Once or twice each year I venture to northern Italy. The visits are usually quite busy, but only because there are so many friends I want to greet, and there are always new and fascinating people to meet. Only two weeks ago I returned from my first visit of 2017. Here is a fairly brief review of the journey.
I landed in Turin on Sunday, the 9th to begin a week of investigating the best of the best of the Italian automobile industry, and strengthening the relationships between Concorso Italiano and our Italian partners with the support of StudioRPR, our ambassador in Italy.
The first day I started by catching up with old friend (no, Mike is not old) Mike Robinson from ED Design. We had lunch together in downtown Turin and had a long chat about the current state of the automotive industry. All of us are aware of the changing landscape in the world of Italian automotive design. However, upon closer inspecting one quickly senses that there is a creative resurgence that is breathing new life and creativity in the legendary talents of Italian designers. In other words, the animal spirits are restive. Mike has his finger on that pulse and it is exciting to hear about the changes. In later meetings I was able to witness some of what Mike was extolling.
After lunch, with my colleagues Raffaello Porro and Domenico Manzo, both of Studio RPR, we visited with a couple of young entrepreneurs who are working on reviving a historical Italian car brand. I am bursting to say more but their project is confidential for now. Hopefully we can introduce something this summer, or perhaps next summer. Yes, the animal spirits are active.
On Tuesday, we traveled from Turin to Gerenzano, to meet with Egidio Reali at MR Collection Models. With Egidio we discussed business, families, developments, and a few rumors. Any conversation with Egidio is replete with smiles and laughter. That man has an admirable zest for life. It is Egidio’s type of passion that Concorso tries to emulate each and every year. My hope that all of you will one day take the opportunity to visit “the homeland”, to immerse yourself in what Concorso strives to emulate for only one day.
If you recall, in 2016 we introduced a custom designed Concorso Italiano Best of Show trophy. There was a student design competition, a winner selected, some design engineering, and then MR. Collection Models fabrication. With Egidio we discuss the award for our 2017 Concorso, and then toured the factory where the diecast models are made.
We grabbed a quick lunch, and then visited Zagato, in Milan, where we were welcomed by Paolo di Taranto from their Heritage department. We explored some opportunities to work together in the next few years and saw some incredible cars. A visit to the Zagato studios is a treat for the eyes. Zagato always has a small piece of their vast collection on display for all to admire. The display quickly conveys a glorious display of Zagato’s past, and a glimpse of Zagato’s future via the display of a small portion of the contemporary collection. At Concorso three years ago we had a special display of Zagato’s “Contemporary Collection” where we were able to see custom Zagato design, most of which was our first exposure to this new chapter in Zagato’s future. We were also treated to the unveiling of a new one-off Zagato-designed Lamborghini. What I found interesting was that unveiling was not only for us, but also for the new owner. Until then he had never before seen his beautiful completed car. Whenever I meet with the Zagato team, and with Paolo in particular, they whet my automotive appetite. My goodness, it was a visual feast.
At the conclusion of our conversations with Paolo, Raffaello, Domenico and I drove all the way from Milan to Modena to shoot an interview about Concorso for a television network. This program is akin to what we have here in the States that is usually broadcast on our televisions in the last afternoons or early evenings. It is a short format (30 minutes) program featuring subjects of culture and lifestyle. In the case of the episode we filmed an automotive segment that was part of a Modena and “Motor Valley” feature.
Moving from broadcast media to print media, I had a quick interview for the leading newspaper of Emilia Romagna. After another quick business meeting in downtown Modena, we had a lovely dinner joined by Valentino Balboni at a recently opened restaurant, which I recommend: Puro Life in Modena. Many of you have met Valentino, especially our friends in the Lamborghini world. Being able to sit down with him in a convivial atmosphere, to enjoy a meal and wonderful conversation, was a very special treat. Toward the conclusion of the evening I asked Valentino a question about the cuisine of Emilia Romagna region. I saw a gleam in his magical eyes. While he was extolling the culinary virtues of the region, Raffaello could not resist offering a thought. He is a native of Turin so the wonderfully humorous debate was on. I confess that even though my appetite was sated, the argument over the merits of the regional cuisine had me thinking about the next day’s meal.
Wednesday, we started early in the morning by attending a BNI (Business Network International) meeting where I had the chance to speak about Concorso in front of dozens of Modenese entrepreneurs. Right after that we drove to Lamborghini’s headquarters in Sant Agata Bolognese, for the introduction of a new exhibition at the museum dedicated to Ayrton Senna. I had the pleasure to speak with Stefano Domenicali and many other important executives of Lamborghini and journalists. For those who have previously visited the Lamborghini museum, you should know that there is a new dynamism to the exhibit that will entice you to visit again, and again. The Senna exhibit was extraordinarily educational and emotional.
After we departed Sant Agata we returned to Modena to visit the new Pagani headquarters. My goodness! The new factory, replete with a Pagani museum, is designed more as an Italian village rather than a sterile factory. I confess that seeing the Huayras being assembled is an awe-inspiring treat, so much so that the grandeur of the setting almost escaped me. Anyone who makes the pilgrimage Modena must include a visit to Pagani as part of the itinerary.
Later in the afternoon we had a great meeting with Matteo Lepore, Deputy Mayor at the Bologna Municipality, where we talked about promoting the City of Bologna and the Italian Motor Valley in the US.
The next day we left Modena again to head north: first stop was the Nicolis Museum, in Verona. It is a great building and a sensational display of vintage and classic Italian cars. We were welcomed by Ms. Silvia Nicolis, Director of the museum, who narrated us the story of her father and how the museum came to life. The collection is not limited to automobiles as it includes innumerous motorcycles, engines, models, and even typewriters. A full day will not be enough time to absorb this spectacular museum.
After visiting the collection, we headed to Milan yet again. We visited with Mr. Corrado Lopresto where he treated us to a tour of a small portion of hi a very special private collection. Mr. Lopresto’s collection consists almost entirely of historical one-off cars, Chassis 1 prototypes, or cars that are either the first or second examples produced. Many of you have possibly seen some of Mr. Lopresto’s cars that he brings to Monterey almost every year. They are truly special. However, being able to see the cars and the gracious Mr. Lopresto explaining the history and provenance of each car was a memory for a lifetime.
After expressing our appreciation and saying our goodbyes, we returned to Turin.
On Friday, my last full day in Italy, we visited Torino Design where said hello to my friend Roberto Piatti. There are some very special accomplishments at Torino Design and we hope that we can soon share some of these developments with Concorso enthusiasts.
We met with Concorso Hall of Fame member Andrea Levy, president and founder of the Turin Motorshow “Parco Valentino” and received a glimpse of what is coming for the 2017 even in June. At last, we visited the Turin Automobile Museum. The curator of the museum himself, Mr. Rodolfo Gaffino Rossi, walked us through the beautiful temporary exposition called “Crossroads”, focused on how the American and Italian car cultures influenced each other in the period after the Second World War. The museum is enormous, and there is so much to see and learn about that it was almost a sensory overload. I recommend at least one full day for this museum.
It was been an exceptionally busy week. We started in Turin, went to Modena, Sant Agata, Milan, Bologna, Verona, and returned to Turin. At each visit we saw old friends, met new friends, fulfilled some media obligations, and indulged myself in Italian culinary delights.
Oh yeah, the cars were spectacular.