Time-Traveling With An Alfa Romeo Spider-ful Of Good Friends In A Medieval Sicilian City
Photography by Andrea Casano
Even though the company has produced its fair share of plasticky junk like every other major manufacturer, the words “Alfa Romeo” still conjure an inherently romantic feeling. Just the sound of the name is enough to evoke strong emotion, let alone the sight of bright red bodywork peeking out from a shadowy garage or blurring past on a cobbled street. Alfa Romeos—the good ones, of which there are many—are symbols of freedom, of good design, and they are the antithesis to the idea of a car as an appliance. The fact that the marque has one of the strongest and oldest motorsport legacies is just a bonus to the many among us who simply like them because they’re pretty to look at.
The car enthusiast “lifestyle” is as vague as the term implies, but some facets of it are easy to pick out and contrast with the past. For example, it seems that the idea of the car as a wingman has devolved over time into Lam-bros that think people are impressed by a cold engine having the daylights revved out of it in some kind of nightmarish mating call sent through the loudest exhaust setup possible—different strokes, different folks, but that’s not our bag, at all.
The idea behind this photoshoot was to provide an antithesis to the typical notion of attracting a partner with a car, as well as from my our yearning for a time we were never a part of. It’s fun to let our imaginations take us back to the early 1970s, when the only concerns that a young person with an Alfa Romeo might have were limited to keeping it maintained and trying to look suave in front of their peers. The simple joys of youth, not yet shaped and faked for social media (the fact that this story will appear on Instagram and the like is an irony not lost on me). But if you’ll allow it, let me take you with me on a short journey into a past constructed by my and my friends’ imaginations, and the stories of someone who actually lived it.
“It was very difficult at that time to impress a date, but the red Spider made it a little bit easier,” my friend Alessio’s father tells me, smiling and chuckling with that faraway look of those fondly remembering their youth. I find myself slipping into his daydream too, and it struck me—why not try to make them a bit more tangible, why not try to capture these memories in photographs instead of letting them swirl amorphously around in our heads?
Alessio lent us the right car for the occasion, but I needed to find the right people to bring it to life. Lucky enough for me, my wonderful friends were happy to help out. We were all a bit bashful at first, but the self-consciousness was quickly replaced by the sheer fun of being together and sharing the experience, celebrating the beauty of being young and smitten with each other, and with this Alfa Romeo. My mission was to capture the essence of the old romance of driving through an Italian city with people you care about in a beautiful car—hedonistic for sure, but also distinctly separate from the typical shoots that feature a lot less clothing and a lot more soapy buckets and hoses. I wanted to evoke the excitement of youthful love, but in an older and more elegant context—the clothes, the car, and the city bring us back decades into the past.
And what better place to rewind time than Erice? The small Sicilian town is something of a place of worship for me and for all of those living in the area who enjoy a good day of driving and taking in the views offered by the medieval architecture and the natural splendor of the sea and mountains that surround it.
Alessio is always full of stories, especially those related to his cars, and on our way to the shoot he is talking a mile a minute, shouting over the wind, lovingly extolling the virtues of the Spider; “Once these cars were not seen as being worth very much, but now that they’ve become more appreciated we start to remember and learn about what they were like in their original context. If you were a young person with a Spider, it was the perfect item, a car to cruise around with your friends while trying to impress whoever we were interested in. And sometimes, probably thanks in part to them also appreciating this car, it even worked!”
We’re having a blast during the drive, laughing together with scarves and hair flowing unfettered in the wind, a perfect visualization of carefree happiness. In the style of the times, the girls are all wearing black dresses below the knee, a picture of elegance and beauty enhanced by the car’s own gracefulness. I didn’t have to direct anyone to look like they were having a good time, and when it’s this organic it was hard not to put the camera away and just revel in each other’s company. The Spider is not the rarest of vintage Alfas, but you hardly see them being used like this these days.
As Alessio tells me, describing the characteristics of the car, “In the end it doesn’t really matter how much horsepower it has or how it takes a corner, because this car has always been about enjoying life, about having fun. It’s good to drive, but that’s not the criteria that matters in this case. It’s about living without constraints and always searching for excitement.” And I must agree with him, especially on this day when it became less of a car and more of a figurative vessel, a Pininfarina-designed object to transport us somewhere outside of routine life.
It has always baffled me when people who appreciate design and art don’t appreciate the potential to add so much more of it to their lives by driving something interesting. To the aesthetically inclined out there who drive not-so-hot hatchbacks and plain midsize sedans, my eternal question is, “Why?” Why not give yourself the chance to add some style to an integral part of your life? It might not be practical, I get that, but if the opportunity is there, I would suggest taking it. I am still coming off the high of the special day depicted here—I hope I did justice to the people, the place, and the car—and it’s hard to imagine feeling the same way if we’d staged this shoot with a 2007 Fiat Punto…