Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Autodromo di Monza Part One: A Perilous Journey

If you are a fan of Formula 1 or even motorsports in general, chances are the name Monza gives you goose bumps. Of all the circuits in the world, the picturesque Italian track is one of only four that have featured in the World Championship since its inception and of those four, it is arguably the greatest. It is at Monza that both the beauty and tragedy of motor racing collide and the circuit invokes the emotion of passion like nowhere else.

For those of you tifosi who have always fantasized about attending a Grand Prix weekend at the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza, I can tell you from experience that it is every bit as fantastic as you can imagine. The history, the atmosphere and yes of course, the racing, are all well worth the 250 Euros that it will cost you to purchase a decent seat. But what if your holiday in Italy brings you within close proximity of the track on one of the other 362 days of the year? Is making the pilgrimage to the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza in the ‘off-season’ a good idea? This summer, I determined to answer that question when I began my journey to view the legendary circuit for the very first time.

When it comes to the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza, getting there is about three quarters of the battle. The circuit’s name is in itself rather misleading since it implies that it is located inside the town of Monza when in fact it is situated on the outskirts, nestled within the enormous Monza Park. Although one can reach the track by foot from the Monza train station, do not fool yourself into thinking that it will be just a leisurely stroll down the block. The walk will take you over an hour in total and you will be an exhausted, sweat-coated mess by the time that you reach your destination. While it is possible to travel to the Autodromo di Monza by taking a bus from Monza station (the Z221, departs just up the hill from the exit of the station), the less-complicated route, which is also the one recommended on the Autodromo’s official website, involves disembarking the train at Biassono-Lesmo station and walking a short way to join the Lesmo area of the circuit.

Being almost hopeless with directions, I elected to follow the website’s advice. It seemed straightforward enough and indeed most people would have likely arrived at their destination as planned. Unfortunately for me, I am not most people and when the train that I was travelling on made an unscheduled stop right before Biassono-Lesmo, I got off only to realise that I was in Buttafava as the doors slammed shut. Standing on the platform, I lamented my mistake as the train pulled away and quickly realised that there was no sign of life for miles around, aside from a very noisy bird and several bemused goats. Reluctantly I started walking along a nearby gravel road. With the scorching July sun beating down upon me and only half a bottle of water remaining, I surmised that it was going to be a very long day.

Thankfully after only a few minutes a car pulled up alongside me and a friendly Italian woman asked where I was going and if I needed a ride. Now, normally I would never accept a ride from a stranger but in this case, I figured that if she wanted to murder me and feast upon my carcass, she could easily do so regardless of whether I got into her car or kept walking aimlessly along the gravel road. Luckily for me the woman was not a homicidal maniac and she took me as close as she could to the circuit before letting me out and even gifted me a map of the park. Who knows how long it would have taken me to walk to The Autodromo from Buttafava if she had not been kind enough to pick me up. I was truly grateful!

The woman had dropped me off at the campground entrance to Monza Park. This is the entrance that is closest to the pit lane and it was the perfect place to begin my tour of the circuit. Unfortunately, I could not figure out how to get past the multiple layers of fencing that prevented me from making my way close to the track and started to wonder if I would even be allowed to get that far. The park was bustling with activity and yet most of the visitors seemed to be locals enjoying their day, no one seemed to be interested in the Autodromo itself. Not one to be easily deterred, I patrolled the perimeter. This was Monza, home of the tifosi, surely there had to be a human-sized hole in the fence somewhere! After only a short time looking, I hit the jackpot. A small hole had been torn into the side of the fencing and I managed to contort my body through the narrow gap, eventually ending up on the ground. I already felt as though I had been through an epic adventure even though I hadn’t so much as looked upon the hallowed Monza tarmac. After returning to my feet and adjusting my trousers in an unladylike manner, I walked towards the giant grandstands before me and finally caught my first glimpse of the Autodromo di Monza.

There was something quite eerie about the empty seats around me and as I explored the area, taking pictures from different vantage points, I felt as though I was the only person left on earth. Soon curiosity took over and I longed to venture to the other side with the hope of wandering the pitlane and making it onto the fabled Alta Velocita banking. Surveying the grass beside the circuit, I noticed a passageway that seemed to lead under the track. There were no signs, but I assumed that following it would take me to the pit lane. The passage was dimly lit and I felt a little uneasy entering it, after all who knew what or who was lurking within its depths. Still, I figured, making traditionally unsound decisions seemed to be the theme of the day and so I took a deep breathe and began my descent into the passage.

Once I was inside, the passage became a lot less creepy than it initially seemed and there were even yellow lines that had been painted on the floor, pointing people in the right direction. When I emerged on the other side, I was indeed right behind the pit lane just as I had hoped to be. I smiled to myself as I overlooked the empty lot where the Formula 1 paddock normally resides. The real adventure was finally about to begin.

To be continued…

Be sure to check out my blog tomorrow for part two of my Monza adventure.


  1. WOW!
    U rock girl, i would LOVE to hang out with you and your adventures u are doing, u are living-the-dream!
    "The first time I came here, there was a crack in the tarmac, and there was a little plant growing out of it, and I said to myself, 'Tazio Nuvelari could well have driven over the great-grandfather of this plant', and I pulled it out, and I've got it pressed in a Monza yearbook at home!"
    "I'm er I'm lost for words on that particular anecdote there Murray!"
    Your next mission is to study Valentino Park [i believe in Milan] and find the seat where Cav. Enzo Ferrari sat on and cried after his very first F1 victory, get to it girl!