Open for discussion: the Mille Miglia route 2018

A few days ago, the Mille Miglia organizing committee released the detailed program and itinerary for the 2018 event (16–20 of May). One important change is that instead of the usual Thursday to Sunday, next year’s Mille Miglia convoy will set out on a Wednesday and return to Brescia on a Saturday.

Another “new” feature of the event is that, for the first time since the original Mille Miglia competition in 1949, the route will take in the Cisa Pass. A maximum of 440 classic cars will be accepted for the 2018 MM, and prospective entrants can register between 24th October 2017 and 4th January 2018.

The days of Mille Miglia 2018

For a couple of years now, the Mille Miglia has been spread over four instead of the previous three days, but the surprising news concerning next year’s event is that it will get under way on a Wednesday rather than a Thursday. This means that it will end on a Saturday rather than the more traditional Sunday afternoon. Although this might not seem a particularly significant change in itself, it could actually impact quite considerably on some parts of event, with the convoy crossing Rome on a Thursday instead of a Friday night, and the drive through Tuscany, which is the highlight of the route, being scheduled for a Friday rather than a Saturday.

Indeed, although it is hard to predict the extent to which these changes will alter the event, it is reasonable to assume that the scenic but narrow Tuscan roads are busier on a Friday than a Saturday, and that the participants, on leaving Rome and making their way round the city’s ring road, are likely to encounter more congestion on a Friday than they would on a Saturday.

Similarly, the final day, which will see the cars traveling from Parma to Brescia, passing close to Milan and Bergamo and stopping off at the Monza racetrack en route — these are some of the busiest road in northern Italy —, will coincide with the Saturday shopping run. In short, while the new schedule will probably have little impact on the start in Brescia, a working city whose people will, in any case, do all they can to take a break from their usual activities or a day off work to look at the cars starting out, and the shift from Thursday to Wednesday will not really make much difference either, the arrival in Brescia on the last day will be greatly affected.

What is more, it is easy to imagine that the enthusiastic supporters of the event, who normally turn out in force on the Saturday to watch the cars make their way through the beautiful Tuscan mountain passes, will probably find the prospect of spending the day looking at the straight and flat roads of the lowland plains of the Pianura Padana in Lombardy far less appealing. There is no doubt that Brescia’s shops and restaurant owners will be delighted at the prospect of the cars returning on the Saturday, given that this is the day chosen by the City of Brescia for its annual “Notte Bianca” — a night when shops and fun places remain open all night long. Indeed, the “Notte Bianca” will surely benefit from the influx of people gathering for the arrival of the cars and the trophy giving on the Saturday afternoon.

On the plus side, the drive through Monza, which in previous years, taking place on the Sunday morning, has not attracted large crowds, will probably be livelier as a result of the switch to Saturday.

A closer look at the Mille Miglia route 2018

At least one tradition remains set in stone: the trip to Rome will start and end in Brescia. The roads chosen for “Day 1” are basically the same as in previous years, with the convoy moving off in an easterly direction, making for the towns of Desenzano and Sirmione on Lake Garda. However, the  drive eastwards will be much shorter than last year, as the cars will quickly head South, taking in Mantua and Ferrara before finishing the day in Cervia / Milano Marittima on the Adriatic coast.

As a result, the cars’ usual second-day drive through San Marino will take place quite early in the morning, rather than “around lunchtime” as has previously been the case. After San Marino the cars will head South West (a change from recent years) towards the wonderful city of Arezzo, before veering South to drive through Cortona (the Italian village made famous in America by the book and movie Under the Tuscan Sun) and Orvieto, before heading for Rome. Looking at the route, I would say that the drivers can probably expect to reach Rome earlier in the day than they would normally do, which has its pros and cons: it should cut short what is always a particularly long day for the drivers, but they are more likely to encounter heavy traffic. In recent years the city’s police have done a great job escorting cars and drivers through the capital, and let’s hope that the 2018 MM will be no different.

The first half of “Day 3” will, as always, see the cars driving from Rome to Siena (the most beautiful stint of the Mille Miglia and, to my mind, the most beautiful stretch of road in Italy, both for the driving and the scenery). The second part of the day, on the other hand, will bring a major change to the route, with the convoy heading West, through Lucca and then on to the Versilia road, before once again turning in an easterly direction, this time to join the Passo della Cisa road. The MM has used this road on only one previous occasion, in 1949, when the organisers planned the northward part of the route as far West as possible: basically the cars used the Via Aurelia from Rome to La Spezia. The Via Aurelia was also used in the 1938, 1947, 1948 and 1950 events too, but on those occasions, after Pisa the route became more easterly, with the cars heading to Florence and then the legendary Futa and Raticosa Passes.

We will see how it goes, but — and this is a very personal view — MMs without the “Florence-Bologna” mountain passes are always missing something. “Day 4” will be very different from last year, skipping Cremona, and therefore being similar to the 2016 route. Indeed, the cars will go through Lodi (the birthplace of Eugenio Castellotti), stop off at the Monza racetrack (this is definitely a welcome return of a feature also included in 2016) before heading to Bergamo and finishing in Brescia.

Main novelty: Passo della Cisa

Let’s have a closer look at the Passo della Cisa, which is the main novelty of the 2018 Mille Miglia route. This road, which crosses the Apennines between the cities of Parma and La Spezia, has been in existence since Ancient times, with Wikipedia reporting it to have been “built” by the Romans in 109 AC. The “modern” version (SS62, Strada Statale number 62) was completed in 1928, and, until 1975, when the nearby highway (Autostrada della Cisa) was opened, it remained the biggest and easiest road connecting the southern part of the Pianura Padana with the sea. Not particularly high (just over 1000 meters above sea level at its highest point), the Passo della Cisa road tends to have mild weather and, except during the occasional winter snowfall, is always open.

The road, 113 kilometers long, is quite steep and tortuous on its Ligurian / Tuscan stretches, before becoming much gently rounded and relaxing as it descends on the Emilia side of the mountains. Generally speaking, I would say that it gives a driving experience (in Mille Miglia terms) that is more similar to that of the Passo dell’Abetone than the Futa and Raticosa passes.

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