Enzo Anselmo Giuseppe Maria Ferrari was born in Modena, presumably on Friday, 18 February 1898, at 3:00 a.m., at number 136 of Villa Santa Caterina. This town was rapidly expanding beyond the borders of the old walls and it was in one of these new built-up areas that stretched towards the countryside, called Villa Santa Caterina, that Enzo Ferrari was born. The newborn was baptised in the small church of Santa Caterina, not far from the house in which he was born, on the other side of the tracks, in the direction of the open countryside. His second name, Anselmo, which Ferrari would never use except in official documents, is in honour of his godfather, Anselmo Chiarli, a friend of his father and owner, together with his brothers, of a prestigious wine cellar. As for the names Joseph and Mary, it is a kind of practice then in use: that of giving the newborns, in order to protect them, and often automatically, without even consulting their father or mother, the names of Jesus Christ's parents. The registration of the birth, however, took place only six days later, on Thursday, February 24, 1898, at the hands of his midwife, Teresa Allegretti, since in the first days of life his health conditions were precarious. Or at least this is what is written by the Registrar, who, after ascertaining the truth of the birth, dispenses the declarant, i.e. the midwife, from presenting the child for health reasons. To justify the delay, it is presumed that the official date - Sunday, 20 February 1898 - was written in the official documents. However, her mother, Adalgisa Bisbini, would tell Enzo Ferrari that the reason was to be found in the presence of a heavy snowfall, which at that time, in the absence of cars or vehicles for cleaning the streets, could plausibly block the route. This story is perhaps made up due to a lack of will in wanting to tell about the state of health of the son. Also because the meteorological records do not show that in those days there was an actual snowfall. Indeed, the winter between 1897 and 1898 was one of the very few of the nineteenth century without snowfall. The weather report of 18th February of that year speaks of a minimum night temperature in Modena of -1.8 °C and a maximum of +10.8 °C. No mention of snowfall. Enzo Ferrari was born from the union between his father, Alfredo Ferrari, a carpenter born in Carpi, where his father had a small grocery store under the Portico del Grano that lapped the main square, owner of a workshop to which the family home is attached, and within which he builds bridges and canopies for the State Railways, and his mother Adalgisa Bisbini, a fervent Catholic. Born on July 15, 1859, Alfredo Ferrari had originally worked as an apprentice in a carpentry shop in his hometown.
He had moved to Modena after his wedding, when he had been hired at the Fonderia Rizzi. Here, thanks to his initiative, he had shortly been appointed technical director. With what little money he had managed to set aside, a few years before Enzo's birth, he had opened his own workshop. By the time Enzo was born, Alfredo Ferrari was a petty bourgeois, and next to the workshop he had built a modest house in which he lived with his family. Alfredo Ferrari dresses austere and gives himself two big moustaches, as fashion commands. Despite being completely absorbed in his work, he loves music, can play the cello, likes theatre and has a piano at home. He is a man of good culture who has received a modest but adequate education. He writes letters to suppliers, as well as acquaintances, in clear and secure handwriting. When he had bought the building, Alfredo and his wife had taken up residence in a couple of rooms in the front of the building. Here, through a window that overlooks the interior of the warehouse, Alfredo can control the work of his employees even while at home. After the birth of his first son, he had built his proper house, next to the workshop, but connected to it. In the workshop Alfredo does a bit of everything according to need: the director, the designer, the administrator, the accountant and the typist. This is where Enzo Ferrari learns the importance of order and diligently keeping track of everything. Enzo Ferrari's mother is Adalgisa Bisbini. She is a beautiful woman with long dark hair. Cordial and easygoing, she does not leave the men she meets indifferent. Nor do they leave her indifferent. Her family comes from Romagna, where his father had made a decent fortune as a farmer in the countryside around Forlì. Throughout her life, Adalgisa considered herself a woman from Romagna, but she was actually born in Marano sul Panaro, near Modena, on 3 June 1872. The workshop is a rustic shed of a hundred square metres, with a canopy of corrugated sheets and no floor. The house consists of four rooms on the mezzanine floor, while the ground floor is used as a cellar, woodshed, storage room for bicycles and for many things, starting with wooden shovels to clear the snow in winter if someone wanted to reach the provincial road. The lettering Officina Meccanica Alfredo Ferrari can be deciphered on the façade. Modena has about 50.000 inhabitants.
