Mille Miglia. Those two words are for any classic car fanatic some of the most magical in our vocabulary.
Mille Miglia, or a thousand miles in Italian, was from 1927 to 1957 a race starting in Brescia toward Rome and back, looping across the beautiful Italian landscape on public roads at top speed while trying to reach the finish in the fastest time. Although the race was banned due to the risk for competitors and spectators alike, the legendary event was brought back to life in the 1980s as a historic time/distance rally for classic cars.
The Mille Miglia is now a fast tour across Italy, with participants enjoying their old cars amid the scenic countryside and the charm of classic small-town piazzas. But don’t mistake this as just another tour; it is a regularity rally with timed stages as well. Although this is spread out over four days, it’s not to be taken lightly.
The first day with an afternoon start is still eight hours of timed driving so that you arrive late in the evening with an early start for the next three days. The third day is the longest with 15 hours of driving. Even in its current form, the Mille Miglia remains grueling for both man and machine, yet spectacular to watch as a either spectator or an entrant.
With 450 cars at the starting line, there is certainly something for every enthusiast, pre-war or post-war, ranging from mundane family cars to exotic sports cars and full-bore racing cars. Naturally, the big-tickets names come from such marques as Alfa Romeo, Bugatti, Ferrari, Lancia, Jaguar, Porsche and Maserati, but even Fiat and Alfa Romeo military jeeps were on hand. A lot of the lesser-known Etceterini’s have gotten immensely popular, and it’s a huge treat to see so many of them around.
No matter what they are driving, everybody is there to have good fun and try to make the long journey over small Italian back roads from Brescia and back. For the ones who reach the finish line, it’s just a wonderful experience that leaves them begging for more and willing to go back on the road again, at least after a good night’s rest.
Photography by Dirk De Jager