“Piazza Italia” is a celebration of Italian food, wine and, most importantly, Italian cars, that has been held each Easter for the last nine years in the Sussex market town of Horsham. It culminates on Easter Monday in the display of cars in the historic town centre and a subsequent drive through the streets and a rally start line – much to the joy of spectators and drivers alike.
As in previous years, Alfa Romeos were strongly represented with upwards of forty cars on show in and around the main square (or should I say piazza). These ranged from a 1956 Giulietta Spider through to recent exotica in the form of two 4Cs and an 8C Competizione. Cars from the intervening years were on display with nicely turned out examples of 105 series coupes and spiders, Sprints, Suds, GTVs, and SZs, as well as more recent models. These were provided by the AROC Central Sussex Section as well as nearby sections, and Rusper Alfa. Special mention should go to Mark O’Reilly (Central Sussex) for his spectacular Sud and to the owner of a petrol blue 4C who, having picked it up for the first time three days earlier, made an impromptu appearance part-way through the morning and asked politely if he could participate. Who could refuse?
The event, which is the first of the calendar year for many local club members, had a fantastic atmosphere. This was down in part to the spring sunshine but also to the “open” format and generally considerate behaviour of spectators which despite the large crowds meant that most drivers were happy to leave their cars while catching up with friends or going off in search of Italian drinks and snacks. In this regard, we were amply provided for with a number of shops putting out special stands. While queues were sometimes long (particularly for the wood-fired pizza oven) the quality of the food on offer was very good. In addition to the Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Lancias, and Fiats that were also on display the town, there was also opera singing from the bandstand and, as a nice juxtaposition, a display of gladiatorial wrestling.
There was an improvement in organisation from last year with assembly at nearby Hillier’s garden centre working well and offering the opportunity for tea and coffee before the drive into town under police escort. Club members appreciated the central placement of Alfas alongside the Maseratis. Pretty though they may be, the absence this year of Aston Martins, Jaguars, and other non-Italian cars also gave weight to the adage that less is more.
Thanks go at this point to Horsham District Council for organising Piazza Italia (next year’s event is already being planned for 25-28th March) and to Roger Eke of AROC Central Sussex for doing a great job in co-ordinating our participation.