The environment within which Enzo Ferrari grows up is not the best, due to the frequent fights between his parents. If the father is the undisputed owner of the workshop, in the house it is the wife who commands. The age gap of twelve years between Alfredo and Adalgisa makes itself felt and often gives rise to quarrels inside and outside the house. Although they were not physically violent, most of the time their altercations were verbally fiery. The continuous quarrels, tension, swearing, cursing - by his own admission - will contribute heavily to shaping the personality of Enzo Ferrari, who can however find comfort in his older brother, Alfredo, known to all by the name of Dino, with whom he shares the room on the first floor of the house. The latter was born on 7 August 1896. Alfredo and Enzo share the same unheated room on the first floor of the house next to the workshop. The house, as mentioned, consists of four rooms on the ground floor and as many on the upper floor. The two bedrooms are upstairs, along with the kitchen and a small living room. On the lower floor there is Alfredo's small office, the cellar, the woodshed and a storage room. The only luxury that Alfredo has allowed himself - in addition to the piano - is the Verona red marble staircase that leads from the ground floor to the first floor. The memory of this pink marble staircase will remain forever imprinted in the memory of Enzo Ferrari, as will the hammerings of his father's workers who used to wake him up on those mornings when the brothers lingered in bed. The bitter cold of certain winters at the beginning of the century, which freezes the windows of their bedroom, is not experienced by the two brothers as a snare, but rather as an involuntary and welcome gym to practise writing their names on those surfaces made translucent by the frost. The hope is that those signatures may one day become coveted autographs. Enzo Ferrari is certainly not a difficult child, but he is not as disciplined and willing as his brother. The young man from Modena shows no interest in catechism classes that he is obliged to attend together with his brother in preparation for first communion and confirmation. Father Morandi, the old priest who teaches catechism to the boys of the neighbourhood in the parish of the church of Santa Caterina, a few hundred metres from Ferrari's house, is even annoyed by the total lack of attention on the part of Enzo Ferrari, who completes the preparation only thanks to the enormous pressure and patience of his mother, a devout Catholic.
It is only thanks to her that Enzo Ferrari receives, together with his brother, the sacraments of first communion and confirmation. The ceremony will take place on Palm Sunday in 1903, officiated by Monsignor Natale Bruni, Bishop of Modena, and later his father, Alfredo Ferrari, welcomes guests to the house for a small reception in which, in addition to relatives, some of the most prominent personalities of Modena also participate, including the athlete who would win Olympic gold in 1912 in Stockholm, and Alfonso Bussetti, a tenor who a few years later would even sing at the Metropolitan in New York. Anselmo Chiarli, who had christened him, had given him a silver watch, which Enzo would keep for a long time. The two brothers had confessed the day before. By his own admission, this would be his first and last confession. Sure to have nothing to fear, Enzo Ferrari had confessed to the priest all those weaknesses that, for a child for the first time in the face of the mysteries of religion, could be classified as sins. The punishment he received in exchange for the acquittal made him abandon any future intention of confessing again. On Sundays, accompanied by their parents, Enzo and Dino Ferrari go to church, very elegant in their sailor clothes, which was the fashion at that time. The godfather is for both of them Uncle Duilio, Adalgisa's brother. The aversion to study is not only related to religious matters, since even at school Enzo Ferrari simply waits for the end of the lessons, to go out and head to the driveway to the house flanked by a moat lined with poplars with his brother, where with a yardstick borrowed from the workshop he had planted two poles to indicate the start and finish, or in the Panaro gym, in the city centre, during the winter. The primary school that the two brothers reach on foot every morning is located in Via Camurri, about a kilometre from home. The director is a slender lady with white hair who does not miss the opportunity to scold Enzo Ferrari for his poor application to his studies. The teacher cannot understand how two brothers so close to each other can have such a different approach to school subjects. Sitting at the desk and bored, Enzo Ferrari waits for the sound of the bell announcing the end of the lessons. As soon as he leaves school and finds Dick, the huge Great Dane of the Ferraris waiting for him in the square in front of the school building, he regains its natural enthusiasm as if by magic.
