in the Magnum, P.I. series while being driven by Thomas Magnum (acted by Tom Selleck) for eight seasons of the program. Its style and speed also make it the most collectible 308 model.
18 Maserati Bora
This is also a mid-engined coupe manufactured by Italian automaker Maserati. Compared to its predecessors, which were considered technologically dated, the Bora edition is practical with a full-size trunk and more legroom than most other supercars. It was the basis for the cheaper, mass-market version, the Maserati Merak. Bora’s traction and its road holding are remarkable, plus it's been praised for its good road mannerisms and safety. Its body control is steady with an excellent high-speed ride and low levels of noise. While it may not be the fastest car in the world, it still claims a top speed of 174 mph, taking you from 0-60 in just 6.5 seconds. Like other rival cars in its league, this Maserati was well engineered, refined, pretty handsome, and could well be the best Maserati in history.
17 Fiat Panda
This is touted as the car that ‘knows how to evolve while staying true to itself,’ and indeed it is. The Fiat Panda, a small but ingenious city car, was launched in 2011, and since then, it's shaken up the ‘little car’ space, creating a serious rivalry among its foes such as the VW Up and the Kia Picanto. Those who've driven it say it delivers a firm yet vibrant ride even with a light steering that you can activate using the DualDrive button. Its engine is affordable, with turbo-assisted torque for added strength. While it may be a small car on the outside, the interior is large enough to accommodate five people. Its 4x4 model version, though not as affordable, is built to be tough for adventure and difficult terrains.
16 Maserati GranTurismo
In 1914, five brothers aka the Maserati brothers founded the Maserati brand. Initially, three of them built Grand Prix cars for Diatto; then, in 1926, they created the very first Maserati car. Although they sold their shares to Adolfo Orsi, they stayed on in the company as engineers, after which they left to found OSCA, a rival company. Maserati continued reinventing itself, producing top-performing cars under the Maserati label, one of the cars being the GranTurismo. The 2018 model wows you with its presence, beauty, and aura that oozes prestige, speed, and precision. Underneath this pure Italian-born and -bred car is a sophisticated racecar engine in a luxurious sedan. The Maserati Stability Program ensures you’re in safe hands, what with the sensors that constantly monitor driving status to maintain superb handling and grip. Its legendary sound comes from the all-Italian 460-horsepower V8 engine found on all GranTurismo models.
15 Alfa Romeo MiTo
In 2007, a European competition was launched, giving the public a chance to give a name to this supermini car. Lucky winners were to win either an Alfa Romeo Spider or an Alfa Romeo mountain bike. The winning name, "Furiosa," scored highly, but a few months later, Alfa Romeo officially announced its new name, "MiTo." This is an abbreviation for Milano and Torino, derived from two cities: Milan and Turin, where the car was designed and assembled. It's a three-door car meant to compete with the posh superminis, such as the Mini Cooper and the newer Audi A1. This car takes its style cues from the Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione with a contemporary finished interior that comes with seven airbags, a touch screen Uconnect infotainment system, air conditioning, and a trip computer.
14 Pagani Zonda F
Italian automaker Pagani built this mid-engined sports car to reflect the shared philosophy of world-champion race car-driver Juan Fangio and Horacio Pagani. These two men, who were such close friends, were committed to a mission and vision for cars that incorporated safety, performance, and inventiveness, among other concepts. The Pagani Zonda F supercar was dedicated to Fangio, who died in 1995, and its design is inspired from the Fangio model, which features a 12-cylinder Mercedes AMG 12 engine with a maximum output of 650 hp and 780 Nm torque. The car reflects the character, style, and inspiration of its creator with a detailed interior that comes with hand-finished precious wood, an antique master-clockmakers dashboard, and a Nardi steering wheel. Now this is what you call great professionalism and attentive care.
13 Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione
The "8C" on this car’s name refers to the eight-cylinder engine, while "Competizione" is Italian for competition, though it's a reference to the six-cylinder 1948 Competizione, which competed in the Mille Miglia race. This sports car was introduced to the world in 2003 at a motor show in Frankfurt. A limited series of 500 units were produced in two colors: Alfa red and/or black, with pear yellow and special competition red Pantone shades available as optional colors. It uses a platform and a powertrain previously used by the Maserati Coupe, packed with a V8 engine, and a 6-speed gearbox with computerized gear selections so you can use it in either manual, manual-sport, automatic, or automatic-sport, and wet modes. Its official top speed is about 181-190 mph. Gamers may have seen this car in the Exotic Racing Series Pack for Need for Speed: Shift and Need for Speed: World.
