Photo Essay // Museo Storico Alfa Romeo
Words and photos by Andrew Coles
It was back in 2013 that I first attempted to visit Alfa Romeo’s Museo Storico in the Milanese industrial suburb of Arese. These were the pre-FCA days, back when Alfa Romeo was still peddling its line of gorgeous but dynamically flaccid vehicles. I was on a Vespa trip around Europe, and messages were mixed as to the possibility of seeing the collection. Alfa Romeo wanted to sell the cars off, and the Italian Government had stepped in and deemed the cars a collection of national significance, making it illegal to split the collection or sell it outside of Italy. A stalemate ensued, and the cars sat gathering dust in the abandoned Arese building for several years. Rumours swirled that it was still possible to see the cars in storage, despite there being no official museum. It is Italy, after all, so I thought I’d try my luck.
I found signs in central Milan pointing to the Museum, which I followed for 19km to the Arese factory gates. The trail went cold once I arrived at the once-proud factory. A grumpy guard stopped in a Fiat Panda to inform me that it was not possible to see the cars, and indeed, I would need to remove myself from the property post-haste. I bartered enough time for a few sorry photos, and that was that.
What I didn’t realise was that the Alfa Romeo marque was on the precipice of one of the greatest corporate turnarounds in automotive history. With fresh funding from Chrysler, as unlikely as it seems, the Guilia and Stelvio were launched within a few short years, and now rumours persist of a new 8C supercar. These are good times, and Alfa Romeo is finally being made great again.
That same abandoned factory has been completely renovated, and in June 2018 I proudly drove a rented Seat through those very same gates – sadly no Vespa this time around. The makeover given to the Arese site is remarkable, and I barely recognised it. The building shell is the same, but inside it now houses a brand new museum spanning all of the legendary Alfa Romeos that you could ever hope to see, a short test track, and a showroom for new cars. Inside I saw my unicorn – the 1982 Sprint 6C, on which a full feature will follow. The disappointment of 2013 was more than fully repaid, with interest, in 2018.
The Ferrari museum in nearby Maranello is often criticised for becoming too commercial, and Maranello itself for becoming an unofficial Ferrari theme park. Museo Storico Alfa Romeo is not like that at all – it is a genuine experience for the true Alfisti, and only those with an intimate knowledge of the Alfa Romeo back-catalogue will derive enjoyment. If you identify as an Alfisti, Museo Storico is a must-see.