Text by Peter Darnall and Museum Curator Lorenzo Montagner
Museum photos by Gian Maria Pontiroli
Museum Curator Lorenzo Montagner has previously written a short biography of Tazio Nuvolari. This week Mr. Montagner and Peter Darnall take us inside the fascinating museum that houses Nuvolari’s treasures.
Museo Tazio Nuvolari is located in Mantua, Italy, a few miles from Castel d’Ario, where Nuvolari was born on November 16, 1892. The Nuvolari Museum is housed in an historic fifteenth century building, which served originally as the Church of the Carmelino. One visitor to the museum commented that the unique setting seemed to enhance the sense of intimacy; in his words, the museum was “much more than a collection of trophies.”
Tazio Nuvolari is one of a select few race drivers who have museums devoted solely to the celebration of their achievements. He was known as “Il Mantovano Volante” (the Flying Mantuan) or simply “Nivola” by his fans. His victories—72 major events, something over 150 competitions in all—were upstaged by the outbreak of the Second World War. Nuvolari continued to drive after the War, but advancing age and deteriorating health were taking a heavy toll. The fiery Italian survived his racing days to die of natural causes on August 11, 1953.
Ferdinand Porsche described Tazio Nuvolari as “…the greatest driver of the past, the present and the future.” Doctor Porsche knew the all the drivers who raced in the Golden Age of Grand Prix, the decade of the 1930s; in his opinion, Nuvolari was the best of them all.
Fred Russell is the curator of Jon Shirley’s automotive collection. Fred is an acknowledged expert on Italian cars, especially Alfa Romeos. He is also a self-proclaimed admirer of Tazio Nuvolari. Fred recalled his visit to the Nuvolari Museum as an unexpected pleasure. He was aware of Nuvolari’s colorful exploits and had even driven race cars which Nuvolari had campaigned. “There’s something about the building–it’s a former church—and the ambience of Mantua which impressed me. Here was the real Nuvolari,” he enthused. He summed up his visit as “truly memorable” and added that this museum is a must-see for anyone interested in motor racing history and a “near religious experience for any Nuvolari fan.”
About the Museum
The museum is open every day of the week, with the exception of Monday: Saturday and Sunday can be visited from 1pm to 6pm, and from Tuesday to Friday from 3pm to 6pm. The Museum is visited every year by 10,000 visitors from all over Europe, particularly in September when the Grand Prix Nuvolari, dedicated to historic cars, starts from Mantua: it is a very important event that brings together over 300 cars from all over the world from Europe to Latin America, from Japan to the United States of America.
There are many activities organized in the museum, from book presentations and photographic exhibitions to educational activities specifically designed for children. Road education courses for children are also part of the activities.
Images that tell the life of Tazio Nuvolari, as well as his personal items, the trophies and medals won on all the European and American tracks decorate the museum.
Among the most precious trophies are the Mille Miglia Cup of 1930, the Adolf Hitler Cup won by Nuvolari on the Nurburgring circuit in 1935 and the small-scale copy of the Vanderbilt Cup won at the Roosevelt Field circuit in New York in October 1936. There are many cars related to the career of Nuvolari that are on display during the year: in the coming months we expect the arrival of a splendid 1930 Alfa Romeo 1750 GS Zagato.
Staff and support
The Museum is financed by tickets sold to visitors, merchandising activities, and thanks to the generosity of sponsors. But the museum also needs staff with a great passion: Lorenzo Montagner is the curator and head of the Tazio Nuvolari Museum who also creates new ideas to make the visitor’s journey through the Museum more enjoyable. Mr. Matteo Rinaldi takes care of the ticket office, the secretariat and the administration and Mr. Franco Mondadori is the technical manager.
The Tazio Nuvolari Museum is owned by the Automobile Club of Mantova which is fundamental to the efficiency of the Museum, as are the roles of the Director Dr. Giuseppe Pottocar and of the President Dr. Giancarlo Pascal, and Mrs. Silvia Bellini, secretary of presidency of the Automobile Club Mantova. Their work is fundamental because thanks to their expertise, they help the Museum staff in the planning of international events for the promotion of Tazio Nuvolari and his Museum throughout the world. Studies are being made about the feasibility of bringing a Nuvolari Exhibition to the most important circuits and cities of the world; one of these could be organized in New York.
In recent months the Museum has signed agreements and completed very important activities: a educational section was created to tell the story of Tazio Nuvolari to school children; a new website will be created and the social media channel will be enhanced. A collaboration agreement was signed with the Vittoriale degli Italiani (one of the most important Italian museums in the past the home of the poet Gabriele D’Annunzio.) Soon, a collaboration will be signed with Università Politecnico of Milan for the creation of a new museum itinerary based on innovative technologies, and thanks to the Municipality of Mantua, the patrimony of letters, documents and photographs belonging to Nuvolari will be restored and digitized.
Cars and related objects