12 Ferrari 250 GTO
The Ferrari 250 Gran Turismo Omologato, Italian for "Grand Touring Homologated," was produced by Ferrari for approval into the FIA’s Group 3 Grand Touring Car category. Only 39 out of the required 100 examples of this car were built, and it's since earned the title of the bestselling and most valuable Ferrari. Funny enough, the car doesn't have a speedometer, and neither does it have carpeting or a headliner. This car is the equivalent of owning a piece of prime land as its value just keeps appreciating. In 2014, for example, it sold at an auction for a staggering $38.2 million, which is a world-record price. If you wanted a new one, you had to get personal approval from Enzo Ferrari and Luigi Chinetti, his North American agent. Some of its wealthy owners today include fashion designer Ralph Lauren and Walmart Chairman Rob Walton, among others.
11 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio
The Italians’ way of naming things stems from the backdrop of its rich culture. This SUV car is a good example of this nomenclature. "Stelvio" is taken from Stelvio Pass, a winding road with a beautiful yet dramatic mountain pass in the European Alps. "Quadrifoglio," on the other hand, is Italian for "four-leaf clover," which has been known as a totem of good luck. This SUV is, therefore, a symbol of Italy’s rich culture and is built on the same platform used on the Giulia. It's also known as the SUV for the S curves, as it features a carbon-fiber and aluminum body with an 8-speed automatic transmission and 505 horsepower. It also features the unmistakable craftsmanship of an Italian car, such as fine leather with accent stitching and Alcantara suede interior combinations.
10 Cisitalia 202
The name "Cistalia" is derived from a business conglomerate, Compagnia Industriale Sportiva Italia, which was founded in the city of Turin in 1946. This business is owned by Piero Dusio, an industrialist and sportsman known for his great role in Europe’s automotive industry. Dusio provided the chassis for the Cisitalia 202, and once the car was built, he presented it to the public, and it was a winner. This post-war modern Italian-designed car may not have raked in the sales at the time, but today, its prices are going through the roof, owing to car enthusiasts who want to modify them or have them as their daily drive. It's what heart-stopping fantasies are made of. It's been featured in video games such as L.A. Noire and Team Bondi as the Cisitalia Coupe.
9 Lancia Aurelia Spider
This car is part of the Lancia automotive brand noted for using the first V6-engine production series. It got its unique name from the Via Aurelia, a Roman road that leads to Pisa, a city known worldwide for its leaning tower. Under the guidance of Vittorio Jano, a car engineer, the car was built with the first V6 engine, and it was also the first to be fitted with radial tires. Only 240 of Lancia Aurelia Spider were built, 59 right-hand and 181 left-hand drives, all equipped with 2451cc engines, removable side screens, a soft top, and a panoramic front windscreen. Other models include the Lancia Aurelia Convertible that had a wider bonnet air-scoop but no panoramic windscreen and the B50 Cabriolet produced in small numbers between 1950-1952.
8 Iso Grifo
When Iso Autoveicoli S.p.A. manufactured this car, the intention was that it would compete with the Ferrari and Maserati GTs, as it was a grand tourer car. Its styling and mechanicals were done by top car professionals Giorgetto Giugiaro (at Bertone), and Giotto Bizzarrini (who designed the Ferrari 250 GTO) respectively. This car has a sleek style with hideaway headlights and packs a 7.5-liter, big-block Chevrolet V8 engine. Despite its beauty and strength, the car didn’t see more generations or models as its manufacturer went bankrupt due to the largest oil crisis at the time, thereby shutting down and ceasing all operations permanently. So, this was the last Iso of its kind. The Grifo has been likened to the Chevy Corvette, a two-seater that has a similar big-block V8 engine. You'll agree with us—this is one fine car that should've lasted for generations to come.
7 Maserati Ghibli
This car was first unveiled in 1966 at a motor show in Turin as a two-seater prototype. Its steel body and low shark-shaped nose were designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro, famed for leading designs of other top Italian automotive brands. It features leather sport seats, alloy wheels, and pop-up headlamps, plus a V8 engine mated with a 5-speed manual transmission gearbox delivering a top speed of 155 mph. As with most Italian cars, the name has a meaning or background to it. The Ghibli is named after a hot dry wind of the Libyan Desert, and just like its name, the car is bold, assertive, and graceful. The first Ghibli was a grand tourer, with high levels of luxury and comfort covering any distance you could possibly drive through. Newer models embody the spirit of this first Ghibli, with the same elegance, boldness, and progressive technology available in two trim options, with the signature Bowers and Wilkins surround system.
