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First Florida Chapter MVPA 

Supply Line September/October 2001 

La Strada del Cuore

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This article was written by club members Dick and Diane Deren #301 and published in the National MVPA Supply Line, September/October of 2001.

Last winter when we found out we would be vacationing in Italy, our first thought was to see what military vehicle event might be going on while we were there.  We had fond memories of the D-Day Anniversaries we had attended in Portsmouth, England and in Normandy, France in 1989 and 1994.  At those events we had the privilege of attending with the British club, the Military Vehicle Trust.  We enjoyed being part of an international group that shared our interests in history, military vehicles and in honoring the veterans who fought there.  We looked forward to having that experience again.  So, when our trip to Italy was in the planning stages, we decided to get in touch with the Italian club affiliated with the MVPA.  Not speaking any Italian ourselves, we were very fortunate to find a friend in Maurizio Beretta, who helped us with all of our planning and then acted as our guide and interpreter after we arrived.

He made sure we had an "authentic Italian experience”.  The event, "La Strada del Cuore" took place on June 2 and 3, 2001.  It was sponsored by the Associazione Veicoli Storici - Militari Emilia - Romagna. The chairman of the event, which went off flawlessly, was the very energetic Signor Gabriele Ravanelli and his helpful staff, Signor Filippo Spadi and Signor Corso Boccia. First, for those of you who have never been to an event in Europe, try to participate in one, at least once.  This particular event did not have a Flea Market, vehicle judging or a formal banquet with speeches and awards.  Don't get us wrong; we also like to attend those types of events. 

But participating in a Strada del Cuore was more like reliving a piece of history, and many families participated.  Instead of the typical short trail ride we do at many American events, about 60 military vehicles (mostly WW II) drove about 50 kilometers (about 30 miles) through the beautiful wine country of Tuscany, Italy on both Saturday and Sunday. We traveled along the same roads the British 8th Army used when they fought to liberate this part of Italy from German occupation some 57 years ago.  Some of those same veterans rode along with us, observing every hill and vale, perhaps in the very same vehicles. 

We watched as the mountains, valleys, castles and beautiful old churches passed by.  The hills of Chianti were alive with the unmistakable sounds of vintage military vehicles, both tracked and wheeled, armored and soft-skinned.  Vehicles from all over Italy took part in this event, but, as it is in the States, the majority of them were American.  There were, however, some nice examples of WW II Italian vehicles, which you never see in America, as well as British Commonwealth and German vehicles.

There was a nice cross-section of American vehicles from quarter-tons to an M4A1 Sherman.  Included were Dodge WC's, a CCKW (named "Tipper"), a White half-track, a GPA, and many MB/GPWs.  Several of the MB/GPW's were restored as British or Canadian units, i.e. "Mickey Mouse" pattern camouflage and British or Canadian markings.  This is something you do not often see in the U.S.  Of the actual British Commonwealth vehicles, three were of Canadian origin and one was British.  Among them were a GMC Fox, a Chevrolet C15, a Universal Carrier and an Ariel W/NG motorcycle.  The WW II German equipment consisted of a BMW motorcycle and a Zundapp motorcycle.  The Italian equipment is, we were told, very rare, even in Italy.  There were SPA artillery tractors, a Fiat Field Car and a Moto Guzzi motorcycle from WW II, and a postwar Fiat 1101A. Other postwar vehicles included a 6x6, a HMMWV, an M151 and an Auto Union (DKW) F91/4 Munga.  All the vehicles we saw were nicely restored and well kept.  They all made it through the weekend; there were no breakdowns or major problems.  Hats off to our fellow hobbyists in Italy!

Our convoy left Greve in Chianti on Saturday morning complete with a police escort.  We rode in a Dodge WC Command Car driven by Signor Aldo Passadore as we snaked through the mountains and valleys with people coming out to cheer us along the road.  Some of them remembered the first time the British came through and were thrilled to see the veterans and vehicles again.  Our first stop was in San Casciano, where the veterans, vehicles and collectors were welcomed by a brass band, speeches by dignitaries and a crowd of hundreds.  While we had the vehicles on display we were treated to refreshments - delicious Chianti wine (what else?) and Italian bread.  What a wonderful reception!  The crowds were so warm and appreciative.  Then we were back on the road to our next stop at the American cemetery in Florence, which is a beautiful tribute to our fallen American soldiers.  

Then on to Antella for another vehicle display and a delicious lunch (crostini toscani, risotto agli spinaci, tortellini al sugo and more) with lots of wine and fellowship.  Our last stop on Saturday was back in Greve where we again displayed the vehicles in the Piazza (town square). Apparently the Italians do not have the same litigious society we have, because children climbing on the Sherman did not cause a lot of concern. When I asked about the fear of being sued, I was told that children are the responsibility of their parents and if they get hurt on a parked vehicle, the vehicle owner is not to blame.  What common sense!  If we could only take a lesson from the Italians!

On Sunday we rode with Signor Dante Marchini and his son, Luca in their 1943 GPW.  We traveled to lmpruneta in convoy and there set up another vehicle display in their Piazza.  We toured the beautiful Basilica di Santa Maria and the Cloister and thoroughly enjoyed sharing our historic vehicles with the very enthusiastic residents.  When we returned to the Piazza in Greve, the American vehicles entered first.  Then the British veterans marched in to the sound of bagpipes.  They were followed by the British vehicles, the Italian vehicles and the German motorcycles. Then, last but not least, the Italian Partisans, followed by the M4A1 Sherman and the Ford M8 Greyhound Armored Car, thundered into the Piazza from a narrow side street to the applause of the crowd.  We had another delicious catered lunch and more delicious wines to finish up the weekend.

This was an exciting event for the veterans, too.  We asked one of them if the countryside was much the same as he remembered it.  His reply was that he was "too busy trying to stay alive the last time he was here" and really didn't get to enjoy the scenery that time, but he sure did this time!

Again, we are very thankful for having had the opportunity to experience Italy, its culture, the food, the veterans and the very helpful and friendly members of the Italian vehicle club, all on the same ground where this part of history actually happened.  We were even made honorary members of the Associazione Veicoli Storici. 

We are grateful that we in America did not have the soldiers, the fighting and the dying happening right here on our soil, but by attending an event like this, seeing the thousands of American Graves in Florence and hearing the stories of the actual veterans who had fought right there, our hobby is brought into perspective.  We are not just a club that collects vehicles like so many other car clubs.  We are a club whose aim is to preserve the military vehicles as a part of history and to honor our veterans and the sacrifices they have made.

 

The United States Cemetery in Florence, Italy

 
       
       

 

United States Military Vehicles

Dodge Command Car Ford M8 Armored Car HMMWV M151
GMC CCKW 353 Ford M8 Armored Car Ford GPA White Half Track Willys SAS jeep
Navy Willys MB Willys MB Willys MB Jeep with Mickey Mouse Camouflage  

 

Foreign Military Vehicles

British Bren Gun Carrier Canadian - built Chevrolet C15 Fiat SPA Artillery Tractor
German Motorcycle 

   

 

 

 

Fiat 1101A British Fox Armored Car

German Motorcycle  Can you identify it?