The Autodromo Nazionale Monza is no doubt one of the great motor racing circuits. It has everything; history, speed and nostalgia. Whereas new circuits have corner numbers, Monza has the great tradition of names. You hear Curva Grande, Lesmo and Parabolica and straight away you know what track people are talking about.
So as a race fan is Monza easy to get to? Then when there what is it like? Here is a race fan’s guide to experiencing Monza.
Monza is just outside Milan, a massive Italian city of over three million people and history that dates back to the ancient times. Malpensa Airport is a major hub in Europe, so flying in is no problem. Like most places in Europe, forget about a rental car and use the train. An express service directly from the airport will put you in the hub of the historical and cultural part of Milan. This is the best place to find a hotel with shopping, restaurants and sightseeing all within walking distance.
To get out to Monza, take another express from the main train station at Milano P. Garibaldi. Monza is just three stops away and only costs around $5. From the Monza train station you catch a bus straight to the Royal Villa of Monza Park. The sprawling parkland is much like Centennial Park in Sydney or Royal Park in Melbourne, but with a motor racing circuit in the middle of the park.
Of course, the biggest race weekend of the year is the Italian Grand Prix. However, that event is all ticketed with reserved seating. If you want to experience the circuit and its confines go to a major GT event such as the Blancpain Endurance Series. At that event you pay the equivalent of $15 to get in and can go just about anywhere.
The track itself is long, but mostly narrow between sections. This means you can walk directly across from the inside of the first chicane at the Variante del Rettifilo to the entry of the back straight and the Variante Ascari within a couple of minutes.
The circuit has numerous grandstands meaning viewing is excellent. All the internal roads and walkways are well signposted, allowing for easy navigation through the sections that are heavily wooded. The pick of the spots is the Variante della Roggia chicane, where you see cars sling-shot out of the Curva Grande and scream towards you, before braking heavily and then charge up to the Lesmo bends.
A must-see is the banking, which is easily viewed while walking through the middle area behind the Roggia and Lesmo bends. Trying to walk up the banking is not as easy as it looks and there is the section where the current circuit crosses underneath. One of the more fascinating things about the banking is that two-thirds of it is buried into the earth from the backside. The section above is used for storage.
The circuit is littered with historical markers and buildings. On the inside of the track just past the second Lesmo is a villa. There is also a small access road which cuts the circuit in half for club events.
As the track is inside a park many people bring their own bicycles, picnics and even the family dog on a lead. People will be relaxing, eating and playing with their children while just metres away race cars will be screaming past at well over 250km/h!
At the back of the pit/paddock is a building with cafes and souvenir shops, all very popular on race day.
If you visit Monza, make sure you leave yourself at least a couple of days to explore Milan. The city, especially to an Australian, has many fascinating sights. The must see is the Duomo Cathedral, the largest Gothic structure in the world. It sits in the hub of Milan with fantastic architecture surrounding it. Thousands of people visit each day, and you can even walk on the roof. Then there is the food which is both delicious and plentiful.
It somehow seems appropriate that one of the most historical race circuits should be part of one of the oldest cities in Europe. The mixture is a perfect combination for any motorsport fan.