Start the clock! My flight landed a little ahead of schedule, and clearing Italian immigration was a breeze. My rental car was all set for me. One minor disappointment – because of COVID and hygiene theater, the rental keys are pre-sorted and sealed in little pouches before you arrive, so there’s no opportunity to negotiate for a more exciting vehicle. I ended up with a Lancia Ypsilon – I’ve never driven a Lancia, so that’s exciting. Because it’s a Stellantis-group product, I’m familiar with most of the quirks and features.
First stop upon leaving the airport was at the Fratelli Cozzi Alfa dealership. Some of the other Alfa Club presidents had recommended stopping by, as it’s an old family run dealership. Unfortunately their museum was closed due to COVID, so I didn’t stay long. I was a little early for my assigned timeslot at the actual Alfa museum (turns out the timeslots don’t mean anything because it’s Italy) so I made a detour to “il Centro”, a big shopping center right near the museum. I got a pastry and a coffee, plus some car snacks and a car magazine (the only souvenir I buy when we travel).
The Alfa museum itself is part of a large Stellantis complex, and also has dealerships and a variety of other offices. The museum was completely reconstructed in 2015, and is spread through a number of floors. Different sections focus on the mainstream cars, the race cars, and the concept cars. It does a nice job walking through the history of the brand, and features some of the non-car products Alfa has been involved with as well, including planes and boats.
As alluded to in the title, there are certain parts of Italian industrial history that are, perhaps, glossed over a bit. Their 6C 1750SS doesn’t have a “Mussolini had one of these!” placard and in a number of displays there was a conspicuous gap between 1943 and 1945. Most of the industrialists retconned themselves into having been secret freedom fighters anyways.
The highlight was seeing some of the one-offs and the race cars. They’re just astoundingly beautiful. Being able to get up close and see the fabrication techniques is wonderful.
I wrapped up my visit to the museum and still had a bit of time to kill before checking in at my room, so I detoured to MUDEC, the museum of culture of Milan. They host rotating exhibits as well as a permanent collection focused on Global Milan. Essentially the ways in which the forces of history have been reflected in the life of the city, with a focus on European trade with the Far East, and European colonialism in Africa (and especially the Italian presence in Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia and Libya). It wraps up with a look at the diasporas present in Italy today reflecting that past.
Around 2, I got checked in at my bed and breakfast. It’s a neat place – basically a private room and bathroom, with a communal space shared with another room. It’s absurdly well equipped – loads of snacks, coffee, tea, and so on. The owner road with me to tuck my car away somewhere safe. Hopefully I remember where that is tomorrow.
After getting unpacked and settled in, I took a stroll across the city. It was raining pretty steadily by this point, which wasn’t great for wandering, but I had a mission: Libreria dell’Automobile, the Best Bookstore In The World (for a very specific type of nerd). It focuses solely on cars and bikes, with sections for each marque, as well as sections for certain drivers and races. Do you want a book on Bristols from the 1950s or maybe a multivolume accounting of every Autodelta rally car? This place has you covered. Some are in English, some in Italian, and some in other languages – one wonders what the market is for French speakers who want a really in depth history of Fiat 850 variants. The owner and I had a fun chat about Alfas, Morgans and the future of cars.
From the bookstore, I set out for the Duomo, for no particular reason other than it’s there. I ended up deciding to buy a ticket to enter, which includes access to the archaeological excavation under the floor and the rooftop. I’m a sucker for archaeological excavations under big churches. The rooftop was a new experiences for me – despite the rain and rather slick marble, you’re allowed to basically wander all around, getting some spectacular up-close views of the delicate Gothic architecture.
By the time I left the duomo, the clock was ticking on my stamina, and I was faced with that most awful of situations: wanting dinner at 6:30pm in Italy. Good luck! I ended up grabbing a focaccia/meat/cheese slice from Eataly to reheat at home, because I knew I wouldn’t last through a whole sit-down meal.
Tomorrow, the goal is to hit the road by 10am, to make it into Geneva around 4pm.