Of the many sports activities practised by the Ferrari brothers, Enzo's favourite is athletics, a very popular discipline in Italy thanks to the holding of the first editions of the modern Olympic Games. Dino and Enzo Ferrari even have their own private athletics track, on which they invite their schoolmates to train. The track is nothing more than the driveway to the house, that hundred metres of clay flanked by a moat lined with poplars that lead from Via Camurri to Father Alfredo's workshop and the house that opens behind it. Using a meterstick borrowed from the workshop, the two brothers had measured the exact distance of a hundred metres. At the beginning and end of those hundred metres of driveway they had planted two poles to indicate start and finish. The dream of the two brothers is to equal the Olympic record of 10.8 seconds set at the London Games by a South African athlete named Walker. To measure the time to be compared with that of Walker, Dino and Enzo Ferrari use an old alarm clock from their mother who had only the second hand left. During the winter the two brothers attend the Panaro gym, in the city centre, comparable to a huge poorly lighted room that smells like must and where the air is saturated with dust. But there are poles, bars, parallels and, above all, skating. Twice a week, in addition to this, the two brothers also take fencing lessons. As always, Dino gets the best results. There is only one activity in which Enzo Ferrari succeeds better than everyone, better than Dino and the group of friends, consisting of Peppino, the grocer's son, Enzo, the janitor's son, Luciano, the top of the class, Carlo, the barber's son and then Giulio and Mario. Among all the schoolmates and playmates, there is no one who beat Enzo at the shooting gallery. After much insistence, the young man had managed to convince his father to buy him a compressed air rifle, a Flobert, with which he shoots plaster pipes to practise. Actually, the real fun for the two brothers is to hunt with that rifle the mice that infest the ditch that flows along the path leading to the house. Given his son's great interest in the rifle, his father will devise a system of remuneration according to which, if Enzo gets good grades at school, he would have obtained a proportionate number of cartridges to be fired. Nevertheless, Enzo's grades at school will not improve. It will in fact be thanks to the complicity of Toni, a fourteen-year-old boy hired as an apprentice forger, but who in reality has been entrusted with responsibilities including the supervision of his two sons, that Enzo Ferrari will be able to recover the cartridges with which to shoot pipes and mice.
Among Enzo Ferrari's interests, therefore, there is a lot of sport, a passion for shooting, a love of cycling, an interest in travelling pigeons and music. Or rather, theatre. Despite his father having played the cello in his youth and the presence of the piano at home, neither son will ever learn to play an instrument. But they both go to the theatre, usually on Saturday nights, with their father and mother. Enzo's passion is operetta, performed at the Teatro Storchi, just outside Porta Bologna, with acts such as The Merry Widow, Geisha, Eva, The Dollar Princess. In his heart he aspires to become a tenor. More than music, which he also likes, the young man is attracted to the extravagant and fatuous world of the stage, the singers and the actresses. In fact, it is the soubrettes that constitute, with the catchy music, the reasons for his predilection for the operetta. Lack of voice and hearing will prevent his dream from coming true. In January 1905, as Enzo Ferrari prepares to celebrate his seventh birthday, newspapers all over Italy publish sensational news. Margherita of Savoy, the mother of King Victor Emmanuel III, is crossing the Italian peninsula in a car. The Queen began her journey in Rome and, three days later, approaches Turin, the first capital of the Kingdom of Italy and the new capital of the newborn Italian automotive industry. Journalists who follow her write that the Queen chose the car, rather than the train, to try to go unnoticed, and for the freedom to stop wherever she wanted, or to change itineraries at the last minute. Alfredo Ferrari himself has owned a car since 1903, a single-cylinder produced by the French manufacturer De Dion-Bouton, in a country where no more than 2.000 cars circulate. Alfredo Ferrari's De Dion-Bouton is the 28th car registered in the Province of Modena. The first car had been sighted in the city in September 1895. On September 24, an automatic Benz carriage had entered the city from Milan, from where it had left the previous day. Four people from Modena had the privilege of enjoying their first trip by car, a short trip to nearby Rubiera. Their journey had lasted only twenty-eight minutes, but the echo of that journey had filled the conversations of the city's salons throughout the fall and the following winter. After that first trip, the passage of every single car through the streets of Modena had been scrupulously noted on the pages of the city newspaper. Modena was beginning to discover the automobile.
