Zoom! Zoom! If you live in Toronto, tomorrow (February 17 – 26, 2017) is the start of the Canadian International Auto Show, a great event for car enthusiasts and potential new car owners. However, if you need an excuse for a trip to Italy in May, and you are an antique car buff, the 1000 Miglia (“Mille Miglia” – Me-lay Mi-lee-a), is an event not to be missed! This year, it will be held May 18-21, 2017.
There’s a saying that “fuel rather than blood flows through the veins of people from Brescia”. Until this event, I knew only two things about Brescia: (1) it’s where my super awesome Italian teacher, Walter, is from; and (2) the train from Florence to Venice sometimes stops there.
What I did not know about Brescians is that they have an innate passion for motor racing. Between 1895 and 1898, three motor race competitions were held there. By 1899, that number surged to over 20 motor races. Arturo Mercanti organized the Italian Grand Prix in 1921 there, prior to moving it to its current location in Monza the next year.
The first Mille Miglia race took place on January 18, 1927. The original race was held annually (except for war years) from 1927 to 1957. It was raced 24 times during that period, 13 times before the war and 11 times after the war. The race then took a long hiatus, but was reborn in 1977 as a rally for classic and vintage cars. The current race is open only to cars built between 1927 and 1957, and those models that were in the original race. If the car competed in one of the original Mille Miglia races, it will have an “M” license plate. The race runs from Bresica to Rome and back.
The organizers post the Mille Miglia route and helpfully post what time the cars should be coming through each town. There is a program available online that lists the drivers, the co-pilots, the type and model year of each car, and whether or not the car drove in the original events. This year, there were 446 participants and 76 original cars.
The race has joined the 21st century and people can follow it on Facebook, Twitter (@millemiglialive) and Instagram (@millemigliaoffical).
Saturday found us meeting en masse to drive roughly 30 minutes to Radicofani which, according to the schedule, would see the cars start to arrive around 10:10. It was a gorgeous sunny day and with picnics packed we headed off. We found grassy spots on a hill that gave us the opportunity to not only see the cars as they came by, but also let us see what was approaching.The first set of “advance” vehicles came by around 10:20
This event is a car lovers dream. Not only are there stunning classic cars (the oldest car this year was a 1923 Bentley) competing for “the win”, but there are also gorgeous new cars – Ferrari, Lamborghini, Lotus, Porsche, Jaguar, Mercedes – that unofficially drive in the event (along with the occasional garbage truck, camper van and old Fiat Panda that happen to get caught between cars).
Sitting roadside in the country, eating salami, cheese and drinking wine watching a parade of unbelievable classic cars drive by – life really is a highway.