Villa d’Este Style Celebrates The Alfa Romeo Bearing Its Name
Photography courtesy of Alberto Novelli
I have been a good friend of the owner of Villa d’Este for many years, and in 2010, when I left the automotive industry and started freelancing, I thought I could pester him due to the fact that the hotel is the only one I know of that shares its name with a motorcar. The Alfa Romeo 6C 2500SS chassis was in fact used by Carrozzeria Touring for many very beautiful cars, but arguably the pinnacle of that evolutionary chain came about with the model shown at the 1949 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este, the Touring-built and aptly named 6C 2500 SS Villa d’Este Coupé.
That was the last edition of the classic concorso, until Angelo Tito Anselmi and some friends and I recreated it in the 1980s.
In 1949, the Alfa won the Gran Premio Referendum, i.e. it was voted by the public as the best car in the show. For the next three years, 31 more examples were built by Carlo Felice Bianchi Anderloni’s fashionable coachworks. In the mid 80s, when people started restoring the best post-war cars, a Villa d’Este Alfa would occasionally came up for sale. I bought one of these in Texas with a friend, we started the restoration, then passed it on to a gentleman from the booming Milano fashion industry.
So in 2010, I convinced Villa d’Este to buy a Villa d’Este and use it as a rolling business card. You cannot take take this hotel with you around the world, but you can take art objects which represent the values that set your hotel apart and make it something special.
That’s how it was decided to source one of the few surviving Villa d’Estes. When we got the car, it seemed only natural to invite the other known specimens to welcome it back “home.” At that point we realized that nobody knew quite exactly how many cars had been built–the Touring ledgers had been destroyed when the company folded in the late ‘60s—and so I decided to create a registry and start some kind of activity able to create visibility for the model and solicit news from the owners. Today we have 20 known cars, plus one or two “under investigation” out of the 32 built.
Hotel Villa d’Este, being in the hospitality business, agreed to invite the cars once a year back to their virtual home and the place that gave them their name. We therefore invite every year of every known car and their owners. Being a very small community, and considering the cars are distributed all over the world, we can never have more than five or six at a time, and therefore we have always had one or two 6C 2500SSs with a different body, either to show the evolution of the Touring design, or to show what other coachbuilders did, and an “accessory theme,” such as design or architecture of the same 1949-53 period, to compare trends in style across mediums.
This year, we decided to celebrate the great racing Alfas of that period, and in particular Giuseppe “Nino” Farina’s win in the first ever Formula One World Championship of 1950. Alfa Romeo gave us their priceless 158 Grand Prix car, Pininfarina lent us some trophies and memorabilia originally owned by Nino Farina (whose father was Pinin’s brother Giovanni Farina, the founder of Stabilimenti Farina), and Simon Moore, one of the best known historians of the Marque, agreed to come and spend some time with us talking Alfas and kickin’ tires…
Finally, having such treasures at our disposal, we thought it was too greedy to keep them to ourselves, and decided to move the cars in the afternoon to the nearby village piazza for everybody to see and enjoy. This decision was rewarded by an enthusiastic and respectful crowd.