A 'renaissance' car show at the end of a long, tiring year in Italy
Well, when I say year what I mean is 'the last 16 months'
When I was a teenager, back in the early/mid 2000s, the Bologna Motor Show was the s**t. Every year my friends and I would hop on an old, slow, decrepit train to Bologna and 95 agonizing minutes later, we'd find ourselves lost in a maze of cars (below, pictures taken in 2005), scantily clad models - that was still a thing back then - and motorcycles.
Italy was a different place at the time, with a lot more money and less debt, and everyone thought it would last but, in the best tradition of a country that somehow manages to make less money from tourism than both Thailand and the UK, it didn't. Between the late 2000s and the mid 2010s, the Motor Show collapsed and went from being 'the s**t' to just being s**t. It was so bad that in 2013 and 2015 the event didn't take place because there simply weren't enough exhibitors willing to attend. The 2016 edition was okay-ish but it was too little, too late and after an underwhelming (I'm trying to be polite here) 2017 edition, the organizers decided to pull the plug and stop the agony.
Meanwhile, as the Bologna Motor Show was falling to pieces, there was another show, in a different part of Italy, that was making headlines. First launched in 2015 as an open air show, the 'Salone Auto del Parco Valentino di Torino' - or Parco Valentino for short - replaced Bologna as the must-attend car show for Italy (apart from Villa d'Este, which is technically a concours d'elegance), for three reasons. One, every single brand you could think of was there; two, it was free and three, instead of using elaborate stands and pavilions, all the cars were simply parked inside a public park (Parco Valentino) in Turin. It was beautiful.
An astounding line-up, a plethora of collateral events. And it's free.
But then Italy decided to shoot itself in the foot once again and following what was basically a political altercation between the organizers and the municipal council of Turin, the chairman of the show - an extremely savvy and capable guy - simply upped the sticks and chose a new name and a new location: meet the Milano-Monza Open-Air Motor Show, or MI.MO to its mates.
Andrea Levy, the chairman and founder of Parco Valentino and MI.MO, is the type of guy who'd probably show up at a party with Stephan Winkelmann and Christian von Koenigsegg because "we used to play golf together, y' know". That's his superpower and that, along with the amazing team of people he put together, is what gave me and everyone who attends the MI.MO the possibility to see the Bugatti Bolide, by far and away the most important car at the show, in person. It is brutal, deafening. Other-worldly. When people ask "why do you like cars so much?", just show them a video of the Bolide. They'll get it. Also, I apologize for the vertical video which suddenly turns horizontal. I don't know why I did but it kinda works, doesn't it? No? Okay.
Some of you might know that I just got back from Belgrade, Serbia (I'm in the process of moving there) and knowing I would attend the MI.MO was just about the only thing that made coming back to restriction-loving, debt-infested Italy tolerable. Sixty-three exhibitors brought their vehicles to Milan for the show (the convoy is headed to Monza race track as we speak) and apart from the Bolide, the Chiron, various Ferraris and the Karma Revero, among the cars you'll find parked near the Duomo is the Lamborghini SIÁN FKP 37, parked near its cousin, the Huracan STO, the Pagani Imola and the Pagani Huayra BC.
There's also a dedicated section for test drives near the Castello Sforzesco but as most of the cars on offer are dull EVs and hybrids, I gotta admit it didn't look to be very popular when I got there. I've nothing against EVs and hybrids per se but you have to give people the opportunity to test drive fast cars like the Tesla Model S P100D or the Porsche Taycan, instead they only had cars like the Twingo EV, a couple of Mitsubishis, etc. Good, decent, useful, real-world cars. Just not very interesting.
I didn't know what expect from MI.MO and I don't know what's gonna happen in the coming years, but I know that Parco Valentino was awesome, I know that Levy and his squad know what they're doing, and I know that the Bologna Motor Show isn't coming back so this is the next best thing. Actually, this is better.