My favorite car shrine in Italy is the Alfa Romeo Museum in Arese, on the outskirts of Milan. While the more obvious and more exotic brands based in Modena might attract all the big tour groups, the Alfa Romeo Museum is very much for those who know. Located in the old factory where iconic models such as the Giulia, Alfetta GT, and 164 were made, the last Alfa Romeo models to come out of this plant were the beautiful GTV/Spider twins from the ’90s. Starting in 1990, the Centro Stile Alfa Romeo design house was based here, too, but moved to Turin in 2010. The MiTo and Giulietta were the last cars designed at Arese.
Originally opened in 1976, the museum underwent renovations from 2011 through 2015 and reopened better than ever. Spread over six floors and 52,000 square feet, the museum’s ability to showcase the 250-car catalog of Alfa’s past isn’t lacking floor space, and a constantly rotating cast of about 70 cars is on display at any given time. It’s the space that makes this museum better than others, as there’s plenty of room to stand back and appreciate the cars, but if you want to get closer, you can. I’ve been a couple of times now and never had to budge my way through a crowd to get a better look at something.
It’s a place you can take your time to tour, soaking up the history of Alfa Romeo, including sports cars, road racers, Formula 1 cars, and wild concepts and prototypes. With so many special machines under one roof, it was tough picking a few highlights—and everyone will find their own favorites—but here are five of mine:
Alfa Romeo 33 Stradale Prototype
Perhaps the most beautiful car Alfa Romeo has ever made—perhaps even the most beautiful car ever made, period—the 33 Stradale is a pulse-racing thing to look at. Only 18 of these were produced and sold, in addition to two prototypes, the car you see here and one in a private collection in Japan. As one of the first true “race-inspired” supercars, it was literally the street (stradale) version of the Tipo 33 racing car. Adding to its credentials, while the Miura is considered to be the “first supercar,” the 33 Stradale was the first with what are now known as butterfly doors.
Alfa Romeo Navajo/Iguana/Coupe Speciale
Following on from the 33 Stradale are more, erm, 33 Stradales. But not quite. Alfa seemed to have a few spare 33 chassis laying around, so it decided to offer them to various design houses to see their takes on the car. Bertone, Pininfarina, and Giugiaro all gave their own unique spin on the 33 shape.
Bertone, being the masters of the wedge, made two prototypes: the Navajo and the Carabo. Unfortunately, the 1968 Carabo was being shown in a Gandini-themed exhibition in Turin so it was absent from the Alfa museum this time. Instead, we had the Navajo to look at. Shown later, at the 1976 Geneva motor show, its retro-future design was equally impressive to its predecessor.
The Iguana was the first Alfa Romeo designed by Giugiaro as head of his own firm, ItalDesign. Alfa would later use his designs on cars such as the Alfasud, GTV, and Brera, and, for its part, the Iguana would inspire future models such as the DeLorean DMC-12 and Maserati Bora.
Lastly, the Pininfarina Coupe Speciale. While the Bertone and Giugiaro designs were a bit more futuristic and radical, Pininfarina went for a curvaceous aesthetic more typical of the period. There’s a whiff of Speed Racer Mach 5 about it.
Alfa Romeo Disco Volante by Touring
From one curvaceous beauty to another. The Disco Volante with coachwork by Touring Superleggera has to be one of Alfa Romeo’s most iconic shapes. Usually it has the Spider on display in the Bellezza section, along with the other “Masters of Style” concepts. It’s hard to believe this came from 1952. Only four of the five remain in existence today, and it just so happened the only Spider converted into a coupe was featured on the first floor of the museum as a special treat.
A.L.F.A. 40/60 HP Castanga Aerodinamica
Commissioned by an Italian count and built by Carrozeria Castanga, the Aerodinamica was based on the 40/60 HP road racer. In standard form with 70 horsepower, it could reach 125 mph. With its streamlined body in place, the Aerodinamica could stretch its legs to 139 mph. In 1970, a replica of the original prototype was re-created for display at the Alfa Romeo Museum and has remained here since.
Alfa Romeo 155 V6 TI
It’d be rude not to include a racing car from Alfa’s illustrious motorsports history, right? I’m quite partial to the 155 V6 TI and always get excited seeing one. Competing in various Touring Car Championships, the 155 saw its best competition year in 1993. It placed second in the FIA Touring Car Challenge and swept the floor in DTM the same year, winning 12 of the 20 championship-scoring races that year. It’s also one of the few racing cars that looks good in both its iconic liveries; the original red Alfa Corse livery and the later Martini colors seen here.
Check out more sights from the Alfa Museum in the gallery below: