The Italian brand is celebrating its 111th anniversary this year… a good reason step back in time and have a look at the brand’s long and eventful history by visiting the Alfa Romeo factory museum in Arese, Italy.
If you’re travelling to Italy by road, chances are you’ll drive past the Alfa Romeo Museum. It is located in the municipality of Arese ,on the A9 motorway leading to Milan. The Alfa Romeo factory used to be there but were demolished a long time ago.
However, the former factory are still there and have been partially refurbished to house the brand’s museum while the factory site itself is now a shopping mall. Here, the exhibited cars are not lined up in a row but shown in large open and airy spaces.
A condensed history
The brand’s long history is laid out through three major themes. First of all, the production cars section allows you to (re)discover Alfa’s major cars. For example, you will see a 6C 1750 Zagato there. It’s the archetypal sports car of the 1930s, already fitted with a double overhead camshaft engine. Alongside it, there are some rather exclusive pre- and post-war productions.
The 1900 saloon marked the revival of the brand and was Alfa Romeo’s very first mass-produced car back in the early 1950s. This well-built family saloon was even more powerful than many sports cars of the time. Then came the cars that mark Alfa’s golden period: the Giulietta, nicknamed « Italy’s little fiancée », an essential part of the economic « miracolo » of the Peninsula ; the unforgettable Giulia, with its angular yet highly aerodynamic shape- as much prized by gangsters and thugs as it was by the Carabinieri and other national police forces.
In the early Seventies came the Alfasud : the brand’s first front-wheel drive car and its legendary boxer engine. The most recent era is well represented : the 75 was the last « real » Alfa produced before the FIAT takeover. The 164 was the brainchild of the collaboration between FIAT, Alfa Romeo, Lancia and Saab while the 156 is the latest Milanese brand success.
This part of the museum is dedicated to aesthetics… beauty always was a major concern for Alfa Romeo. Here, prototypes that have marked their era and the history of the automobile are on display. The greatest names in Italian bodywork are prominent: Bertone and Pininfarina, of course, but also Castagna, Touring and Zagato.
Eight prototypes exemplify the Alfa’s spirit and DNA as well as the close relationships that has always existed between the Biscione brand and Italian car designers. All the prototypes on show have shapes that were well ahead of their time and have shaken up the conventions of car design. All were signed by artists who knew exactly how to combine art and technology, form and function to make them true works of art.
From the iconic 1900 Disco Volante with partially closed wings, the inspiration for the Jaguar E-Type, to the 33/2 Speciale and Marcello Gandini’s Carabo, which defined the proportions of supercars still in use today. The Iguana may be less well known but it was designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro.
Racing was in Alfa Romeo’s blood right from the start. From the city-to-city races of the 1920s, such as the Mille Miglia, to the 24 Hours of Le Mans and Formula 1, Alfa tok part in all sorts of races and won very often.
This part of the museum obviously focuses on Formula 1- Alfa Romeo won the category’s very first world title back in 1950- as well as various versions of the 33 from the 1970s and other track cars, such as the Bertone GTA coupés, the 75s and the 155s.
The area at the entrance of the museum hosts temporary exhibitions. At the time of our visit, it was dedicated to racing boats. Up until the late 1960s, outboard racing was very popular in Italy. Many Alfa engines were fitted to these boats and were quite successful. On top of that, Alfa Romeo engines powered many aircrafts too.
Several Alfa aero engines are on display in the Museo, as well as a complete aircraft! The Italian police forces always relied on the products of the Milanese manufacturer. A part of the museum pays tribute to it, presenting numerous models of the Carabinieri cars: the Giulia of course but there’s an armoured Alfetta dating from the dark Seventies era are also part of the history of the brand.
Whether you are a big Alfa fan or just a car enthusiast, a visit to the Museo Storico will allow you to get to know the Italian manufacturer better and understand what it means to some people : feelings, attachment and even love. The shop at the exit will even allow you to take a part of Alfa history back home !
The Automobile Redactor would like to thank Dominique Fontignies and Wim Willems, Stellantis’ P.R. Manager and P.R. Officer for their help and support in organising this visit, as well as Mrs Raffaella Quaquaro and the museum staff for their genuine kindness.