Numerous attempts have been made to answer the question "What exactly is the Mille Miglia?" and the responses have been carefully considered and contemplated. Many of the answers are more than valid, as they involve a Red Arrow race that encompasses a multitude of shades, facets and colors.
According to the online encyclopedia known as "Wikipedia", the Mille Miglia is defined as the following:
"The Mille Miglia was an open-road endurance race which took place in Italy twenty-four times from 1927 to 1957 (thirteen before the war, eleven after 1947). Starting in 1977, the Mille Miglia was revived as a regularity race for vintage cars. Participation was limited to automobiles that were manufactured prior to 1957 and had taken part in the MM historical races. The route was from Brescia to Rome, back and forth. It was the same route as the original race and the starting and finish line were at the very same point on the famous road of Viale Venezia".
An unobjectionable description, although it doesn't completely help to elaborate on what the Mille Miglia is exactly, nor does it explain precisely what the race revival is.
In order to better understand the legendary race, it helps to hear two of most famous citations on the Brescian race. In the 50s, Enzo Ferrari, the most eminent figure in the world of auto racing, called the Mille Miglia the "most beautiful race in the world". It was also Ferrari, otherwise known as the "Drake di Marinello," who came up with a beautiful description of "a museum in motion, unique and charming, in a beautiful framework of jubilant visitors" while assisting in the race revival in the 80s in Modena.
What is most remarkable is the special "race recipe" that was created in 1982, a lively and bubbly mix of sport, culture, tourism, performances, and international friendships, held in locations that are among Italy's most artistic and historical gems. It is these places, along with their architectural and natural beauty that made the Mille Miglia become much more than a simple revival but brought the race to an insurmountable dimension.
With its 31st reenactment, the Mille Miglia is the first race in the world, in an eighty-five year time-span, to surpass the number of the editions of the original race. There were 24 historical editions from 1927 to1957 and then from 1958 to 1961 three additional editions in the formula of what is known today as a rally, which included speed stages and long-distance stretches.
Nowadays, the Mille Miglia, in addition to being a spectacular automotive event is a phenomenon that encompasses social and cultural customs, and is considered by those who currently manage it as "a smashing media event".
In order to comprehend how grand the Mille Miglia event has become in the third millennium, we can take into consideration the numbers that speak for themselves. Simply typing "Miglia Mille" into a search engine like Google brings up 7,530,000 (seven million five hundred thousand) results from all over the world. If we do the same on E-bay, an average of over 9.000 MM objects go on sale every day, which range from model toy cars to book circles selling books, to watches and even stamps. The sellers don't only come from European countries but also from Australia, the United States, South America, as well as Africa and Asia.
Mille Miglia also has a calling of over 1,500 media correspondents from all over the world, including journalists, photographers and television crew all eager to catch every Mille Miglia edition. These professionals come from 87 different countries and it is thanks to them, that in May of every year, the "most beautiful race in the world" surfaces everywhere: from newspapers to magazines, on television and certainly all over the Internet. 2,500 articles are published annually and normally 384 programes are televised, in over 150 countries around the globe.
In the past, the mere passage of the beautiful race was more than enough to make it famous. Since 1927, half of Italy has been able to simply go to their doorsteps and touch it first hand. There was no need for advertising or the television that didn't exist. Mille Miglia's acclaim came about with the beautiful passage of great men and brilliant automotive creations. And the nicest part of all is that no one needed to buy a ticket in order to take part and spread its miraculous energy.
Nowadays one simply cannot miss the Mille Miglia. It is a spectacularly unique and popular celebration that takes places in some of the most striking regions in Italy and attracts millions of individuals from the ages of one to one hundred.
It is such a joyous event, not only given to those who live and work along its 1,600 km route, but to a multitude of fans from around the world that organize their vacations around the race. It is also an event dedicated to the dozens and dozens of school children as well as the elderly, all unified along the sidelines, admiring the fancy cars. They fondly watch the race without concentrating on the collectors' items in front of them but the wealth of life experiences that are before them. This is a celebration that can also be viewed online. One can find over 8,980 Mille Miglia posts on YouTube.
A museum dedicated to the Mille Miglia has proudly been operating since 2004. And there have been countless articles published on the MM theme. The University of Brescia has created an academic facility (Centro Studi "Mille Miglia: Mobilità e Turismo) that gives their students a chance to deepen their knowledge of the race and its connections to tourism and mobility. Plenty of students have graduated and dedicated their research and thesis to the Mille Miglia. The scope behind the new research facility is to develop and support a university curriculum dedicated to the "Economics of Tourism".
Nowadays, the Red Arrow logo represents an international brand, thanks to the numerous commercial licenses agreement, including the one that immediately comes to mind for Chopard watches. It has become a "must" on every continent.
For the millions of fans dispersed in every corner of the world, the Mille Miglia represents more than anything else, a way of life. Fortunately this unique lifestyle is an extraordinary means of opening doors not only for Brescia but also for Italy as a whole.
Every year 380 crews from over 30 countries around the globe participate in the reenactment of the historical race. Over the years, individuals from 50 different countries around the world have participated in this alluring race.
"Look at this square and go around the city, as you will discover just how much the Red Arrow has become a cultural, economic and sporting gem for Brescia in the world. It is an event that cannot be told, one must actually live it in order to taste it to its fullest. It is a pathway to a regularity competition that gives the utmost joy to those that participate".
Text by Beppe Lucchini