Enzo Ferrari described the Mille Miglia as "the most beautiful race in the world". That alone is enough to spark a yearning in the heart of every Ferrarista to take part in the event that celebrates a piece of motoring history and retraces some of the very same roads of the famous endurance race, with the Prancing Horse cars of the Ferrari Tribute to Mille Miglia taking the lead.
More than 65 crews from around the world were drawn to the 2016 edition. There were models from various eras, including the 1969 365 GT 2+2, the F40 and the very recent F12tdf, without forgetting the 488 Spider and California T.
All competed for the symbolic prize of "favourite car", both of the big crowds thronging the streets of more than the 250 municipalities that the race crossed in four days and of those fans who followed the event by smartphone on the new Instagram @ferrari page.
Never mind if the first leg on Thursday was accompanied by torrential rain that spared neither crews nor spectators. While the teams focused on driving their cars, the crowds clapped their hands to keep warm along the 300km route. The cars set off after lunch from Desenzano della Garda on the banks of the lake, and then crossed the lovely Sigurtà park in Valeggio sul Mincio, before heading towards Romagna, with a cavalcade past the Castello Estense in Ferrara and Piazza del Popolo in Ravenna.
And, after a final climb up the winding road of Mount Titano, with San Marino keen to welcome the participants, they drove the final kilometres before a well-deserved night's rest in Pesaro.
The second stage began at 8am on Friday with the ranks of Ferraris drawn up in Piazza del Popolo, dazzling the good people of Pesaro. The route went through Le Marche and Abruzzo: from Senigallia to Loreto and Recanati, and then on to Macerata, Civitanova Marche, Fermo and San Benedetto del Tronto. After that they headed to Rome along the Via Salaria through the Valle di Corno.
The sun – and lots of people – welcomed the Tribute on its arrival in the capital. After Villa Borghese, the cars of Maranello paraded along the catwalk of Via Veneto. Escorted by police, they then crossed the Eternal City, where the Italian capital’s usual frenzy gave way to a surreal silence, as if the Romans wanted to enjoy every note of the Ferrari engines.
The theme of sound dominated again on the third leg, which took the convoy north from Rome, through Viterbo and into Tuscany. In the unique setting of the Val d'Orcia and the Ombrone Valley, fans at the roadside strained their ears to guess the identity of the car before it actually appeared. And, in a packed Campo di Siena, the public enjoyed an opera where the Maranello cavalry took the place of strings.
After the magical city of Florence, there followed the mountain passes of Futa and Raticosa, where historically the winner of the real Mille Miglia was decided, with bend after punishing bend and no respite. Then Bologna and on to the Enzo Ferrari Museum in Modena before arrival in Parma.
And so to the programme of the final day: first the organisers of the Mille Miglia paid homage to team driver Eugenio Castellotti, winner of the race in 1956 at the wheel of the Ferrari 290 MM. Then the cars arrived at the temple of speed in Monza, followed by a welcome in Bergamo, and the finish at Viale Venezia in Brescia. The final moments of an unforgettable experience.