This is the 21st year that the fantastic little town of Sarzana in Liguria has opened up the atriums of its historic palazzi enhanced with spring flowers for your casual visit. The event is called Atri Fioriti. It’s held around the May 1st holiday.
This year, however, is a bit different than prior years. Sarzana, you see, is right in the path of the 2018 Mille Miglia. So, along with a few flowers for historic continuity, the story of Italy’s historic cars is re-told; each atrium has been outfitted with a tableau that tells of the victories and turning points for Italian automotive production and use.
Let’s take touring. Not on the train, as was the case before Mussolini called for an inexpensive car for the people well ahead of Hitler’s own call for a people’s car. The Fiat 500, which soon picked up the name “Topolino”, made it economical for families to travel, albeit in a bit of a cramped space.
The artist’s interpretation of touring in what is now an auto d’epoca is below:
But if you take the shot from a different angle, the historic atrium plays a bigger part in the picture.
I have always admired how some people, artistically inclined, can make a bit of a hastily conceived mess into something pleasing to the eye, but if anyone can do it, the Italians can.
I mean, what can you do with steering wheels? Not those fat, padded, exploding bags front and center steering wheels of today, but aluminum and exotic wood steering wheels with pizazz (a word from exactly the same era, by the way).
Yes, the era had different design goals. People’s cars were all the rage but so was racing and rallying. Except that was different, too. Then, the drivers were fat and the tires skinny. And the protection was, well, I nominate “primitive” for the word to describe wearing a leather helmet during an auto race conducted on public roads, but our super-plastics hadn’t been invented and “ya wore what ya brung.”
Here’s a car coming in at night, no doubt with a weary driver and weary navigator:
This is one of the little pleasures of small-town Italy. You wander into spaces that are private and too special to be seen on an everyday basis, but once a year you can poke around, learn things, and see how folks live.
Sarzana, by my estimation, has a ratio of good restaurants to residents of about 3:1. You can pick just about any dining establishment and have your taste buds tickled by some of the best Italian chow you’ve ever eaten.
It makes for a great day, whether you’re driving a Fiat:
Or a Lancia: