1. Alfa Romeo Spider (2006-2010)
If you want to arrive in style, then look no further than the Spider. This two-seater can turn heads from the opposite side of Lake Como. Consider it as a car to cruise and be seen in rather an Alps-conquering sports car. The Spider is nicely damped and has a smooth ride, a well-balanced chassis, plenty of grip and quick steering. The 2.2-litre petrol engine produces 185bhp, so there’s enough power on tap to have a bit of fun.
Inside, design takes precedence over functionality, making this car hard to live with at times, and there’s plenty of scuttle shake, while repair bills can be on the high side. We found a 2007 2.2 JTS with 60,000 miles for under £7300.
2. Alfa Romeo GTV (1995-2006)
With pencils sharpened and at the ready, Alfa Romeo’s designers drew on Milan’s reserves of cultural heritage to create both the Spider and this, the GTV, a car that sported sharp styling lines complemented by jewel-like headlights and an emotive heart-shaped grille. It’s a car to be seen in and to look at rather than to drive. In fact, there’s little to reward the true driving enthusiast. Time has been cruel to the GTV.
Rust can be a problem and it’s not very reliable, while repairs can be costly. GTVs are becoming less readily available as time goes on, but we found a late-1990s GTV in Lusso trim with a 2.0-litre petrol engine and with fewer than 80,000 miles for less than £2000.
3. Alfa Romeo Giulietta (2010-present)
Milan is home to two of the world’s greatest football teams, AC and Inter, so the Milanese need a practical car to get them and their family to the game. Enter the Giulietta.
In go-faster Cloverleaf form this handsome family hatchback offers something a little bit special, with enough poise and performance to entertain. Powered by a 1.8-litre turbocharged petrol engine, the sprint from rest to 62mph is despatched in just 6.8sec. It’s not all Italian loving here, though. Rougher roads will unsettle the Giulietta’s ride, adding to the lack of comfort and refinement, particularly in the rear. We found a 2010 example with 51,000 miles on the clock for £10,500.
4. Alfa Romeo GT (2003-2010)
Alfa Romeo pulled off a surprise in 2003 with the 147-based GT, which is as charming as Milan’s Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II shopping mall. With stiffened anti-roll bars, revised dampers and softer springs, the GT has a supple low-speed ride yet remains rewarding enough as speeds rise. The 2.0-litre petrol engine revs smoothly to 7000rpm and, as befits a model named GT’, it is usefully nippy rather than blindingly quick.
The ride can become choppy on uneven roads, however, and the two rear seats are best reserved for children. Even so, this underrated two-door coupé looks as tempting as a twin-cone mint chocolate chip gelato when £3000 gets you a decade-old example with 62,000 miles on the clock.
5. Alfa Romeo 159 (2006-2012)
Milan is Italy’s financial centre as well as the world’s fashion hub, meaning you can keep a clear(ish) economic conscience by opting for a 159 with a juicy 3.2-litre V6 petrol engine. To many, the saloon (and estate for that matter) has a beauty and elegance that its rivals from the German marques can’t compete with. The 159 has a good ride and plenty of grip and the cabin is attractive and well appointed.
However, it’s not the best to drive and feels a little inert, while Alfa’s questionable reliability again rears its ugly head in the 159, especially with ECU and cruise control gremlins. A 10-year-old V6 in Lusso specification and with all-wheel drive could be yours for under £5000.