Mille Miglia close and personal

It’s evocative. It sets the pulse racing. From 1927 to 1957, the Mille Miglia was a road race, starting and finishing in Brescia in the north and travelling as far south as Rome. Established by two counts, Francesco Mazzotti and Aymo Maggi, this was a 1000-mile race for Grand Touring cars. With eleven wins over the twenty-four starts (with a break during WWII), Alfa Romeo was the undisputed ruler of this road race. And it’s the Alfa Romeo connection that drew me in.


In 1977, the Mille Miglia was reborn as a classic and vintage car event for cars that had previously been registered or raced in past events. There are usually several hundred cars involved, and the run is a competitive yet friendly variant of the original.

History revisited

For this trip, I ensured I would take in the spectacle of Mille Miglia, and I aimed to be in a small village, sipping espresso as the cars came through. The actuality was different, yet it was still an ear-to-ear smile day.

Mille Miglia was taking a pit stop in Siena, gathering at the Piazza del Campo. Siena was a short train ride from Florence and would be the place to be. And what a place! The old medieval city is a jewel with its tall buildings and narrow streets surrounding the renowned Piazza del Campo. Possibly best known for the twice-yearly horse race, Il Palio, the piazza would host a magnificent array of classic cars, and there would be plenty of Alfa Romeos to dream over.

Automotive Art

The ride from Firenze Santa Maria Novella wasn’t as smooth as the rest of our train journeys; a delay and an unexpected change was the ‘curved ball’. However, we arrived in good time to catch the big event. Not realizing there was a nearby escalator (never-ending escalator) that would have made the climb to the city far easier on the feet, we took the long route along paths that time-travelled back to the old walled city. Magnificent! There’s something about these Tuscan cities. The narrow streets and tall buildings provide much-appreciated shade that Piazza del Campo lacks. Shades and caps were a prerequisite once in the piazza and fully exposed to thirty degrees Celsius, a small price to pay for the automotive treat that unfolded.

The Mille Miglia also has a post-1957 car element; for which read a procession of Ferriri’s. Quite the sight, but still humdrum compared to the arrival of the real thing. Mobile works of art began to arrive for a well-deserved pit stop. The diversity of the cars and the sound of well-fettled seventy to ninety-year-old engines were simply spectacular. The best was yet to come.

The best view was accidental

Cars were leaving, and Lesley took a shade break from the piazza. She returned excited. The cars were not just heading off to their next checkpoint on a main route from the city; they were driving through the narrow streets just the other side of the piazza to say farewell to Siena. My day hit new highs, and my phone filled with short videos. The mix of late 1920s to 1950s cars passing very 2020s pedestrians was a sight to behold. Just browse a few videos to get a sense of what I experienced.

I may not have been sitting at a cafe in a small village watching the Mile Miglia pass by, I was experiencing Mille Miglia up close. My day was complete.




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