Travel: We’re Unexpectedly Navigating in the Mille Miglia!

We’re Unexpectedly Navigating in the Mille Miglia!

By Jacopo Villa
May 14, 2015

Photography by Federico Bajetti

If you want to follow the Mille Miglia, there’s no better place than from a vintage car. It’s the perfect and, yes, challenging place for a journalist to be working on a 4 day coverage. I shouldn’t complain for lack of inspiration to inspire my articles!

Being in the Mille Miglia, it’s an experience that is truly exhilarating, and I’m confident I’ll love it. How many times are you offered a chance to fill in for a vacant navigator in a race like the Mille Miglia?

Let me try to explain why it’s special: the Mille Miglia is a very human thing. It is not just about the cars, but about the people who make it. By saying so, I mean the enthusiasts gathering all together, the people shouting with glee, but most importantly, I mean the soul of the men who created these cars we love.

Things became emotional yesterday when someone from Scuderia Zagato—the team we’ll be covering most closely this year—tapped me on my shoulder and asked if I could fill in for a navigator who went missing. What else could I say but “Yes!”?

The car that I’ll be navigating is a 1953 Fiat 1100 TV Zagato. It is a lightweight, rev-happy and light little car. I believe you’ll agree with me that it could be one of the more popular cars here; everybody seems to love it.

Two days before the start, we had to bring the car to Brescia to have it checked. Trailers? Not an option! All the cars of the Scuderia lined up and formed a “zillion” dollar convoy on the highway. I cannot describe how exciting it feels like watching a 1927 O.M. Superba overtaking trucks and cars and driving at 65 mph!

I had strong feelings while entering the technical scrutinizing at the Fiera stables, in Brescia. We rolled inside with our little 1953 1100 Zagato, lovely dubbed the confetto or pallina (meaning “sugared almond” and “little ball”) by me and my driver, Enrico.

While we were waiting to get our car to be checked, I walked constantly back and forth to see all of the other cars. Luckily for me, they kept coming: Ferraris, Porsches, Jags, Mercs, Fiats, Alfas, Lancias…it was an awesome spectacle, even if they were pushed inside by their owners. Museums were there, too, and I spent some time with Porsche 550s, Mercedes-Benz 300 SLs, Jaguar D-Types and C-Types…and all sorts of automotive treasures. Witnessing such a spectacle makes you encounter lost names like BMC, Siata, Ermini, Bandini, and many more. I seriously questioned my car knowledge!

We weren’t sure to pass the scrutinizing: a turning light wasn’t working, there was a bit of leakage, and the whole car seemed to be falling to pieces from the outside. I do not know how, but we managed to pass and were given the number 282. I cannot describe the emotions of putting the numbers on the car: this means,we’re in business!

This year, I’ll be navigating this small, exhilarating machine though the streets of Italy for Petrolicious. What a joy and what a privilege! More tomorrow. 

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