Away From The Tourists, Circuito di Avezzano Is Like A Shorter And More Intimate Mille Miglia
Story by Laura Ferriccioli
Photography by Achille Cortellessa
Who said that the best classic car events in Italy are only in the north of the country or in Sicily? The unique mix of machinery present at the Circuito di Avezzano and the breathtaking scenery of the Abruzzo region, make it a regularity race, and gathering, like few others in the country—all the charm, without the tourists to zap it away.
I attended this event for the first time a few weeks ago, and though it isn’t the longest running historic race in Italy, it is already in its seventh edition and rests on a past that extends much further back. Circuito di Avezzano takes place in a wild, not commonly visited region, and the location’s lower key allows event participants and spectators a fuller immersion in a land rich with history and beauty.
It’s hard to believe the Circuito of Avezzano is a “city” track that was used regularly until the 1950s, but in so many ways nothing else has changed, so it becomes a bit easier to picture against backdrops that were much the same as they were half a century ago. What a sight, and sound, that must of been in period though, with everyone going for outright speed rather than pacing themselves to hit a targeted average. Of course, it’s not the same kind of competition today, as it is forbidden to go barreling through a village as fast as possible nowadays. However, the public roads are closed off, and competitors in the modern reinterpretation race along the original route with more spirit than usual. The best part is that fellow enthusiasts line the city sections of the course, leaning in as close as possible.
There were also visits to Celano, Balsorano, Civita d’Antino along the way: more gems from an ancient world. A preview was scheduled on the Thursday before the start for the teams coming from abroad, but we found a few locals joining them too. They spent all day driving up the Gran Sasso, the highest chain on the continental side of the Appennini mountains.
The event finished on Saturday around midnight, and after spending a day and a half of deep in the mountains, visiting little time-capsule villages like Pescina, I wondered how the organizers managed to get all 87 cars of this year’s Circuito to fit in Roccavivi.
It was more than just a car show at the end though, with the unique combination of local folk traditions and classic car passion generating an intriguing atmosphere of a different time altogether. All around us were traditional customs being manifested, typically as delicious food, but we were also treated to a play inspired by a ritual Abruzzese marriage.
The laid-back and relaxed atmosphere with many of the same aficionados coming together every year creates a welcoming feeling. Some of the participants visited from Japan and the USA, others come from Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and Belgium just to enjoy this motoring “summer party” altogether. They also came from Italy, of course, with several habitués from Rome, seeing as the capital is only slightly more than one hour away.
In addition to the cheery attitudes, they brought spectacular cars with them such as the Alfa Romeo 1750 GS, of which there were three, including a fabulous black Touring bodied example. They were joined by a stunning Alfa 8C. The showcase of historic vehicles is definitely my favorite kind, with an exciting gathering of only open-top cars mostly built for competition. A few treasures, like a 1958 Maserati OSCA 375 F2 and a unique 1950 racing Cisitalia Colombo came from the Di Lorenzo collection, which was open to visits on the last day.
One might also spot the “Micia,” a 1949 Fiat Stanguellini featured on film on Petrolicious some time ago, or the red 1955 Fiat Siata 508, or 1966 Ginetta G4 still with its British Racing Green livery. Speaking of British cars, a Riley driven by a young Italian lady who is fond of pre-war cars was a highlight for me. Also present was a couple of 1930s 4 1/2 Litre blower Bentleys, one of which had Eddie McGuire of the Benjafield’s Racing Club (a car club in the spirit of the original Bentley Boys) at the enormous wheel. One could also admire a 1937 Jaguar SS100.
The Circuito di Avezzano also offered a great display of rare Ectceterini, the so-called handmade tiny Italian racing cars that were born in artisanal workshops. Many of them are based on the Fiat Topolinos, but Erminis are often considered among this group too. Two of the only 19 cars ever produced by the Florence-based small manufacturer took part in the Circuito this year. They’re fantastic jewels, both with 1100cc engines from an Ermini: one car was built in 1955 with a Maserati 150-inspired body by Frua, while the other one was born in 1951.
All told, exploring the Abruzzo region among a group of truly classic cars was a deeply enjoyable excuse to spend a few days outside in the summertime gabbing about cars with friends.