Two idiots is a recounting of my experiences following the 2017 Mille Miglia in a rented BMW M4. I decided to revisit the experience while preparing to go back in 2019.
When driving the Mille Miglia you are hyper-focused on the road in front of you and the many obstacles you have to navigate in the next few seconds. This could be rush-hour traffic, legit Mille Miglia participants (who you must always defer to), fellow chasers or cheering crowd members. These maniacs will, at times, throw themselves into the street with little regard for their own safety. Your whole world is the next 100 yards of road before you.
According to my brother/navigator the experience in the passenger seat is the exact opposite. For a thousand miles you are broadly scanning the horizon taking in as much visual input as possible. You are constantly parsing a thousand images before and around you trying to pick out the next Red Arrow posted to a road sign and directing you along the route. Failing to locate it with enough time to bark out instructions to the driver could result in a 30 minute, 10 km detour as you try to find your way back to the race. Navigating the Mille Miglia without a guide book is like playing “Where’s Waldo” if the pages were rushing by at 60-115 kph.
During those rare stops in search of coffee, a smoke, a bite to eat or a desperately needed rest-room you finally get a chance to step back become a simple observer what is happening around you. You get to step into the shoes of one of the tens of thousands of people you’ve passed along the roadside and just take it all in. One of my favorite such moments during the 2017 race was a stop at Beccastelle just north of Siena.
With great food inside and perfect weather outside (after a morning of on-again/off-again showers) the establishment was a perfect stop while the Mille Miglia racers enjoyed a luxurious lunch a few miles back down the road. The parking lot was like something out of the Cannonball Run. A constantly churning collection of classics, exotics, bikes and track ready supercars.
Inside there were long lines, though the cooks turned food out surprising quickly. Strangers sat at communal tables and shared pictures and stories of what they’d seen that day. The dining room had a party atmosphere, thought most people in attendance would never see each other again. Outside people wandered the lot, taking pictures and sharing information about their cars. Occasionally an official Mille Miglia entrant would drive by and the lot would erupt into cheers. Here in the parking lots of the roadside eateries and gas stations, where there were no police or race officials directing the crowds, you can simply enjoy the communal nature of a 1000 mile race taking place on public roads.
But, in the end, the road calls you back. You get the itch to be back behind the wheel. To let your focus narrow to that next football field of road before you. Rarely do you stop moving for more than a half hour during the day when you are at the Mille Miglia. How could you? There are hundreds of miles to go before you sleep.
Follow me @runtheredarrow for more pictures from the 2017 Mille Miglia.