Inspired by speed, driven by passion, Emanuele Prignacca, co-founder of Italy's annual vintage car race, Il Pilota, Il Poeta e la Tartaruga, pays homage to two great icons of a bygone era: Tazio Nuvolari and Gabriele D'Annunzio.
There is little that does not fire the passion in an Italian, but take the beauty of the Italian lakes, add a dash of design paired with precision engineering and round it off with a tale of friendship and heroism and you’ve got the perfect recipe to stir the heart any countryman or foreigner alike. None were more inspired than Emanuele Prignacca and Attilio Lorenzi, founders of Il Pilota, Il Poeta e la Tartaruga, an annual vintage car race set against the breathtaking backdrop of Lake Garda, celebrating the life of two local heroes; champion motorcycle and race car driver, Tazio Nuvolari and poet, journalist and novelist Gabriele D’Annunzio.
The story began in 1932 with the historic meeting between the two legends. Sharing a passion for cars and speed, during their premier rendez-vous, at the poet’s Lake Garda residence, Vittoriale degli Italiani, the men spent seven hours together. The meeting had such a profound effect on the two that D’Annunzio offered the driver a gift – a small gold tortoise inscribed with the words “to the fastest man, the slowest animal” - which became Nuvolari’s celebrated mascot.
In honor of the famous friendship and built on a love of automobiles, in September 2006 Emanuele Prignacca and Attilio Lorenzi, Presidents of the Historic Racing Club, founded Il Pilota, Il Poeta e la Tartaruga. Snaking through the sumptuous setting of Italy’s largest lake, the circuit traces familiar routes of the lionized racing legend. This year’s race commences at Gardone Riviera before taking off on a three-day tour of Italy’s largest lake, including Castel d’Ario in Mantua - the birthplace of Nuvolari, across the Valleggio sul Mincio en route to Salò, culminating in Sirmione.
Emanuele Prignacca spoke to us exclusively about the passion behind the great lake race:
Emanuele Prignacca’s definition of luxury:
Having something exclusive.
If luxury were…
A moment of joy and of pure pleasure.
A beautiful woman, charming and a little bit pampered.
I think Sirmione… a summer night concert of classical music on the lake shores.
A vintage car…an antebellum Alfa Romeo.
How did the idea of the race come about?
From a photo…when I was young, I was fascinated by the photo of D’Annunzio and Nuvolari taken the day of their first meeting…they were sitting on the running board of a beautiful black car and I saw this image in the “Vittoriale degli Italiani” when I was a child.
What is its main aim?
Surely to keep the remembrance of the historic moment when Tazio Nuvolari and Gabriele D’Annunzio met on April 28th 1932.
Did Nuvolari and D’Annunzio remain in contact after their historic first meeting?
They remained in contact and between them a friendship was born. There was lots of correspondence to confirm their friendship and also the relationship with Prospero Gianferrari, the intermediary of the first encounter between Nuvolari and D'Annunzio.
Apart from their famed meeting, did D’Annunzio ever attend any of Nuvolari’s races?
No but the poet asked Nuvolari to win the “Targa Florio” Cup in Sicily…and Nuvolari answered: “I only race to win!”…he won!
When did you first discover your passion for cars?
I was born into a family of Fiat car dealers, I grew up surrounded by cars…It’s a part of my DNA!
Do you collect cars? If so, could you tell me about your collection?
I have collected cars since I was young, mainly Alfa Romeo. I personally take care of every single car (I own nearly 15 vintage cars) and I have a personal garage and workshop.
What is your favorite classic car?
A red Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spider of 1961.
Nuvolari drove many cars throughout his illustrious career, did he have a favorite?
Surely his favorite was the Alfa Romeo 1750 GS compressor.
Will any of Nuvolari’s cars be taking place in the event?
Maybe Nuvolari’s favorite Alfa Romeo 1750 GS compressor. He won the Tourist Trophy riding this car.
How many drivers enter the competition each year?
Nearly 40 competed during the 2008 edition.
Which are the most impressive cars that you have seen participate so far?
A 1938 Maserati 16 cylinder and the aforementioned Alfa Romeo.
Why did you choose cars prior to 1963 as a cut off point, particularly as Nuvolari died in 1953?
We chose cars prior 1963 to allow the participation of high level cars such as Maserati and Aston Martin that, otherwise, shouldn’t have raced.
What is the highlight of the event?
The performance in D’Annunzio’s Auditorium: historical movies and images will be displayed along with the reading of poems and unpublished letters to recreate the atmosphere of the first encounter of the two incredible personalities.
Which would you say is the most scenic section of the route?
The suggestive and panoramic “Gabriele D’Annunzio Grand Prix” in Gardone Riviera.
This year you will pay homage to Tamara de Lempicka and Valentine de Saint Point, what have you planned?
Tamara de Lempicka and Valentine de Saint Point were women that, between 1920 and 1930, have advanced female emancipation, exalting high-speed and cars. We’ll have a tribute to those female figures and to women during the performance in the D’Annunzio Auditorium.
Are there any other special event’s for this year’s edition?
The tribute to women and femininity and to the Futurism Movement that in 2009 celebrates its centenary anniversary.
Il Pilota, Il Poeta e la Tartaruga will take place from April 16 to 19. For more information visit http://www.historicracingclub.com
Guide to Lake Garda
Where to Stay:
Grand Hotel Villa Feltrinelli
The Villa Feltrinelli is more of an institution than a hotel. Since opening in 1892 this grand retreat has played host to historic figures, from D.H. Lawrence, to Winston Churchill and Mussolini, who resided there for seven years during wartime.
Villa Cortine Hotel
A 19th century villa, immortalized by Roman poet Catulla
Check out its excellent restaurant
What to see:
Vittoriale degli Italiani
The former home of Gabriele D’Annunzio.
Take a stroll through the Heller Botanical Garden in Gardone Riviera.
Where to Eat:
La Tortuga for fine rustic Italian fayre.
Via XXIV Maggio, 5
Tel: +39 0365 71251
Try to snag a table on the veranda for unspoilt lakeside views.
Antica Trattoria La Speranzina
Just a short walk from Sirmione Castle, the menu changes throughout the year, following the seasonal produce of the region.
Vecchia Lugana, Sirmione
Vecchia Lugana makes a contemporary change from the traditional trattorias of the region.
Emanuele Prignacca’s top recommendation
“Visit Sirmione, one of the most beautiful places in Italy. Surely you have to try the “Driver’s risotto”, prepared with sausages, butter and parmesan - a typical recipe of Castel d’Ario, dedicated to Tazio Nuvolari.
“Limit to courage? There is no limit to courage” D’Annunzio