Therefore, in 1900, Luigi Solmi, owner of a shop on the corner of Sant'Agostino and Marescotti streets, in which he built and sold bicycles, became the first to foresee that cars would soon also need maintenance, and together with his brother Massimo, he converted the cycle shop into a workshop for the repair of cars, in which he also began to sell tyres. However, the birth of the first real workshop, the Gatti garage, will be in 1906, in a two-storey Art Nouveau building on Via Emilia, just outside Porta Bologna. At the same time as the development of the use of the car, Enzo Ferrari at first remains indifferent to this novelty. But when, on Sunday, 6 September 1908, the young man from Modena attended a car race for the first time, he was ecstatic. Enzo Ferrari attends the Coppa Florio, a race held on dirt roads connected to Via Emilia, a relevant race in the motoring scene in the early twentieth century, which however has nothing to do with the most famous and demanding Targa Florio, which has been held in Sicily for a couple of years. At a time when racetracks almost do not exist, and races are held along dirt roads, with finishes recorded in kilometres travelled, in view of the dust-covered cars, driven by Felice Nazzaro and Vincenzo Lancia, Enzo Ferrari begins to dream of being able to become a car driver himself. It is curious, in this regard, to note the safety measure adopted by the race organisers, who water the fields on the sides of the circuit since they believe that the mud can stop the out-of-control cars, before they reach the spectators who are probably at a distance of fifty metres. The winner of the Coppa Florio is Felice Nazzaro, at an average speed of almost 120 km/h, after completing the 530 kilometres of the race in eight hours, but the fastest lap is marked by Vincenzo Lancia, who recently founded the company of the same name in Turin. A year later, on the morning of Wednesday, June 9, 1909, in the company of his brother Dino, Enzo Ferrari crosses the railway tracks alongside his house, and travels through the fields the distance that separates him from the Navicello straight, on the road that leads to the nearby town of Nonantola, despite the gloomy weather conditioned by rain. On the straight line that is just over one and a half kilometres long, the Modenese Automobile Association organised the Mile Record, in which thirty members participated. The race, although it does not attract the attention of the best drivers, is still very much felt in Modena, to the point that on Friday 7 June 1909 specialised workers had come from Milan to lay the asphalt on that stretch of straight line on which the race would have been held, in a city that until now enjoys only dirt roads, while the workers of the Municipality mount a wooden board on which, during the race, the times obtained by the various competitors will be displayed.
Throughout the week, the citizens of Modena had gone to the headquarters of the AMA and to the shops of Stanguellini and Palmieri to buy tickets for the race. On Saturday, June 8, 1909, the entire city of Modena stops to attend the technical checks of the cars, which take place inside the Corni workshop in the Sacca district, just outside Porta Emanuele, while the headquarters of the Modenese Automobile Association display the prizes that will be awarded to the winners, including a gold medal that the King had sent from Rome, as had also the Minister of War of the Kingdom of Italy. Various Modena sports associations and the chamber of commerce had all put other plaques and cups up for grabs. On Sunday, despite the inclement weather in the early hours of the morning, thousands of people from Modena - also using means of transport at the modest cost of one lira made available by the Municipality and the organisers - reach the place where the race would have been held, which at 1:00 p.m. is closed to normal traffic. Just before the start of the race, in an attempt to eliminate the dust lying on the road surface, the organisers decided to wet the bottom with buckets and barrels. Da Zara will be the fastest, travelling the distance of a mile in just forty-one seconds, at an average speed of 140 km/h. This experience makes cars extremely popular in Modena, so much so that in the city, during the winter of 1909, people walk on Saturdays and Sundays under the Portici del Collegio wearing sports clothes, although few actually use the car to reach the centre. Given the enormous success, the following year the second Record del Miglio enjoyed the participation of Felice Nazzaro and Vincenzo Lancia, as well as the participation of various special envoys from almost all the newspapers in Italy. However, what should have been the beginning of a beautiful story actually becomes the end of the experience of the Mile Record in Modena, since during the race an accident involves two cars, two drivers and as many mechanics, leading to the early closure of an event that had made a quick breakthrough, although no one is really injured; in fact, the two mechanics and one of the two drivers, Ferruccio Cercignani, only suffered some slight bruising. The next day, the newspapers throughout Italy commented on the dangerous situation rather than gave space to the story of the winner of the race, Felice Nazzaro.
