SURPRISE IN ARESE
It has been a special year for me in terms of the automotive travel. As I mentioned in my broadcast from Concorso d’Eleganza earlier, I have never been to Italy until earlier this year. But as soon as I learnt that the special exhibition in Museo Mille Miglia in Brescia closes by early January 2018, I knew I will be in Italy this year again. Since I only got a weekend to spare early December, I booked my flights and there I was, heading to Milan to visit museums I did not manage to in May.
I took an early morning flight on Saturday and arrived in Bergamo around 11:00 in the morning. I directed my steps to EuropCars where I was handed the keys to… a brand new Smart ForFour. What a surprise! I have never driven a brand-new car before and it was a somewhat special experience for me. With a little help from my new piccolo amico I quickly got to my first stop – Alfa Romeo Museo Storico in Arese, on the outskirts of Milan, about an hour drive from Bergamo airport.
The main entrance, however, was guarded by carabinieris with aggressively looking Alfa Romeo 159 and two Ducati Multistrada. Immediately I was assisted by a friendly staff lady, who explained that opening hours are different that day, from 15:00 until 20:00 and that I will get a free entrance ticket, as a form of apology. I did not know what was going on there, so just parked my car next to the gate and waited. Observing the traffic, I noticed a lot of executive-alike Jeeps and Maseratis coming in and out from the museum. It was only later when I got to know what was happening – obviously it was a Sauber and Alfa Romeo event and racing livery presentation, following the announcement that Alfa will be back to Formula 1 the upcoming season.
But it was well worth waiting. The building itself has a beautiful entrance shaped like a red ribbon but the collection inside is doubtlessly more impressive. It is subdivided into three different Areas – Timeline, Bellezza and Velocita. Vehicles from each of these zones were nicely separated on different levels what created a very clear order. I took a deep breath and took the escalator all the way up to the top floor.
Area Timeline simply presents the entire history of Alfa Romeo, starting from very first models of the manufacture, such as Alfa 15HP Corsa or RL Super Sport. You could only admire the beautifully shaped body of the latter, with aluminium panels still carrying the round marks of the hammer which was used to perfect it. One of my favourites from this époque were Alfa 2300 8C Corto “Mille Miglia” with fantastic spider headlights and 1750 6C Gran Sport “Paris” with the city of premiere proudly stated on the emblem. What is worth noticing this zone presents not only cars which are rare but rather cars that shaped the history of Alfa Romeo. Going further you will find original Giulietta and movie-famous Giulia, then Alfa Montreal right next to Alfetta with the collection being wrapped up by a rather uncommon combination of Alfa Romeo 156 next to 8C Competizione. It was not even half, and I was already thinking: what a day!
Walking down the stairs I had immediately spotted what for me was the biggest gem of not only Area Bellezza but the entire museum – Alfa Romeo C52 Disco Volante. Highly driven by the aerodynamics its body was shaped flawlessly by Carrozzeria Touring, who applied their exceptional technology and made the car being a true supperleggera – weighting only 735kg it could go as fast as 220km/h. Only five were ever made which makes it even more special. I dare to say, this is so far one of the most beautiful cars I have ever seen in my life.
But this zone is not only Disco Volante. There are plenty of other exceptional cars – Alfa 2000 Sportiva and a prototype Alfa Carabo are the first ones designed by Bertone that strike you as soon as you free yourself from the red gem. Led by them you will find the one and only Iguana drawn by Giugiaro, Italdesign. In its greyness it is incredibly futuristic. I could not stop thinking about the “Back to the Future” movie where starring was DMC DeLorean, which actually takes heaps from Iguana. Looking farther you might want to admire another modern approach – to public transport this time. It is another one-off project called A.L.F.A. 40/60HP Aerodinamica. If that droplet shaped bus came through, our daily commute might have been completely different today.
Few steps below that level there is a continuation of Area Bellezza. Some astonishing cars are displayed with mirrors behind them. That gives a whole new perspective to exploring their shapes and optically enlarges the exhibition. Among many, there is a fantastic Alfa GT 1600 Junior Z and incredible Giulia TZ by Zagato accompanied by crazy beautiful Bertone’s Giulietta Sprint Speciale. At this level, there is also a little cinema displaying short cuts of movies where some Alfas were ‘starring’ – such as ‘Mine Vaganti’, ‘Il laureato’ or ‘The Arrangement’. Selected movie pieces are very enjoyable not to mention a beautiful company of two Spiders – Giulietta Prototipo and 1600 “Duetto”.
Area Velocita is at the very bottom of the museum. As you might have guessed already, it is related to racing and motorsport in which Alfa Romeo was involved and is as spectacular as the first two exhibitions. It starts with lightshow on what is supposed to imitate a race track, with some of the finest racing automobiles in the World nicely lined up. Among many there are Alfa 8C 2900B Speciale Tipo Le Mans, 8C 2300 Le Mans with the ‘traffic jam’ led by a fabulous Alfa RL Targa Florio. Besides the ‘conventional’ beasts which racing legends used to drive back in the days there are two more, even more interesting exhibits – Alfa Bimotore and Alfa GP Tipo A. Both are equipped with two engines. But it was the former that was truly an unbelievable automobile. On the 15th of June 1935, somewhere along the highway heading out from Firenze, Tazio Nuvolari has driven the Bimotore and beaten the European speed record of 321km/h.
It was also in the Area Velocita where I found the answer to why I was waiting to enter for so long. Freshly presented Sauber Alfa Romeo livery was already displayed in a place to which it will hopefully belong in the future – among other racing legends.
Going further I fell in love in Alfa 33 Stradale Prototype with its fascinating details, and in a double-trouble duo of Alfa 1750 GTAm next to the GTA 1300 Junior. Although not as fast as all the Tipo 33 models standing all around, these two were truly beautiful. However, it is impossible to pass a completely naked engine of the latter close to the exit. On each side of this powerful V10 there are five carburettor air intakes, ready to breathe in valuable air.
The beautiful exhibition came to an end. Overflowing with joy and smelling of old oil and gasoline I headed out, through the Alfa dealership. I looked at the new MiTo, Giulietta, Giulia, 4C and Stelvio and, maybe apart from the last, I could clearly see how much they inherited from their older cousins. Thinking about this wonderful experience I walked out of the door, headed to my Smart and drove all the way to Lago di Garda.
It was quite late when I got there, but I went for a walk to the lakeside. The moon was shining and reflecting in the water. I took a deep breath. It was a good day…
Text & Photos: Adam Pękala ©