The Lioness of Italy cradle of the Red Arrow
Since 1927, the 1000 Miglia has been identified with the city of its origins: Brescia. The place that is past, present and future, soul and heart of the race, starting point and finishing line since its first edition.
Brescia and the four musketeers
The Lioness of Italy owes a lot to Giovanni Canestrini, Franco Mazzotti, Aymo Maggi and Renzo Castagneto, the ‘Four Musketeers’ who gave life to an event that is still known today as the ‘most beautiful race in the world’.
A story that began in Milan with the lighting of the first spark in the winter of 1926, and grew over time through evolutions and extraordinary moments, to arrive at the present day. Thanks to the founders, since 1927 the places and the name of the city have been inextricably linked to the Red Arrow.
Renzo Castagneto, the Deus ex machina of the 1000 Miglia
Since the end of the 1920s, Renzo Castagneto, from his office as Director of the Automobile Club of Brescia, held the reins of a huge organisation, 1.600 km long, maintaining contact with car manufacturers and drivers from all over the world. In spite of having a character that was anything but easy, the organiser was held in high regard, maintaining good relations with everyone, and displaying a remarkable insight for the tastes of the general public.
Castagneto’s unquestionable organizational skills demonstrated with the 1000 Miglia led him, over time to the helm of the Targa Florio, the Grand Prix of Italy, the Giro d’Italia cycling race and the Tripoli-Tobruk, but is to Brescia and its race that his name remains tied.
The set-up and the public of Brescia
Castagneto had been active so that Brescia could offer collateral events in support of the Race, decorating the city with the colors of the Red Arrow, displayed on flags, banners, torches and lighting.
The setting up of Piazza della Vittoria, with its umbrellas and chatacteristic wooden barriers, was a great success, to the point that the square was the most photographed Italian in those years, adding lustre and fame to the city and to the 1000 Miglia.
The citizens could live the race from far away thanks to the loudspeakers that diffused the live coverage and to the scoreboards that showed the classifications on Corso Zanardelli. Over the years, other events took place in the city, from competitions to children’s parades, exhibitions, minting of medals, the issuing of postage stamps, even to the “1000 Miglia for carrier pigeons”. The atmosphere created by Castagneto, to which the international character of the city’s guests contributed, made Brescia, for a week, what the “director” wanted: the Capital of world motoring.
Sealing Ceremony between 1927 and 1931
One of the most representative places of the Red Arrow is Piazza Vittoria, where the sealing ceremony still takes place today.
Since work on the square only began in 1929, the first editions of the Race were prepared in the “enclosure of the Wührer Brewery”, not far from Viale Venezia, which has always hosted the start of 1000 Miglia.
In 1931, or perhaps already in 1930, probably due to the need for more space because of the higher number of participants, the sealing ceremony was moved to the Foro Boario, south of Viale Venezia.
The origin of Piazza Vittoria
It didn’t take too long for the sealing ceremony to find its final setting. The works on of Piazza Vittoria lasted less than three years and the intervention, which radically changed the face of the heart of the city, represented the final solution to problems of space related to the preparatory stages of the 1000 Miglia.
At the end of the works and without waiting for the official inauguration, held in November 1932 on the occasion of Benito Mussolini’s visit, in April Renzo Castagneto moved here the sealing ceremony, showcase and catwalk for the famous people, not only from the automotive world, who arrived in Brescia.
Bruno Boni: the Mayor of the 1000 Miglia
After World War II, the then Mayor of Brescia, realized the importance and usefulness of an event of worldwide interest for the community, thus becoming one of the most fervent supporters of the 1000 Miglia in Italy and working alongside Renzo Castagneto in the organization of the race.
So, while Castagneto, on the wooden platform of Viale Venezia, waved the checkered flag of the arrival, Boni waved the flag at the start. The Mayor of the 1000 Miglia, instead of the national flag, usually used for the start of the races, opted to wave a white and blue flag with the colours of the city.
Continue reading the history of the 1000 Miglia
Explore the next chapters to discover the main events that have made the 1000 Miglia car race known all over the world: from the origins to the latest editions of the regularity race.