The following year, in Modena, a regularity race will be organised consisting of five stages, all starting and finishing in the city, the first of which is scheduled for Sunday, 23 April 1911, and the final one on Saturday, 29 April 1911. A race to which, in all probability, the young Enzo Ferrari is once again a spectator, given that the cars start at 7:00 am from the park on the side in Barriera Garibaldi, a few hundred metres from home. If the passion for car racing slowly begins to break into the heart of Enzo Ferrari, school brutally brings him back to reality. Only the old socialist janitor, often in open contrast with the teachings of the Catholic Church, seems to be able to make the long days at the school desks less monotonous, especially when the man launches himself into one of his frequent incendiary attacks that spare nothing or no one. Parents will not miss the opportunity to remind their child of the importance of studies. His father constantly urges him to obtain that degree that had been precluded from him. The father would like to see his son become an engineer, but for Enzo Ferrari mathematics is one of the most difficult subjects. The boy has only a superficial interest in geography, but loves history and the Italian language. Enzo Ferrari likes to write: if there is one thing that he really likes to do at school, it is to leave the imagination to written compositions, which he does with enough ease.
And so he invents a distraction that, little by little, will lead him to think that one day he can try a career as a journalist. In 1914, the year in which the Great War broke out in Europe, after school, Enzo Ferrari - who in the meantime enrolled in the Technical Institute - began to spend part of his free time in the editorial staff of the Province of Modena, the conservative-inspired newspaper of the county seat. In the city, the echo of the direction of the Italian naturalised Swiss novelist Luciano Zuccoli, who had directed the newspaper at the end of the nineteenth century, has not yet died out. This dual role of journalist and writer manages to involve Enzo Ferrari, who in a short time will find himself confessing to himself that one day the role as editor of the city newspaper would be his. In this last year of peace, Enzo Ferrari divides his time between the editorial staff of the newspaper, where he looks with increasing interest at the professionals of the world of journalism, and the city, where he travels in search of news and to do whatever task is requested. He is a modest errand boy and it is difficult to say whether, beyond having sought news for the director or for other editors, he will ever write an article for the Province. What is certain is that he will never be allowed to sign any kind of article. A thing that will happen instead with La Gazzetta dello Sport, a newspaper for which, in November 1914, the young aspiring journalist will even sign three articles. On Monday, November 2, 1914, he wrote his name for the first time under one of his articles. The day before, Audax, one of the two football teams from Modena, had been defeated by four goals to one by A.C. Milanese. Enzo Ferrari writes:
"The match was very faded. The victory was undoubtedly to the best: however, we believe that they could not have been so easily as such without an own goal scored by Vaccari, and without a point awarded by the referee Brivio, while Costa of A.C. was in a very evident position of offside".
Nor does the referee's work escape his judgement, a note with which Enzo Ferrari closes the brief correspondence of just over a hundred words:
"Very low audience. Brivio's refereeing was much discussed. The first goal was scored by Costa, for the Milanese. Immediately after, Vaccari, of Audax, draws. In the second half, the Milanese tightened their action around the Modena network, and managed to score three points thanks to Costa again and twice thanks to Roghi".
Two weeks later, Enzo Ferrari saw Modena play, losing 7-1 to Internazionale di Milano, the team he supported. The correspondence will appear in the Gazzetta dello Sport of Monday, 16 November 1914.
"The certainty of the defeat and the lack of some excellent elements have recommended to the managers of Modena a new formation, strange and incomprehensible; suffice it to say that the good Roberts played today forwards centre and that to replace him as a support centre was called none other than the former captain of the boys, Molinari. The two spots as wingers were occupied by a reserve and a player now forgotten and rusty. The Milanese, excellent in terms of technique and determination, seemed unsafe in the third line".
