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Mille Miglia


Can a brown suit turn blue and then become a whodunit?

Impossible? Why not? What if were the 1950s suit, the most famous in automobile history: we are talking about the renowned double-breasted one worn by Count Giannino Marzotto during his victorious Mille Miglia race.

Manuel Vigliani, "the Mille Miglia minstrel," in his articles from those days, spoke about the astonishment and skepticism that Marzotto encountered when he got to Viale Venezia. Marzotto was a scion of an eminent family from VaIdagno, founders of what became the largest Italian textile group.

Giannino showed off his impeccable suit and tie, starting out from where the sealing of the cars takes place in Piazza della Vittoria and then departing from Viale Venezia. He was behind the wheel of his Ferrari 195 S Berlinetta and had to endure the sarcasm of his fellow professional racecar drivers and established champions who were dressed in their ordinary race suits.

On the eve of the race, those favored drivers mocked Marzotto a bit less. The young nobleman from Vicenza found a way to unexpectedly outmaneuver all of them. He ended the race in an outstanding first place, and acquired his legendary nickname "doppiopetto", or "double-breasted."

For the record, Giannino Marzotto talents as a champion are affirmed once again. He repeats his 1953 success. This time he is wearing slightly more comfortable attire: a cashmere sweater. Nevertheless, he doesn't drop the tie and keeps his impeccable elegance. And on both occasions, he wins beside his life long friend, Marco Crosara.

However, what Vigliani did neglect to report in his articles was the actual color of the famous suit. Obviously the black and white photos from those days didn't help in indicating anything other than the fact that it seemed like a tweed suit rather than a solid color.

The Ferrari 195 S was a metallic blue and one reporter actually wrote that Marzotto's tie was the same color as the car.

In an old RAI interview from the 70s, Giannino Marzotto mentioned that the jacket was actually blue. This interview was discovered in RAI's archives by Ezio Zermiani, who had been the Audio & Visual Curator of the Mille Miglia Museum. Zermiani then included the interview in the Museum audio-guide, where Marzotto's suit was on exhibit for two years.

One can understand the utter amazement of the Museum visitors, when, while listening to the interview, they were looking at a suit that seemed to be reddish purple (which was only an optical illusion created by the interwoven colors of blacks, beiges and reds in the fabric).

But how did the famous suit actually get to Brescia? In the early nineties, Giannino had pulled the suit out from its mothballs and gifted it to the Bonfanti Automobile Museum, near Bassano, where he was honorary chairman.

At the opening of the Mille Miglia Museum - at the request of the Mille Miglia Club "Franco Mazzotti," the Bonfanti Automobile Museum of Bassano gave the Mille Miglia Museum the suit on loan for a two-years, along with Marzotto's two Mille Miglia Winner's Cups from 1950 and 1953.

The suit arrived in Brescia along with a cream-colored silk shirt and a herringbone beige tie, which had a big moth hole in the center.

Simone Valsecchi, well-known theater costume designer, and Curator of Costumes & Fashion at the Mille Miglia Museum, decided to cover up the hole with a tiepin.

Giannino Marzotto spoke at the Museum's inauguration in November 2004. Between toasts, speaking in that bubbly spirit that distinguished him from others, he said that he wasn't able to recognize the public image attributed to his suit because the tiepin made it seem so effeminate (the original comment was much more lively and politically incorrect). He then added that the shirt and tie were not the original ones worn that day and that he would bring the right ones over from Brescia.

One month later, Mille Miglia Club "Franco Mazzotti" held its annual Pre-Christmas meeting at Hotel Vittoria. Giannino Marzotto was president of the club at that time. Before lunch he joked around once again about his disappointment in the unmanliness of suit on exhibit and its peculiar tiepin.

When it was time for official speeches, Marzotto stood up, waving around a sandwich rather than a microphone that wasn't working, and exclaimed: "... that suit isn't mine, it really belongs to someone effeminate (Author's Note: euphemism), I really don't recognize it, even because it is the only double-breasted suit I have ever owned! I think they bought this suit from Benetton. In order to put everything back in place, I've brought the shirt I was wearing that day. It's made of a type of silk that actually comes from American parachutes. I've also brought an appropriate tie. And I am actually going to give the tiepin as a gift to President Bontempi (then President of the Brescia Automobile Club)".

Giannino, while winking at the Museum Director, aroused laughter in the room, especially to those who knew Count Marzotto's jovial spirit well. They were aware that he only wore double-breasted suits and had an extensive wardrobe because he came from a family that owns an immense textile empire, now competing with Benetton.

His words bewildered some of those who were unfamiliar with this bubbly champion's sense of humor. They inevitably asked themselves if the suit on display at the Mille Miglia Museum was actually the original. The Press people asked the same question and in fact, the following day, it was reported that the suit wasn't his.

We can reassure fans: the suit and dress shirt - now on exhibit at Mille Miglia Museum and today at the Bonfanti Automobile Museum Bonfanti - are the ones worn by Giannino in 1950 during the victorious race, while the tie is not the original, although it does belong to Marzotto.

Although Marzotto himself stated very clearly at the Museum inauguration (before seeing the hated and ambiguous pin) that the suit on display was authentic, some doubts still remained on the actual color of the suit. The mystery of the suit stemmed from a chapter in Cesare De Agostini's book, entitled "Marzotto's Saga." Agostini was one of the most famous car historians and Giorgio Nada Editore published his book.

In a photograph of Giannino Marzotto, which was taken of him beside his suit at the Museum Bonfanti, we can read: "A legend came alive, the double-breasted suit, with hues of reddish-brown, that miraculously change to blue….

That Count, who won the Mille Miglia race in the blue double-breasted suit, was absolutely irresistible for the journalists of the time. They were already so utterly curious about his age. And then, at 22 he reached a record, that hasn't been beaten since".

In an informal conversation with members of the Mille Miglia Club, Marzotto pointed out: "To tell you the truth, in 1950, I participated in that first Mille Miglia race convinced of pulling out for some difficulty with my car. Afraid of facing a long journey home, perhaps by train, I thought I should at least start out by being well dressed, in a formal suit and tie". "Noblesse oblige", dear Count...

Sixty-two years after that victory, on July 14, 2012, Count Giannino Marzotto left us at the age of eighty-four. He maintained - up until a few months before his death - remarkable intellectual sharpness, combined with an everlasting jovial spirit.

Those fortunate enough to have known him had the chance to experience his thirst for life, and must have been pleasantly surprised as we normally expect quite different behavior from an individual of such fame and lineage.

A symbolic incident took place that touched those who admired him even more: Marco Crosara, peer and lifelong friend who accompanied him in his adventures as well as his co-pilot in the two Mille Miglia victories, died on July 19, just five days after his great friend. Perhaps the winning crew has been reunited...