Valli e Nebbie 2017: A classic car rally of artistry and style
Italy’s identity is built not so much on its industrial prowess as on its wealth of its small artisanal shops, or “botteghe”. These are charming places where traditional Italian artistry and style are tangibly present, as is the free and unique spirit of the Italian people. Valli & Nebbie, a wonderful rally in the area around Ferrara, this year being staged for the 28th time, has exactly the same “ingredients”. Forget the stress, hard work and crowds that are part and parcel of the Mille Miglia: Valli & Nebbie is a great excuse to drive around one of the lesser known and most beautiful parts of Italy.
With the exception of a the few timed special stages, which amount to about five minutes’ “work” in two days, it is all very relaxed. This is, indeed, the secret of this rally, an event that is not very well known to the general public, but is familiar to connoisseurs. “It is amazing how many entrants, friends now, keep on coming back year after year”, says Riccardo Zavatti, the president of Officina Ferrarese, the town’s classic car club, which organizes the event. “In Valli & Nebbie, it is not unusual to see entrants returning for 15 or 18 years running, and this is very challenging for us, because it means we have to explore new roads and new locations each time” he explains. “Luckily the people of Ferrara and the surrounding area know us very well and are very hospitable, allowing us to enter private property – roads that are usually closed, and often private houses too -, allowing visitors to enjoy our area at its best.”
Valli e Nebbie – the rally
The 2017 Valli & Nebbie rally saw the participation of 82 cars, a new record for this event. They covered around 300 kilometers in two days, with the driving punctuated by countless “refilling stops”, not for fuel, but for aperitifs, snacks and good traditional food! Luckily, the event was blessed by some beautiful early spring weather, and this made for two days of very pleasant driving through the land of the “valli” (historic waterways still used today for the water management of the area). Even better, except for the first half of an hour or so on the Saturday morning, the “nebbie” (the thick fog that is typical of this area in winter time) kept away. Saturday was spent driving eastward, toward the Adriatic Sea, while Sunday morning saw the drivers heading in a more westerly direction, across areas characterized by wheat fields and fruit trees, with Monte Cimone, part of the Apennine mountain chain, visible in the far distance.
1953 Bristol 403
One particularly interesting and rare car was driven by Stefano Pasini and Anna Migliorini. Their 1953 Bristol 403 Touring is one of only 275 built, and it is a highly unusual to see this model on Italian roads. This particular car was originally sold to a British businessman from London, who kept it only a short time before selling it to its second owner, a doctor living in Edinburgh. He went on to keep it for the next 30 years — this kind of long-term ownership is quite typical in Bristol circles. After spending some time in Wales, the home of its third owner, the car was finally imported into Italy in 2012 by Mr Pasini. “I have always had a soft spot for this brand,” he says, “and this is not the only one in my collection. I love its rarity, its uniqueness, and the way it looks and handles. It is perhaps the car that most closely resembles the 1940 BMW 328 Mille Miglia Berlinetta, built by Touring”.
This car, originally red on gray leather, has now been restored in gray on red leather. “Collectors of this brand are very open to changes of this kind, as Bristol cars are traditionally custom built to the wishes and tastes of the owner. To switch the colors, respecting the period, is perfectly acceptable, not least because it was a very common practice among the owners of the time”. This, then, was the strategy adopted by Bristol, a small firm that manufactured only a few hundred pieces a year, at a cost comparable to that of a contemporary Bentley or Rolls-Royce.
Some other cars
The 82 entrants also included a 1961 Volkswagen Beetle belonging to Harald Schwazer and Katia Weithaler, from the Bolzano (or Bozen) area. Their car stood out for the period pair of skis it carried in the ski-rack. “We come from the mountains,” they laughed, “and we love to underline the fact”. Purchased six months ago and barely used before its journey to Valli & Nebbie, this Beetle was first sold in Bolzano (and therefore still has its original number plate) to an employee of the Italian state television service. He kept it for many years, before parking it in a barn where it was discovered a long time afterwards by its second owner, who proceed to restore it. Originally ordered with a fabric fold-down sunroof, the car still has this very rare feature, now restored, and the paint is still the correct light blue color. It was a real hit among the onlookers.
The only American car taking part in the 2017 Valli & Nebbie was a 1977 Chevrolet Corvette 2D Coupe. It was driven by an Italian team, Claudio Confalonieri and Daniela Coggio. The car, still totally original and with only 25,000 miles on the clock, has had two previous owners, and has belonged to Claudio and Daniela since 2012. “We were living in Ohio and we were looking for a “souvenir” to bring home,” they explain. “We really wanted a 77 Corvette with manual transmission, which is not easy to find in the USA.” It was Daniela who spotted the advert for this car online. They learned that it had been with its first owner for six years before entering a long-term ownership lasting 29 years. Its life has therefore been pretty sedate, and this explains why it is so well preserved.
Finally, Marco Bertazzoli and Ivonne Pagnoni took part in the rally in their 1957 Lancia Aurelia B20, sixth series, still sporting its original Ravenna number plate. They bought the car about 15 years ago from its very first owner, an elderly gentleman. A couple of years ago they went back to visit him, just to show him the car and collect some of his memories linked to their “shared” Lancia.
As in previous years, Valli & Nebbie 2017 attracted numerous pre-war cars, but this year there were also some more modern models taking part. “We set 1973 as a production date limit,” says Zavatti, “and most of the cars date back to the 1930s to early 1960s, although we have noticed that more and more owners of youngtimers, generally our younger friends, are asking to take part. This year, we decided to do a “trial run” and allowed an extra 10 cars, built after 1973, to join the tour, to see how it would work. Our main concern was the question of pace, which could penalize both the pre-war and the most recent cars: a pace suitable for one category would be either too much, or too boring for the other. However, we were surprised and delighted with the final results: most of our fears proved unfounded and all the entrants were happy with this mix.”