Monday, 23 November 1914, Enzo Ferrari returns to attend an Audax match. And for the third time he finds himself having to write about a home team defeat. This time, Audax lost 4-2 to Juventus Italy.
"Although today the strongest team won, we must recognize that without the adversity of luck, Audax would have behaved better. It was in fact an unfortunate corner that the referee was forced to concede what brought Juventus the first goal. The lively protests were followed by a moment of humiliation on behalf of the people of Modena and which, promptly exploited by Juventus, caused the second point in favour of the Turin team after just one minute. It was only later that the incitements of the public shook the Bianconeri and the game was very lively again. The second half saw Audax in significant dominance, and at the whistle of the referee they were all attacking, under Fontana's goal where they saw a new excellent opportunity to score frustrated".
These are the only three articles published by the Gazzetta dello Sport signed by Enzo Ferrari. Before November 1914, another journalist had signed football correspondence from Modena. The same journalist would have returned to sign them from December. Until, at the beginning of 1916, another signature debuted. In this interval of fourteen months, short correspondence not signed by Modena appears several times but the name of Enzo Ferrari no longer appears. The young aspiring journalist, meanwhile, shifts a part of his interests to something less abstract and more tangible: girls. Like all his peers, sixteen-year-old Enzo Ferrari falls in love. The object of his desires is a fourteen-year-old girl that Enzo Ferrari meets every day. But despite her best efforts, the girl does not reciprocate her interest. He walks past her and she looks the other way. It will end as it was bound to be: the two will never talk to each other. After finishing his studies in 1915, after reaching third class despite a rejection, thanks to his father's experience in the workshop, the 17-year-old found a job as a municipal employee at the Turners School of the Modena firefighters' workshop, as an instructor. The young man from Modena teaches members of the elderly classes, who are entitled, if employed in the auxiliary workshops, to exemption from military service. The course lasts three months. After this period, they were all sent to the bullet factory in Modena, one of the many Italian companies converted to war production. No small detail: training war recruits allows him to be exempted from the draft.
Meanwhile, although journalism and girls have become two cornerstones of his existence, there is another that resists and that, in the absence of races close to home, Enzo Ferrari cultivates through reading sports newspapers and magazines: car racing. On a sultry night infested by mosquitoes in the summer of 1915, at the Modena toll barrier, not far from home, accompanied by the dim light of gas streetlights, for the first time Enzo Ferrari confesses to his friend Peppino that he would have liked to be a driver, pointing at a photograph of Ralph DePalma, the Italian-American driver, in shirt sleeves and tie, at the wheel of a racing car, who had just won the Indy 500. The number of the magazine that Enzo Ferrari holds in his hand is number 26 of 1915, published on Sunday, 27 June. Now that the football championship is also over, the honours of the limelight are turned to motoring. The newspaper is open on page 9 (actually at the entry of Italy into the Great War, the previous month, the magazine had changed its name to L’Illustrazione della Guerra and La Stampa Sportiva, in which the first eight pages devote ample and enthusiastic space to Italian preparations for a conflict that is seen as a real fourth war for the independence of the country). About halfway through the page, the smallest of three photographs portrays Ralph DePalma, a driver virtually unknown to Italian sportsmen, but who the magazine indicates as the winner of the last edition of the Indy 500, the great American race.
"The Indianapolis automobile race has been going on continuously since 1911. The year in which Harraun, with a Marman machine, covered the distance of 500 miles (804.660 kilometres) in 6 h 42 min 08.0 seconds. The record was significantly lowered last year by Thomas on Delage, who covered the same distance in a time of 6 h 3 min 45.0 seconds. It was generally believed that higher speed - given the development and radius of the track - was technically impossible. But the audacity, the cold blood, the well-known and already thousand times exalted skill of some of our compatriots made the old record sink, reaching an average speed that critics now say is unbeatable".
After reading the paragraph, Enzo Ferrari exclaims:
"I'll be a driver".
Showing Peppino the photograph of the Italian-American driver, in shirt sleeves and tie, at the wheel of a racing car.
"Good for you. If you can do it, it must be a nice job".
