Enzo Ferrari called the Mille Miglia the most beautiful race in the world. Unless there are a bevy of Botticelli’s Venuses training for next year’s London Marathon he is probably right. 400 vintage cars built in the years from 1927 to 1957 take part in the race from Brescia to Rome and back. These range from a 1925 Bugatti T35A to a 1956 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL300. Don’t ask the value of these unique machines, just enjoy seeing museum-quality cars being driven on the open roads of Italy. 1925 Bugatti T35A on the starting ramp in Viale Venezia The streets of Brescia are not just lined with the cars taking part in the official race. For one weekend at the end of May the northern Italian town is filled with exotic machinery, including over 70 Ferraris that drive in front of the race in an official Ferrari tribute. The Ferrari Enzo driven by Giovanni Recordati and Massimo Soffritti There are not many places where a 70-strong gang of Ferraris can be upstaged, but if there is one it is Brescia during the Mille Miglia. On Thursday the modern Ferraris were all parked on Via Goffredo Mamelli, looking shiny and potent amongst the small boutiques and cafes. But the roads around Piazza Loggia were filled with the participants in the actual Mille Miglia. Parking space after parking space was filled with exquisite vintage machinery. An Austin Healey here, a Bugatti there, a Frazer Nash over the road. The rest of the centro was filled with amazing cars whose drivers had come to watch, or media cars that were going to follow the race. These were often Ferraris, the owners happy to slap a MEDIA sticker on the doors and the bonnet. Even the vintage cars were covered with race number stickers. I hope they all come off OK, or there will be a lot of exotic cars needing resprays next week. The current Mille Miglia is a recreation of the original pedal-to-the-metal race that took place between 1927 and 1957. Only cars that date from that period are allowed to enter. Each has a driver and a co-driver given the task of driving from Brescia to Rome and back via cities such as Ferrara, Siena and Florence. Celebrities are attracted to the fun and this year’s race included Daniel Day Lewis and David Coulthard. Day Lewis was co-driver with Jim Gianopulos, CEO of Fox Entertainment and they had the hood up on their black Jaguar XK 120. This was probably sensible given the British-like drizzle at the start, but many others were braving the elements. Loes Van De Velde preparing for a wet Mille Miglia in an Austin Healy Silverstone Most of the cars taking part were open, and the raingear worn by many of the drivers looked impressive. David Coulthard was driving the Mercedes 300 SLR that Juan Manuel Fangio drove in the 1955 Mille Miglia and which Sterling Moss described as the ‘greatest sports car ever built.’ David Coulthard and Thomas Rommerskirchen in the 1955 300 SLR It was the perfect car in all respects, except one – on a wet day like today. It lacked a roof. David Coulthard’s wet weather gear appeared to consist of a blue cap. Maybe as an ex-F1 driver he had access to more accurate weather forecasts than the rest of us, but I feared he was in for a soaking. The cars start from a ramp in Via Venezia to the west of the city, before racing around Brescia and out towards Desanzano. The numbering system gives the oldest cars that competed in the original 1927-1957 races the earliest starting times. So the more modern, faster cars leave last, giving everyone a chance to arrive at the first night’s stop at Ferrara at a similar hour. On the ramp the rain held off for the starting ceremony as Simon Kidson introduced the drivers to the crowds and wished them well before sending them on their way. It is amazing that these cars still exist, let alone that they can be driven to Rome. Nowadays speed is not of the essence and the participants are limited to 40 or 50kph, depending on the road. The participants have come from all over the world to compete in this premier competition for vintage cars. The drivers come from 31 different countries and 76 different marques are represented. The sight of these vintage cars weaving their way through the narrow streets of an Italian centro storico is stunning. Engines boomed round the centre of Brescia as car after car drove past the cafes and bars. Everyone waved at everyone, driver, co-drivers, cafe habitues, Campari drinkers and tourists. Being in Brescia for the Mille Miglia lets you see cars being driven that would normally only be seen in history books. There is plenty of room along the route for everyone to get a good view and the police presence, though high, is relaxed and allows the fans to get close to the cars and drivers. The first car left Brescia at 18.45, an OM 665 driven by Marcus Brennecke and Wolff Schimiegel. They led the race out towards Desenzano and a night’s stop at Ferrara. After that the route headed to Rome on Friday and back to Brescia on Saturday. Cars set off in batches continually until after 21.00. They started off with police escorts, but by the time they left Brescia they had merged with the normal traffic, giving the Italian commuters an attractive mobile automotive museum to look at as they drove home. ‘Motoring Royalty! Have a good one!’ Simon Kidson’s voice boomed out over the PA. Another car descended the ramp and headed off for a lap of Brescia before heading to the open road. People having dinner in a pizzeria on Corso Magenta suddenly found themselves in the best seats for a world-class vintage car rally. That is one of the great things about the Mille Miglia. Anyone can turn up in Brescia and watch the action. There is no need to buy expensive tickets, you can wander around and see hundreds of amazing cars close up. You can admire the cars and talk to the drivers. They tend to be repeat performers in the race. Once bitten by the Mille Migla bug drivers need their annual fix of motoring through the beautiful Italian countryside. I think I’ve been bitten. I just have to buy a car that was made between 1927 and 1957. around and see hundreds of amazing cars close up. You can admire the cars and talk to the drivers. They tend to be repeat performers in the race. Once bitten by the Mille Migla bug drivers need their annual fix of motoring through the beautiful Italian countryside. I think I’ve been bitten. I just have to buy a car that was made between 1927 and 1957.