1929, on the shores of Lake Como: The tradition of the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este begins
90 years ago, automobile elegance was celebrated for the first time at one of the most exclusive venues on the shoreline of Lake Como, with the aim of holding a beauty contest. The precise date was 1 September 1929 when 80 vehicles competed for the “Coppa d’Oro di Villa d’Este” under the strict eyes of the Jurors. This was a trophy that was transformed into a instant legend.
During the 1920s, the Grand Hotel Villa d’Este had already been famous for many years as an idyllic paradise. The unsurpassed combination of style and luxury had established it as one of the preferred sanctuaries for the upper echelons of society from nearby towns and cities. The Grand Hotel was particularly popular with guests from Milan who travelled for just under an hour to relax here. The journey was by no means too arduous even from Turin.
This venue provided perfect surroundings for the most beautiful and impressive automobiles. Most of the exhibits were created in the surrounding region. The automobile industry had become established in Northern Italy, primarily located between Milan and Turin, and innumerable coachbuilders also set up business here. The one designed and built exquisite technology, the other penned and bodied breathtaking design. This congenial cooperation between two industries defined the benchmark for the entire world at the end of the 1920s.
A further logical step was the desire to award the most elegant design from among the exclusive breadth of automobiles available. In 1929, the first Concorso d’Eleganza already developed into an inspiring mix of genuine competition and a social and business come-together. Our function as chronicler means we are not going to miss the opportunity to name the imposing Isotta Fraschini Tipo 8A Faux Cabriolet, clothed by Italiana & Cesare Sala, as the first of a long series of winners of the “Coppa d’Oro di Villa d’Este”. This car wrote history with its achievement and in the years that followed, the Concorso d’Eleganza developed into an incomparable event that nobody of note wanted to miss – the big marques, the coachbuilders, the automobile owners – they all wanted to be there.
Designers were motivated by this excellent reputation to new, at times eccentric achievements, and sometimes also lines balanced in perfect equilibrium. Since 1949, the Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 SS styled in its coupé body from the famous Carrozzeria Touring in Milan is regarded as one of the most outstanding vehicles ever to take the podium as the winner of this competition. Its calm, subtly elegant lines combined with the most sophisticated technical details to lend it the status of an icon even today. It is an extraordinary honour for the car, like the event, to bear the soubriquet “Villa d’Este” in its name ever since.