It is, however, the summer of 1915. Italy entered the war on May 24, 1915, seven days before the Indy 500 won by Ralph DePalma. There is a genuine nationalistic passion in the country. Risorgimento rhetoric pervades the entire peninsula and no one realises that the new century is bringing another type of war, where soon heroism would not be identified with the conquest of a peak or the liberation of a region, but with the stoic endurance of a condition of hardship and deprivation in the long and exhausting war of position. The euphoria of entering the war naturally infects Modena as well, and activity within the Military Academy rapidly increases. In Italy there were about 50.000 officers. But to face the war, at least another 160.000 are needed, so the Military Academy becomes a real forge of officers. Although far from the front, Modena thus becomes one of the cities of Italy in which war - the beauty and glory of war, in the features of young aspiring heroes dressed in elegant uniforms walking through the streets of the centre under the admired gaze of the girls - is more felt. If Enzo does not seem particularly attracted to the possibility of winning glory on a battlefield, the same cannot be said of his brother. At home, arguments soon ignite between Dino and his father, with his mother acting as a peacemaker in an attempt to dissuade his son with reasoning instead of quarrelling. Dino will win the argument, who is allowed to leave voluntarily. Thanks to the family Diatto - a three-litre four-cylinder, the third car purchased by his father - which he carries with him and which is transformed into a self-ambulance, Dino is assigned to the Red Cross Corps, reaches the front and begins to shuttle between the front line and the hospitals in the rear.
The new year will not only confirm that the war will not be short-lived, as many had believed in the spring of 1915, but it will also bring a family tragedy. A couple of evenings before the end of the year, exactly on Thursday 30 December 1915, Alfredo Ferrari lies on the bed, feverish, with a normal bronchitis that will soon turn into a violent pneumonia. On Sunday, January 2, 1916, at the age of 57, Alfredo Ferrari died. A little more than a month after his eighteenth birthday, Enzo Ferrari was unprepared for the death of his father. War and the front are distant. In the family, the apprehension, which everyone naturally feels, is directed at Dino, far away, to shuttle with his red Diatto between the trenches and the military hospitals behind the friendly lines. No one in Ferrari's house thought death could strike inside their home. The sudden loss of his father represents the first great pain of Enzo Ferrari's life. The first of many. In fact, as if that were not enough, on Saturday, December 16, 1915, Enzo's life was shaken by a second tragedy. In Sondalo, in the province of Sondrio, his brother Dino dies. After a year of war he had contracted a pleurisy that, in the precarious conditions in which soldiers engaged in war operations live, quickly led to his death at the age of twenty. The sudden disappearance of his father had also jeopardised the well-being of the Ferrari family, which certainly could not count on Enzo's instructor salary.
The two lathes of the father's workshop had been required by the army to be reused in war production. The Alfredo Ferrari Mechanical Workshop, where as many as thirty people had come to work, is now just an empty and silent parallelepiped. The mother had hoped that, at the end of the war and with the return of her eldest son from the front, the two sons would be able to buy back and restart the machinery in their father's workshop. Now, on the other hand, Adalgisa has been left alone with her youngest son who, for the moment and thanks to his role as an instructor at the Turners School of the firefighters' workshop, has at least managed to avoid the call to arms. The only satisfaction experienced by Enzo Ferrari at this sad moment dates back to July 1916, when he obtained the much coveted driver's licence number 1363, with which on Thursday, 19 July 1917, he decided to travel the Sestola-Pavullo stretch of road in the shortest possible time with a Caesar that his father had purchased after Dino had left the military with the Diatto. At the finish line, he is surrounded by a small crowd of welcoming and curious people, and a photographer takes a picture of the young man, dressed in a refined and elegant way. On the back of the photograph, Enzo Ferrari will write a few days later:
"Sestola-Pavullo, after the Raid".
Adding length and features of the route:
"26 kilometres and 475 metres with slopes up to 12 percent".
And the time:
"36 minutes and 12 seconds".
