In June 1947, the Mille Miglia passed through Milan for the very first time. That day, with the scars of war still visible on the city streets, 155 cars, including a newly unveiled Ferrari, took part in a race also with the help of Pirelli, which provided the teams with tyres almost free of charge.
1948 was the second and last time that the Milan would be included in the circuit. But this year, after seven long-awaited decades, the 36th Mille Miglia returns to the Lombardy capital with a pit-stop in the very heart of the city, in Piazza Duomo – something that has never happened before in the history of the race. The arrival of the 450 teams from 34 countries in the historic centre is programmed for the morning of Saturday, 19th May, and will be marked by the official stamp control, under the shadow of the Madonnina statue on top of the cathedral. During the stop-off, Milanese residents and tourists will be able to admire what Enzo Ferrari defined as “The most unique mobile museum in the world”, with cars that have now become unique masterpieces of human invention.
In a way, it’s only natural that the Freccia Rossa returns to the place where it was thought-up by Brescia-born Franco Mazzotti, Aymo Maggi, Renzo Castagneto and Milanese journalist for the Gazzetta dello Sport, Giovanni Canestrini, at the height of the Futurist movement in the early 1920s. The four men often met at the Biffi restaurant, in Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, which was the place where the automobile enthusiasts came up with the idea of organising a race from Brescia to Rome, and back again, for the very first time. A 1.600 km circuit, which is why Mazzotti said: “If’s a 1.000 mile race, so why don’t we call it the 1000 Mile Cup?” And so, on the 26th of March 1927, the Isotta Fraschini, built in Milan and piloted by Aymo Maggi and Bindo Maserati, was the first car to cross the start line from viale Venezia in Brescia to Rome. And the legend of the Freccia Rossa was born.
As an international hub of fashion and design, Milan is the perfect expression of ‘Made in Italy’ products that contaminate and enter into dialogue with the external world. And Pirelli is one of the most prominent examples of the industrial tradition of Milan, where the company found a fertile terrain to grow, making the most of the innovative spirt and artisanal skill of a territory that continues to reinvent and revolutionise tradition even today. And– even though the Freccia Rossa hasn’t passed through Milan since 1948 – it is certainly not by chance that Pirelli has always supported an event that has been fuelling Italy’s passion for sports cars for thirty years with its imaginative and engaging descriptions of the gruelling motoring marathon. A host of fascinating images – many of which can be found in the Fondazione Pirelli archives – include a photograph from 1931, which immortalises the crowds as they wait for the cars to pass through the streets of Firenze, or the picture from 1955 that shows motoring enthusiasts admiring Cesare Perdisa’s Maserati on its arrival in Brescia.
Culture, memory and heartfelt sentiments: the story of this race – a symbol of Italian excellence – belongs as much to Milan as it does to the hordes of vintage car enthusiasts. As Alberto Piantoni, CEO of Milla Miglia explains: “Milan shares a similar heritage with the Mille Miglia. It’s a contemporary and cosmopolitan city that is not afraid to look to the future, while never losing sight of its solid roots in the past”.