The history of four world-leading Italian motoring brands
From the most emblematic models to the most successful, revolutionary people, and the most significant events, this section illustrates and celebrates the cornerstones of Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Lancia and Abarth.
He founded rock band Litfiba and has been gracing stages across Italy since the eighties. She is one of the best known and most popular orchestra conductors on the international scene. Piero Pelù and Gianna Fratta need no introduction. So let's get to know them from another perspective: as Alfa Romeo driver and navigator in the upcoming 1000 Miglia event.
Having a penchant for classic cars is a very rock ’n roll thing.
According to Piero Pelù, there must be an underlying connection between musicians and cars that has something to do with the sense of movement and dynamism they both share. Suffice it to say that as early as the 1800s, many composers collected wagons and carriages. Are a love of travel and a sense of freedom an essential part of the artistic journey?
Cars are a perfect machine, like music. In concerts, just like in races, you need to have method and affinity, which translate into precision, organisation and preparation. You can’t repeat, correct or backtrack. You only get one chance and you have to be at your best. Nobody knows this better than Gianna Fratta, who, as a conductor of prestigious orchestras in Italy and abroad, is used to being a safe, authoritative and reliable guide. However, she will have to provide a different kind of guidance as a co-driver in the Mille Miglia.
The artistic duo will enter the race in a magnificent 1955 Alfa RomeoGiulietta Sprint. The pair have forged a strong relationship with the car and brand that goes beyond mere passion. "My grandparents were both Alfa Romeo owners, so for me it’s also a human, family bond," says Piero. "But it's not only fondness, because the things I’ve always appreciated about Alfa Romeo models are the lines, the colours and the sound of the engine, just like trumpets."
"Historic cars are wonderful objects," adds Gianna, "that you can appreciate for their shapes, colours, old-fashioned engine noise, history and all the tradition that they carry inside them. In some ways, they’re works of art that tell us about the past and document a piece of our history. I've always been passionate about cars, like all objects that are aesthetically beautiful and can tell us something profound."
Gianna is keen to point out that the pair have a shared passion for motoring — she is no recent convert. On the contrary, in fact.
"I really love driving," she says. "What always happens is that I start trips in the passenger’s seat and end up coming home on the driver’s side. With Piero it’s more difficult. But that will change.
Perhaps in the Mille Miglia...”
Another merit of classic cars is that they exude a genuine aura that is fuelled by stories, anecdotes and trivia. Like the origin of the name "Santa Sarah", which Piero Pelù and Gianna Fratta have given to their 1955 Giulietta Sprint.
More often than not, a car's history predates its current ownership. In the case of this Alfa Romeo, its history stretches all the way back to 1955.
But unusually, it began in Sweden. The car travelled the streets of Stockholm until the late 1970s, when it was left locked up in a garage. A Tuscan collector brought it back to life by undertaking a painstaking restoration that took six years.
The car only had 130 km on the clock when Piero Pelù bought it in the early 2000s. As soon it came into his possession he was itching to test it out, at night, on the roads of the Tuscan hills. Carried away by the thrill of gripping the steering wheel, the sound of the engine and the sense of being as one with an old-time Alfa Romeo, he pushed hard on the accelerator. It made for a thrilling ride, but it was not until the next morning that Pelù realised the brake pump was broken.
"I felt like I’d had a miraculous escape. Although I’m not religious, I decided to name my new car Santa Sarah [Saint Sarah], after the protector of nomads and travellers, with whom I share a particular bond."
Piero also has a very heartfelt relationship with the 1000 Miglia, which is rooted in his childhood in Florence, when the young rocker ran to see historic cars parading through the Tuscan hills in re-enactments of the "most beautiful race in the world".
"Wonderful cars passed by with soft, sculpted and sexy lines that brought stars to the eyes of us punk, new wave, dark wave and goth bad boys. And since my second daughter Linda was born, precisely during the period that the Mille Miglia was in town, I’ve combined her birthday with going into the streets and applauding."
But it’s not just a matter of personal memories or fondness. It’s also a large-scale collective celebration, because the 1000 Miglia attracts thousands of enthusiasts to every stage, as Gianna Fratta recalls. "It’sa unique opportunity to share a passion and experience authentic excitement. Which is also the most beautiful thing about my job."
During the interview, Pelù and Fratta touch on the work of FCA Heritage, stating that the department "plays a fundamental role in restoring the roots of our engineering, design and lifestyle history".
The Tuscan rock star concludes by emphasising the nostalgia and artistic legacy of the period in which his beloved car was created: "We’re tackling the 1000 Miglia on a piece of 1954-55.Those were the years of [singer and actor] Fred Buscaglione, the first records by Elvis, Adriano Celentano and Renato Carosone, the films of Totò and La Dolce Vita." Piero and Gianna will be inspired by the rhythm of Elvis, the agility of multi-talented entertainer Celentano and the dulcet tones of Carosone as they drive their streamlined Giulietta Sprint along the scenic route of the Mille Miglia.
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