The 24th running of the California Mille (“Mille”), a motoring tribute to Italy’s most-famous open road race, the Mille Miglia (thousand mile), will begin with a free car show atop San Francisco’s Nob Hill on April 27, followed by a four-day, 1,000-mile back-roads adventure.
The trek includes a stop at the Grass Valley Veterans’ Memorial Building for lunch on April 29.
Some 77 entrants from four foreign countries and 14 U.S. states will assemble on Mason Street in front of the Fairmont Hotel, where Italian Consul General Mauro Battocchi will arrive in a vintage Italian car, greet the crowd and invite any or all to join him in singing “Ill Canto degli Italiani,” the Italian national anthem.
At last year’s Mille Preview, Battocchi offered to buy anyone in the crowd a 1950 Alfa Romeo if they would join him in singing the anthem. There were no takers.
“This year’s Mille may be the most significant compendium of classic cars we’ve ever had,” said co-director David Swig.
“Along with some 13 Alfa Romeos, 11 Porsches, six Jaguars and half a dozen Ferraris — largely vintage ‘50s and ‘60s — we have a ’52 Tojeiro Roadster, a ’28 Bentley, a ’57 Kurtis Kraft 500KK and a ’38 Lancia Aprilia.”
“Perhaps the exceptional turnout is the ‘double 24’ aspect of the two motoring milestones,” said fellow co-director Howard Swig.
“The Italian race ran 24 times from 1927 to 1957, and this is the California Mille’s 24th running. Early registration suggests that this year may be our biggest and best drive ever.”
Up to 10,000 fans are expected at Nob Hill on the 27th to see the cars, meet the drivers, enjoy live Italian music by the Ron Borelli band and participate in a presentation that will spotlight important cars and discuss their merits.
On April 28, the California Mille will head north to cross the Golden Gate Bridge and then motor east to Lodi for lunch. That afternoon, the Mille will leave the Central Valley and drive to the west shore of Lake Tahoe, with an overnight stop scheduled at the Resort at Squaw Creek in Olympic Valley.
Day two, April 29, will see the California Mille motoring north into the picturesque and little-known Gold Lake region where drivers will avoid the temptation to fish, camp and hike, continuing instead on to Grass Valley for their lunch.
The afternoon drive will involve a journey down the western slope of the Sierra, with the Mille spending the night in Sacramento.
On day three, April 30, the Mille classic cars will cruise along the banks of the Sacramento River, pass through the 19th century Chinese-designed town of Locke, then drive west to the Napa Valley wine country for lunch. Continuing westward, the Mille drivers will amble through rarely traveled back roads ending the day at Cavallo Point.
On May 1, the final day, the California Mille will climb 2,500 feet to near the top of Mt. Tamalpais, the highest point in Marin County, smile for a commemorative group photo, then motor north for lunch in the village of Nicasio.
The group will then wander along the Pacific Coast to Occidental and turn south for the run back to Sausalito and the final night’s awards banquet at Cavallo Point.
The California Mille was founded by Sausalito resident Martin Swig, who after driving the Mille Miglia from Brescia to Rome to Brescia, decided that northern California “Looked more like Italy than — Italy.”
Thus was born, in 1990, the California Mille.