Christmas in Italy was a memorable experience. Typically I’d prefer a more wintry climate for the holidays, but I can’t even remember the last white Christmas I had anywhere. I’m working in the Frankfurt area at the moment where the weather has a tendency to be damp and gloomy. Christmas morning was no exception. I woke up to a rainy day like it was any other, but I packed up my little Volkswagen Polo beater and headed south. By the time I had made it to the Swiss Alps, I was welcomed with snow capped mountains and the kind of picturesque scenery you’d find in a Charles Wysocki painting. There was a lot of holiday traffic, so the trip took longer than usual, but after 9 hours of driving I was in the old country. I stopped for dinner and a walk on Lake Como, but most of the hotels there were closed for the season, so I headed down the motorway until I was on the outskirts of Milano in a town called Rho – home to the Official Museum of Alfa Romeo.
Milan was the birthplace of Alfa Romeo way back in 1910 when it was under the name A.L.F.A. (Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili). It didn’t officially become Alfa Romeo until 1920. From its inception, Milan remained the official headquarters of the company until 1986 when it was taken over by the FIAT Group (now FIAT Chrysler Automobiles). Since then, its headquarters has been in Turin, while assembly for much of higher end models, such as the 4C, is done in Modena. I overheard one of the museum’s staff members say, however, that the company was planning a return to Milan. In most recent news, it is rumored that FCA may actually sell off Alfa Romeo and Maserati to help pay off their rather massive debt, but that remains to be seen.
The Alfa Romeo started out as a race car in the style of that old torpedo body. The earliest models can be seen on the top floor of the museum. The first racer was called the A.L.F.A. 24 HP. As the namesake would suggest, there wasn’t much output to boast considering there are tractors today with more power than that, but for the time, it was pretty standard. The first Model T in 1908 was powered by a 2.9L 4 cylinder with 20 only horses.
The museum is staged to show the evolution of the Alfa Romeo from the bulky tank-like cruiser from the early days to the iconic sleek and stylish roadster we know today. When I had my first Spider, I thought I was Benjamin Braddock every time I stepped into the driver’s seat. I was a bit disappointed however that the museum didn’t have any Spiders on display, except for the 4C Spider in the entranceway. There were no Series 1 to 4 Duettos. I think any Alfa aficionado would find that surprising. They did, however, have an 8C Competizione (featured in red) . They were manufactured between 2007 and 2010. It marked Alfa Romeo’s return to the United States, so to speak, but only through limited production. People with disposable income who had the connections to secure one of the 500 units along with the 250 large to buck up could be one of the proud few to own an 8C. I, personally, had never even seen one up close until I visited the museum.
Also in the museum are some very impressive media exhibits, including a 4D show to entertain the kids. On the other side of the building is the official dealer which featured the new Giulia and Giulia Quadrifoglio Verde model which just arrived in the US market. I’ve had my eye on the QV since the New York Auto Show earlier this year. Unlike most dealers which just offer a coffee machine, water cooler, and maybe donuts in the customer waiting area, this place had a full service bar with a real espresso machine, Pellegrino, and an assortment of wine, beer, and liquor (for a moderate price).
If you’re in the Lombardia Region be sure to check out the Alfa Romeo museum. I’m only posting a few pics. I don’t want to spoil the experience. Till next time…Ciao tutti! Buon Capodanno.