66 Photos Of What It’s Like To Live Out The Ultimate Hill Climb Daydream In Italy
Photography by Armando Musotto
Here I am back to writing, facing the sea—my favorite environment to tell you about my motorsport adventures. It’s been a busy month full of things to do (some of them enjoyable, others not so much) but I always find the time to fit some classic cars into the schedule.
I always forget that I am writing for Petrolicious, and perhaps I should not exaggerate so much with my feelings, with words that come straight from my heart and not the reference books. But think about it, isn’t this a matter of heart? When we were children and infatuated with our Matchboxes and Corgis and Hot Wheels—that’s not coming from a love of stats and logic after all.
I have always set myself the goal of making you, my dearly appreciated readers, excited about things that you may not have done but can certainly plan to in the future. I’m not the guy who will count up the cars in attendance and tell you their chassis numbers, I’m not the one who will borrow my last article’s adjectives and tell you how “exceptional” this year’s Vernasca Silver Flag was. You already know the cars, you already know the events I attend are worth attending, so why waste the time retreading this ground?
I have always tried to put myself out there fully, my character, my life, my mistakes, and as I sit here with a beer in hand—it helps to put the thoughts in order sometimes, don’t you think?—I would like to talk about perseverance as it relates to the experience I had this year at the Silver Flag, but also in life more generally.
I think that today’s youth, of which I am a part, have largely abandoned the idea of achievement through persistence. The world spins at the same speed, but the people on it move faster and cram in more and more things into their lives to the point where, if something isn’t “working out,” it’s left behind. Didn’t get the job you wanted right away? Not meant to be. Try something else. Didn’t win the match? Try another sport. There are benefits to adaptability, but there’s a difference between being persistent and being stubborn.
They say that after three failures you should stop trying, that it won’t happen. I am happy to say that trope has no bearing on my life whatsoever, and I think we can find immense potentials within ourselves if we would just forge ahead with less doubt in our lives. I know that’s a tough thing to do for the kinds of people who get overwhelmed with all the alternatives offered to us (“Why should I keep struggling at X when Y might be easier and more rewarding?”), but I think the payoff is more like a jackpot if you stick to something long enough. That’s been my experience anyway, and it’s how I was able to finally attend the Silver Flag, an item on my so-called “bucket list.”
In part because the event itself has demonstrated a great deal of perseverance; 23 editions is no small feat, and to pull it off year after year requires a great deal of planning and dedication to making those plans come to fruition. What began as a relatively small and humble running of classic cars has evolved into one of the finest displays of motorsport history not just in my country, but I’d wager the world too. It caught my attention early on, but up until a few years ago I’d always looked at like a kid looks at his supercar poster on the bedroom wall—not feasible anytime soon.
However, by sticking with my decision to follow the photographer’s path I was able to make it my reality this year as I spent three unforgettable days surrounded in the beauty of the Emilia-Romagna as gorgeous cars and people climbed the hill from Vernasca to Castell’Arquato. This wonderful land, set in the middle of Italy, has welcomed me with its incredible light, its beautiful landscapes, its uncontested nature, and the kindness of its inhabitants. Pure gold for an auto enthusiast and for a man.
As soon as I arrived in Vernasca, the smell of petrol and the sound of the firing cylinders literally took control of my mind and forced everything else out of it. It was an experience in pure sensation, noises and smells and sights that pushed out the usual ticker tape of thought. I’d entered a city in full celebration, full of people, flapping with multi-colored flags and memories of the past. Everywhere my eyes landed was something wonderful to behold, whether metal or human or both, and I simply let myself wander the town trying as I was to take it in and form some kind of synthesis of it all. Among the rare and otherwise legendary vehicles though I find the real charms of the Silver Flag: the joyful eyes of everyone around me, the wide smiles that mirror my own, the wistful looks on the faces of those older men and women who were around during the golden ages of racing, seeing it reenacted once again.
After the three-day barrage of sensory inputs and tableaus of raw emotion, I can’t help but describe the Silver Flag as a small diamond set in a calendar full of other historic motoring events that often prefer quantity to quality. That said, there was quite a large number of quality cars around me.
And it was all born out of friendship. Try to imagine getting together with your old friends and all your cars, on a road well stocked with curves and trees. You’re climbing it with pace but without competition, just for the sake of being together and enjoying each other’s company. If you repeat this process every year, eventually you might get some followers. That’s how the Vernasca Silver Flag got its start, as a simple meeting between friends and enthusiasts that are known together now as the CPAE (Club Piacentino Auto d’Epoca). Their event has bloomed as the years have ticked by, and today it is one of the most important historic car events in the international scene, all because of a group of friends that first took on those six winding kilometers of excellent driving in 1972.
The event it has become is a triumph of love, of passion, of legacy, and to describe it I’d rather use color than words. Words can tell you how I felt about it, but photos let you craft your own story.
I had the pleasure of witnessing not just the automobiles assembled here, but their impact on the next generation of their devotees. Children screaming and squealing with delight, their unadulterated (literally) enthusiasm inspiring the more jaded faces in the crowd to just enjoy the moment for what it is. If these kids stick with it, perhaps one day they will be the helmets in the cockpits. Again, this is all about perseverance, the Vernasca Silver Flag wouldn’t exist without it. Not everything in life needs to be brunches and Instagram and convenience. You need to get your hands dirty to achieve anything meaningful, and man, you can always wash them afterwards.