With headlamps pointing the way, an army of classic sports cars rumbled in, crisscrossed Vicenza’s Centro Storico , then, in an instant, galloped off into the night continuing along a course laid down decades ago and known the world over as the Mille Miglia (1,000 Miles).
Although the “invasion” was brief, thousands of Vicentini lined the route cheering loudly as each of the 415 teams honked as they sped by. And, that is the mystique of the Mille Miglia.
In the words of the late Enzo Ferrari, it was
la corsa più bella del mondo (the most beautiful race in the world).
The Mille Miglia was a no-holds-barred road race run on public byways dotted by millions of spectators that looped from the start/finish line in Brescia down to Rome and back.
Today, the race is an annual commemorative rally branded the
Mille Miglia Storica . It follows closely the route negotiated in the classic; but, where the road race focused on daredevil speeds over one, non-stop day, the Storica focuses on rally skills and safety over a less stressful three-day period.
The Mille Miglia of old thundered through six regions and one tiny republic from 1927 until 1957. It was legendary British race-car driver Sterling Moss who set the record in the 1955 edition, covering the circuit in just 10 hrs. 7 min. 48 sec. Unfortunately, his record-setting pace was one of the factors that led to the epic road race’s demise.
Many drivers were hell-bent on breaking Moss’ record, only to fail. Marquis Alfonso de Portago died during the 1957 event when the Ferrari he was piloting blew a tire and crashed into the crowd killing his co-pilot and nine spectators as well.
After that fateful ’57 race, the Mille Miglia came to a screeching halt and ended up on blocks for nearly 25 years until the event was resurrected, reformatted into a safer open-road rally and renamed the Mille Miglia Storica.
Despite its tragic past, Sig. Ferrari got it right in his description of the Mille Miglia — it still is the most beautiful race in the world.
Tom is a veteran print-broadcast journalist who resides in the Colli Euganei (Euganean Hills) in the province of Padova in the Veneto region of northestern Italy. He hosts the eclectic travel/foodie/photography blog
, is a regular contributor to Los Angeles-based The Palladian Traveler.com , and is a member of the TravelingBoy.com . Feel free to follow Tom as he “meanders along the cobblestone to somewhere.” International Travel Writers Alliance