Elliott's pilgrimage to the birthplace of his driving hero

| 12 Oct 2012

I've just been on a little pilgrimage in search of Tazio Nuvolari. Well not the legendary Flying Mantuan himself, but some of his landmarks. Specifically, his birthplace.

You see, this greatest of all drivers (in my view) wasn't born in Mantova itself, but a small village about 20km away called Castel D'Ario.

Somewhere I have never been and therefore have always wanted to visit.

On arrival I asked to be dropped out of town so I can walk in and soak up the atmosphere. It is peaceful and a mix of large old and large modern houses line the street.

The spell is broken slightly by the beggar who spins me a line that he needs medicine, but that the English money I have will definitely be accepted in the local pharmacy.

Truth be told, the brief encounter with the grifter takes about as long as it took to walk the entire village and see everything I wanted to see.

The place is far from a shrine to Nuvolari, but it tastefully and discreetly reflects its greatest son.

Just off the main drag there is an entire Piazza named after him complete with a roughly life-sized statue bearing prominent chin and cigarette in hand. Odd that he should be pictured with what looks like a Bugatti when he had so many associations with Italian cars.

Equally oddly, a building in the town is flying a flag bearing the famous prancing horse, not unusual in northern Italy by any means, but given Nuvolari and the Old Man's rocky relationship, not what I most expected to see.

As you would expect there are other signs and other shrines dotted throughout the village including a second statue.

Lowpoint is undoubtedly the Nuvolari pizza parlour, highlight is the house where the great racer was born, festooned with plaques to Nuvolari.

Set squarely at the village's biggest intersection, it was clearly the grandest house for the most important residents.

Despite being shrouded in scaffolding when I visited, it is an impressive pile with lush gardens and a fitting birthplace for such a champion.

So, if you are in Mantova/Mantua, obviously you should visit the museum dedicated to Nuvolari and obviously you should visit all the major landmarks in Mantova and beyond, but a trip out of town, to pay your respects in the tranquility of his birthplace is well worth it.

It won't take long, but somehow just feels right.