May 2014 saw us undertake a rather special road trip in our 2008 Opel GT. Our trip consisted of 5 nights in the South of France at Port Cogolin, 4 nights in Brescia, 3 nights in Venice and 4 nights in the Dolomites in the South Tyrol region. On this trip we were watching the Monaco Grand Prix Historique and the famous Mille Miglia race from Brescia to Rome and back. Finally we were meeting 9 other car enthusiasts in the Dolomites who also had Opel GTs to do some driving and exploring of some passes in the Dolomites. It proved to be a simply marvellous holiday and you can read the full holiday diary on our sister site PhotoBeast here. Here though are some photographs and recollection from our time in Brescia watching The Mille Miglia. This set of photographs are some from our first day there, when the race got underway.
Thursday 15th May – The Mille Miglia
Not Peanut’s favourite, another early start! But we had to do this thing or we would never have got to Brescia in time to enjoy the day. So we were off and away before 6 and had a great journey to Brescia with no rain and no traffic jams.
Getting through Brescia was a bit tricky as we thought it might be as the Mille Miglia inevitably made it a busy place, but it was not dreadful and at least we hadthe pleasure of looking at lots of lovely cars as we drove in. These were not the entrants but those with nice cars who had turned up to watch or join in. So the grass verges were littered with Ferraris of every kind, Porsches, the odd Corvette, all sorts of wonderful cars. And now an Opel GT was joining the party and already getting its fair share of looks!
We found our hotel without any trouble with the sat nav taking us straight to the front door. We unpacked our stuff and more or less dumped it in our room, parked the car in the station car park opposite and hurried off to the centre of town to see what was going on. We soon started to see vintage cars rattling along on the cobbles and knew we were heading in the right direction. We had been to Brescia before and so we recognised one or two of the churches and knew it was in a piazza that was used for the Mille Miglia parking. And so we arrived to a bustling square full of people, tents and cars all jumbled up in a glorious organised chaos.
It was like Bristol Park Avenue Breakfast Club with knobs on, as every street was full of these cars – there are over 400 entrants. At this point most of the drivers were having lunch so you could get a good look at their pride and joys. We enjoyed the atmosphere for as long as we could, but hunger soon called us and we found a small cafe for a salad which we shared for lunch on the advice of a fellow visitor.
Refuelled, we returned to the fray. The whole place was buzzing with excitement as it was a beautiful day and the drivers were looking forward to 6 pm and the start of the race. After a while some of the cars started off and moved from their parking space so it seemed like a good time to follow them and find out where they assembled. We carried on in their direction through the town until we came to what was obviously the starting point of the race. A raised platform for the cars to be flagged off from and a few temporary grandstands gave it away. But still the cars travelled on and gathered on a road some way past the start. We were never sure how they arrive at their starting order as it seemed quite random. As we walked though these cars it was like being in the paddock, you were right in among them, and could see some of them still tinkering with their engines. The serious amongst them had an impressive array of technology in the vehicles which I think helped them get their timing right, as it is not a race but a time trial and so just as important not to be too early as too late. Some took their attire very seriously. Driving overalls, gloves, flying helmets, you name it, while others just jumped in their cars and went for the fun of it.
And fun it most certainly is, yes, we know it is a hoot for the mega rich only but it doesn’t spoil being there, and it is without doubt the most entertainment you will ever get for free in the wonderful but expensive world of motoring.
So they started off at 6pm seemingly in batches of about 10 then police outriders, who I might add thought it was tremendous fun. You could see this as they left and sought any excuse to add a bit of swagger to their turns and swerves as they dodged around cars. Then another batch would depart and another and so on until all 400 or so had gone. We walked back through the town along the race route following them as they left and they did quite a large circuit of Brescia before they struck out for the open road. Somewhere after they left the Ferraris joined in, not as part of the race but it is open road so they can do what they wish.
We mooched about in Brescia and had a drink in one of the main piazzas while the Mille Miglia cars drove round the piazza edge before striking out for the open road. In fact they were still leaving after we decided to head back to our hotel. Hmmm this could have been interesting as we had no idea where it was, other than it was near the station. So we asked a friendly policeman where the station was and he told us in very good English that we would be better catching the Metro as it was a long way to walk and he gave us very good directions. This was a revelation as until then we had no idea there was a Metro in Brescia and it saved our legs and feet from total annihilation in the next few days. So again what a genius Peanut was. Due to our late booking our hotel although in the centre of Brescia, was a mile from the actual centre where the action was. But we had a metro 50 yards from our hotel that dropped you in one of the three main piazzas! This metro was also super modern and very swish and dirt cheap. It was in stark contrast to the London Underground which to my eyes looks tired and you can’t go anywhere on it for less than 8 quid!
We got back to the hotel exhausted after walking our feet off but had had a wonderful exhilarating day, a day full of sunshine and cars and all set in a lovely city.
In one week then we had watched the old cars race at Monaco and now we had seen the start of the Mille a Miglia. I thought about the price if watching the F1 at Monza or Silverstone and compared it with the sixty quid we had paid for our two tickets to Monaco. The Mille Miglia costs nothing! Both Monaco and the Mille Miglia start had been fantastic and we still had the end to enjoy! Monaco was racing. It was thrilling being in that very intimate race track surrounded by unbelievable noise and being able to watch the drivers battle with their cars to shimmy through the chicane. By contrast the Mille Miglia was more sedate like one very long pit walk as you really got in amongst the cars and drivers, whom you could chat with, or just watch as they did some last unite tinkering. The two experiences – the Monaco Historique GP and The Mille Miglia, complimented each other perfectly.
Also both events had lots of cars from my favourite eras the fifties and sixties when the cars took their styling cues from a woman’s body – all beautiful curves and cars had hips and waists and… Goodnight it’s my bedtime.