6 Alfa Romeo Montreal
In 1967, this car designed by Italian automaker Alfa Romeo was introduced as a concept car at an expo held in Montreal, Canada. Initially, it was displayed without a model name being a concept car, but due to public demand, it was named "The Montreal," a name later kept by Alfa Romeo as the model name in production. It packs a 1.6-liter engine, though when it came to production, the first car of its kind was different, as it used a V8 engine with fuel injection that delivered 197 horsepower. The engine, mated with a 5-speed manual gearbox, was derived from the V8 used in the Tipo 33 and 33 Stradale prototypes. This model was more expensive than the Porsche 911 at the time of its launch in the UK. Again, like most Italian-designed cars, this one made it to The Marseille Contract, a 1974 movie, where its driven by Michael Caine. It also appeared in True Lies and Atomic Blonde.
5 Ferrari Daytona
While most fans know this car as the Daytona, its real model name is the Ferrari 365 GTB4, which debuted in 1968, replacing the 275 GTB4. Daytona was its unofficial title that stemmed from its victory in the Daytona 24-hour race in 1967, but the name stuck, so it's used to this day. It still has the nose style like that of the 275 model, and a more angular wedge design, giving it a more aggressive appearance compared to its predecessor. The body is built in steel, with a bonnet, a boot lid, and aluminum doors (later changed to steel). A spider version of the Daytona was introduced, which was well received and became so popular, especially in the American market, that other cars were converted to the spider variant.
4 De Tomaso Pantera
According to Jay Leno, a former host of NBC’s The Tonight Show, this car is one of the ‘most misunderstood and undervalued’ 1970s cars. Alejandro de Tomaso, famed for the Mangusta, turned to the Pantera (Italian for ‘Panther’) project to build a mid-engine supercar specifically for the American market. The car is more practical and much roomier than the Mangusta model, with car buyers in the U.S. fueling its demand. Thus, over seven thousand units were built, not hundreds like other models were. This car shares the same ZF transaxle as the Maserati Bora, which was also launched in 1971. The Pantera’s exotic features include electric windows, generous legroom, body-hugging sports car seats, air conditioning, and a well-sorted interior. The very last one of its kind was delivered to a customer in 1992.
3 Alfa Romeo Alfasud
The Alfasud (Alfa South) aka Sud, is one of Alfa Romeo’s most successful car models. It was developed by Rudolf Hruska, an Austrian designer who created its unique engineering and Giugiaro-styled body. This small family small car was manufactured from 1971 up till 1989, with more than 890,000 units sold in between. It received much applause from the media when it was displayed at the Turin Motor Show in 1971 and features a Boxer water-cooled engine, among other unique but unusual features. Others are the four-wheel disk brakes and a low bonnet line. All its features worked together to deliver stellar performance and handling despite its shape. However, it would be cumbersome operating some of the little but important controls like the lights, the indicators, the horn, the heater fan, and the wipers, which had to be pulled, turned, or pushed to work.
2 Lancia Delta Integrale
At first glance, this car has a striking resemblance to the VW Golf, but it's another small family car from Italian automaker Lancia, with three generations under its belt from 1979 to 2014. More than 44,000 Lancia Delta Integrales were produced as the car took the lead in the World Rally Championship from the 1980s to the 1990s. Unlike the Alfasud, this car is a five-door hatchback that rocks the signature design work of Giorgetto Giugiaro, and it went on to be the 1980 European Car of the Year. This is one of the cars that gave top rally drivers like Juha Kankkunen a title in the Drivers’ Championship, besides allowing them to win other top races year on year. It features air conditioning, optional split-folding seats, an adjustable steering wheel, a defogger, and fully independent suspension.
1 Maserati Alfieri
This is a concept car that pays homage to the Maserati heritage of sports cars, plus it's said to be the future of the Maserati design. It was unveiled in 2014 as a masterpiece for Maserati’s centenary celebrations. The car is more of a statement than it is a concept. It takes its name from Alfieri Maserati, one of the five Maserati brothers, who was honored with this 2014 Geneva Motor Show concept car for his role in raising the brand to what it is today. His signature makes for the car’s logo in blue color, and it takes after the Maserati A6 GCS. The interior boasts a leather dashboard, a leather center console and seats, plus other significant features such as the gear lever and the clock, which together bring out a retro-inspired car that's a reminder of Maserati’s racing heritage. Sadly, you'll have to wait at least until 2020 to get this beauty for yourself.
Sources: Wikipedia; Top Gear