As darkness falls, another Valentine’s Day is coming to a close. February 14th is the one day of the year when desperate men everywhere pay exorbitant prices for last year’s Christmas chocolates and their expectant girlfriends wait anxiously at home for their tokens of affection. I remember when I first became aware of my hormones as a pre-teen and hoped that the boy who I fancied would give me a card to mark the occasion. Unfortunately when the day arrived, I not only received nothing from him, but was later informed by his sister that he had gone to a school Valentine’s dance with another girl! Bitter and rejected, I moped around for the rest of the evening, writing bad poetry in my diary and listening to Late Night Love with Graham Torrington.
Thankfully these days I have learnt to handle disappointment with a little less drama and I am also lucky to have the world’s best boyfriend. Still, Valentine’s Day always makes me think about all of those people who are made to feel terrible because they have not found that special someone. To be honest, I think that most relationships are overrated. I have always said that I would rather be single than be one of those women who will date any loser off the street so that she can tell her friends that she has a boyfriend and be gifted a heart-bearing pink teddy bear once a year. I have love and passion in my life all of the time, whether I’m coupled up or not.
One man who definitely understood what it was to have an intense love that was not dependant on a woman was Enzo Ferrari. While it is certainly true that Ferrari’s legendary founder was quite fond of female company, he always maintained that his biggest love was racing. His passion for his job was so great that he even lamented his marriage in his memoir, “My Terrible Joys”. In the famous book Ferrari wrote that his dedication to the team that bore his name was so great that it was almost impossible to find time for his wife and family. “I have yet to meet anyone quite so stubborn as myself and animated by this overpowering passion that leaves me no time for thought or anything else. I have in fact no interest in life outside racing cars.” He summarized.
Most tifosi will be familiar with the story of Enzo Ferrari’s wife, Laura Garello, and his mistress, Lina Lardi. Rumour has it that Enzo first met Laura at the beginning of his career as a racing driver. He was instantly enamoured with the pretty young woman and would later tell one of his mistresses, Fiamma Breschi, that he had been especially fond of Laura’s sense of humour. The two were married in 1923 and no doubt Laura hoped that soon after, Ferrari would give up his ‘foolish’ dream of pursuing a career in motorsport and gain more stable employment. Thankfully, Enzo had other ideas and determinedly refused to conform to other people’s expectations of him. He alluded to the incident in his memoirs when he wrote that if Laura had her way, he would have gotten a job with the local tram company.
The couple’s only son Dino was born in 1932 and sadly suffered from muscular dystrophy. Ferrari doted on the boy, who studied engineering and aspired to contribute to his father’s empire, and never recovered from Dino’s death at the age of only twenty four. It is said that the relationship between Ferrari and his wife became especially tense in the aftermath.
That is not to say that the marriage wasn’t already rocky before Dino passed away. Either in 1929 or 1930 (there are differing accounts of the exact date), Ferrari first encountered nineteen year old Lina Lardi. The girl from
worked for Enzo’s friend and he allegedly introduced himself to her using the cringe-worthy line “How did you get so beautiful, in so little time?” Although most modern-day women would probably respond to a question such as that by smiling awkwardly and slowly backing away, Lardi elected to become Enzo’s mistress. The pair had one child, Piero, who was born in 1945 and went on to become Ferrari’s heir following the death of Laura Ferrari. Although Enzo Ferrari had other women in his life throughout his relationship with Lina Lardi, she remained his mistress and was even present at Ferrari’s funeral. Modena
After hearing the tales of his womanizing, one might easily conclude that Enzo Ferrari had little respect for women and yet his relationship with Fiamma Breschi seemed to contradict that assumption. Breschi was originally the mistress of Ferrari driver Luigi Musso who was tragically killed in 1958. In the months after Musso’s death, Ferrari asked the fiery Breschi for help making his road cars more appealing to women. After recommending a number of successful modifications, Enzo began sending her to races to act as an internal spy on his behalf. As he came to trust her insights, the pair developed a mutual admiration and they became lovers.
Enzo also dedicated a whole chapter in “My Terrible Joys” to the role that women play in Formula 1. He noted that while glamorous women, who saw racing as a social event, had no place at the track, some women were an invaluable asset. Ferrari went on to say that he had nothing but respect for those women who helped their boyfriends and husbands at races by time keeping, negotiating and providing unwavering support. He even went so far as to say that women were even better at certain tasks, such as detail-oriented work, than men were.
While reading sections of the chapter one cannot help but wonder if some of Ferrari’s words were inspired by Breschi herself. Of all of the women in Enzo Ferrari’s life, she was perhaps the one who understood him the best. She shared his passion for cars, supported him in his job and most importantly of all she understood that she could never compete with Enzo’s true love. “He was a constant presence at the factory,” Fiamma Breschi told The Guardian newspaper in 2004. “He would be there on Saturdays and Sundays, over Easter and Christmas. He never betrayed his cars. Other things, perhaps…”
If I have learnt anything from Enzo Ferrari over the years it is that it is possible to find life-long fulfillment when you have a great passion. Even though many people may not see his life in the same light that I do and we may never know if he was truly happy, I respect the man for refusing to let go of something that was so important to him. While Enzo’s women played a secondary role in his life, he was devoted to his primary relationship, the relationship that he had with his cars. I hope that this Valentine’s Day all of you singles take comfort from Enzo Ferrari’s example and always listen to your heart, regardless of which unconventional direction it might lead you in!