Contemporary Mille Miglia is a celebration of the great deeds of the drivers of the past. It’s an important regularity competition which reenacts what once was one of the manliest competition ever, the 1600 km race Brescia-Roma-Brescia.
Like the Targa Florio and the 24 heures of LeMans each race was so tough that winning each one of these could be considered a different sort of Triple Crown.
For the car enthusiasts, the Mille Miglia is like Christmas: it’s the motoring time of the year which we all wait anxiously. More than 400 pre 1957 cars gather each year to take part in what 59 years later since its last, dramatic edition, is still a competition. As you probably know, speed is by no means encouraged and entrants need to present themselves to each checkpoint at the time thay have been assigned to and complete a series of special timing stages located in specific areas throughout the course.
For owners of these classic cars it’s the most perfect excuse to take out their machines, and drive them on the open road, with the escort of police throughout some of the most beautiful sceneries of Italy. For a whole week, right when the first entrants start to flood the tiny town of Brescia, the original birthplace of the race, the streets are filled with rare metals and each one of them is parked in the historic town centre. It’s a spectacle before the actual spectacle: multi-million Ferraris, Bugattis, Jaguars, Frazer Nashes, all of heritage automotive’s finest pieces come down to take part once again in this outrageous competition.
The Mille Miglia is gasoline-clad glamour and oil filled fashion which attracts international celebrities, stars and more importantly legendary drivers. It is an occasion for many enthusiasts to come down to Italy and celebrate the passion for cars and their history. The roads are not closed to the traffic but a with the help of law enforcement to make room for all the classics plus the assistance, media and organization cars there is always enough space to make things go smoothly. The happy crowds waiting for the cars at each roundabout, corner or straight are no different from those who cherished the champions of the past: some of them are the kids and grandkids of the Mille Miglia original spectators! Old grandmas shouting to go faster? Hell yeah! I swear God it happens all the time.
The Mille Miglia is, in our vision, the ultimate Escape: many cars, all your friends and many miles to put on the odometer. No highways, no speeding tickets, just driving freely. Since we’re history geeks and know a thing or two about the Mille Miglia we wanted to do the Escape that celebrates this amazing event. Since me and Federico are part of the famous Chopard supported Scuderia Sports, which in the past 5 years has been on the podium 4 times, we partnered for this event: our car proudly displayed their logos and colors throughout the entire duration of this Escape.
Joining us for this incredible journey was our friend Andrea Mazzuca with his Jag F-type and the amazing set of driving gloves he brought along for the trip.
As many lamented, the year’s two most important events in Italy, Mille and the Concorso d’Eleganza di Villa d’Este, were held in the same days. The ability of making choices is important but sometimes there’s nothing wrong in wanting two things togheter.
Our Mille Miglia was to attend two days of each event and not being a minute late. Lack of sleep and coffe was surpassed by the will to drive and to be on top in every situation.
The car we choose was the Alfa 4C Spider and we had many reasons to drive it: first, we wanted to create the sequel to our Fall escape with the coupè. Second: we had to have a proper open top sportscar to defeat the heavy rain; Third: wanted to drive an Alfa Romeo again.
Our plan was simple: drive 2 days of the Mille and then drive a whole night back to Villa d’Este. Driving gloves at hand and soaking wet shoes thanks to a full day of pouring rain we set off at 16.30 to make it to the end of the first leg: Rimini.
The 4C unassisted steering is a constant reminder of how you should pay attention to your driving: wet conditions are the most treacherous for a zero-filters car with limited assistance from the traction control. The suspension set up was remarkably good and never we felt that hitting a bump could hurt our backs and the space was almost close to zero. Nevermind, the 4C will make you an excellent interior manager: leave home the roof-bag and tool kit, stuff the trunk with soft luggage and the jackets are good to be stored behind the seats. We were surprised to notice a hang for the jacket: such a luxury is not welcomed in such a spartan yet sexy looking car. Power delivery was more rounder and the spider lacks a bit of the sharpness of the cupè under heavy acceleration due to the more weight. Interior finishing could be a little bit luxurious but it’s not the point of the 4C spider: once again, it’s made for driving and nothing else should matter and It’s so good you’ll forgive her anything. The reactions of the car are very predictable and very controllable: despite quite a challenge in the wet, it proved to be safe and incredibly pure to drive. The wow factor it carries, it’s pretty huge, as people will cheer and kids will scream with glee as you pass rolling down the road.
Heavy rain fell and strong winds blew for the entire day, making pictures impossible to take and it also made between Brescia and Verona painfully slow by the heavy traffic. Rain was with us for the whole day, even when the traffic dissipated and we passed through the towns of Ravenna, Ferrara and Rimini. As the night fell, the competition was fierce on the long stretches of wet roads, where speeds of the cars really matched the ones of the original editions back in the day: following a Porsche 550 could always lead to some serious racing, even in a regularity race like the Mille.
One of the biggest problems we had this year was the absence of road books for media and assistance cars. We were issued a map on the phone, which was available to everyone on the official website of the event. You can easily imagine how much guesswork we had to do when we were separated from the classics at each timed stage. Another annoying thing was the present of over-excited Dutch and German drivers, who had nothing to do with the actual competition: their spirited and often too dangerous driving is part of the folklore of the Mille but I cannot deny their effort in raising the dangers for all participants.
Flying dutchmen and mad Germans aside, we stopped by in Ravenna and Ferrara to see the night passes of the cars, eat a piada and sausage on the run and head to Rimini for a much deserved sleep at the airbnb we found. With the sight of the sea and the quieting rumble of the cars we followed all day, we fell asleep, still with our clothes on.
The next day we woke up to a quick morning espresso, ready to took over the second leg of our Mille Miglia, which, despite the absence of rain, was the toughest: from Rimini to the middle of Italy and then back to Como. While longer and more exhausting journeys are being made every day, this was a challenge we imposed ourselves just because we wanted to be at both the year most important events.
We drove through foggy San Marino to Recanati, stopped for a friendly lunch with our friends Alessandro and his Dad at their lovely “Osteria del Moro” to savor some local products before heading further to Ascoli Piceno our point of return. Despite wanting to go to Rome, we needed to save up some energy before heading back home.
As the night was falling on the hills of the Marche region, we pointed the red shiny nose of our 4C Spider to the North, and hit the highway through the night, letting the fresh air of the night enter the cockpit as we returned to Como.
Despite the fact that our 2016 Mille Miglia was cut short by the absence of a proper organization between the dates of this event and Villa d’Este, we enjoyed the trip. We left Ascoli at 19.30 and were at home by 1.30 am. The next morning wasn’t the easiest but we sure were ready to do a fine job at Villa d’Este. We suited up and head inside the Concours to celebrate properly the most pleasurable end to a memorable journey.