Mille Miglia is a luxury branders dream partner with a tradition rich in Italian and racing history, a global following, and a website populated with Italy’s ultimate luxury brands.
Mille Miglia established by the Brescia Automobile Club in 1927 evolved out of a racing rivalry between Brescia and Milan. At the time, the club had significant political influence because of board members with ties to the ruling national Fascist Party. At its origin the race was elite, with only marginal benefits for the general population – improvement of roads.
Early organizers understood the need for publicity and turned to an influential sports writer for the Gazzette dello Sport. With his help, and in an effort to flatter the government in Rome, the race was designed to begin in Brescia and end in Rome. The symbolic seeds of luxury and prowess were well sown and their efforts were immensely successful. For thirty year, from 1927-1957, Mille Miglia was the ultimate auto race successfully competing with the French Grand Prix and building a worldwide following.
However, in 1957 a tragic accident in the village of Guidizzolo killed five spectators and signaled the end of competitive racing in the Mille Miglia. Then, in 1977 Mille Miglia was revived as a historic race with the addition of antique cars parading along the original roadways across three days. Since then the race has come to symbolize the rich history of Italian culture, calling citizens into the streets to celebrate.
Today the elite tradition lives on, though reaching far beyond those who drive the coveted luxury Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, Maserati, and Porsche cars that pass by. In the finest of Italian tradition people fill the streets, sit in cafes to “take a coffee,” or pose as street performers. Above the streets fly old (horizontal stripes) and new (vertical stripes) Italian flags (the significance of which is the subject of a future post). And red remains the symbolic color of luxury and prowess – the most coveted color car a photographer can capture as it slides past on its way to Rome. Last Sunday, as I stood on Via Emilia, having just captured what I thought to be a wonderful photograph of a yellow car with its driver waving from the window, an Italian friend said to me, “Oh no, you must have a red one.”
Only one question remains – why is the distance measured with the, oh so American, mile? According to a charming story on official website one of the original Mille Miglia creators remarked that as the Romans measured distance in miles, they would simply follow Roman tradition.
Tradition is the essence of Italian life.
All photographs copyright: Jean Grow