1917 continues with the long war of position that seems to have no end: during the night of Wednesday, October 24, 1917, the Austrians broke the front at Caporetto. Shortly after, the Boselli government falls in Rome and the Orlando government takes its place, and the general mobilisation takes on unprecedented levels. To try to contain the Austrian advance, the government is considering the possibility of anticipating the call to arms of young people born in 1900 and those who, for one reason or another, have not been enlisted in the previous three years. Among these, also Enzo Ferrari is sent to the Third Alpine Artillery Regiment, based in Val Brembana, above Bergamo, distant from Caporetto, Isonzo and Piave, and is entrusted with the task of saddling the mules, at least avoiding experiencing the bad conditions in which soldiers live in the trenches. Despite this, after a few months Enzo Ferrari also falls ill with pleurisy. Given the recent experiences lived in the family, the young man managed to be admitted to the hospital in Brescia and later, thanks to the interest of his mother who is not willing to lose her only remaining child, he was moved to the one in Bologna, near his home. Here the experience is terrible, because at night Enzo Ferrari hears strange noises, similar to hammers, which in time will be discovered to come from the workers intent on closing the coffins containing the corpses of the young people who fell in the war. It will take two operations and a long hospital stay before he heals and returns to Modena. As the war finally comes to an end on Monday, November 4, 1918, Enzo Ferrari recovers his health. With the war finally over, the car finds an entire generation of enthusiasts. The new rich, those who have profited from the war, look to the new medium as the extreme status symbol. Young people see it as a symbol of modernity. There are at least 100.000 men in Italy who have driven cars, trucks, buses, ambulances in war operations: drivers, mechanics, technicians who stop wearing the uniform with a deep disgust for the atrocities of war, but also with a sincere interest in cars. Now they are all looking for an occupation that, in peacetime, can allow them to stay in the automobile field. The most daring begin to imagine themselves as racing drivers. Enzo Ferrari is one of them. After the war and fully recovering, in the autumn of 1918 Enzo Ferrari was eager to turn his life around.
His father and brother are gone. Even the family business is over. All he has left is a possessive mother who sends him away from Modena, getting him an interview in Turin with Diego Soria, the commercial director of Fiat. Before the outbreak of the war, the Turin-based car maker already employed 4.000 people. At the end of the conflict, its workforce quadrupled. With any luck, there would have been room for the young Modenese too. In order not to make him a driver (the son would have liked to sell everything to buy a pre-war racing car), the mother tries to get her son into the world of cars, hoping that he can settle for a quiet office job. Enzo Ferrari willingly accepts his mother's intervention, but gets on the train to Turin hoping in his heart to get a place as a tester. He would have a licence, knowledge of mechanics and a passion for cars out of the ordinary. It is November 1918, the war has been over for a few weeks. Enzo Ferrari was received by Diego Soria at the offices of Corso Dante in Turin. He shows up to the interview full of hope. Soria is one of the executives of the Turin company. His office has mahogany furniture and green velvet curtains. It is an environment that arouses admiration and fear in a twenty-year-old boy. The Fiat executive has grizzled red hair cut short. The meeting, however cordial, does not produce any positive results. Soria listens to him, but very kindly puts him in front of reality: Fiat cannot offer a job to all war veterans. Carlo Salamano is preferred to him, who shortly after will actually become one of the drivers of the Turin team, completing the path that Enzo Ferrari had correctly identified. Soria's inability to find him a job makes it even more difficult for the young man from Modena, who has no intention of returning to Modena. After leaving Fiat, Enzo Ferrari has to face a very cold ambient temperature, to the point that his clothes freeze on him. Walking in the park of Valentino's castle, on the banks of the Po, the young man removes the snow from a bench with one hand, sits down and cries. But he decides to stay in Turin. Although at the moment this may be of little interest to him, the day before Christmas the government abolishes the ban on private cars which, launched on 9 September 1917, had remained in force ever since. This is certainly good news for all those hoping to find a job in the automotive world. Turin is likely to see an increase in job offers from now on, perhaps not directly at Fiat, but at the dozens of companies that worked around or in competition with it.
It is no coincidence that already in the first days of January 1919 Enzo Ferrari found work in a truck workshop in Via Ormea. Here, a man named Giovannoni, a friend of Enzo Ferrari's father who recently arrived in Turin from Bologna, transforms wartime light trucks into chassis that the capable hands of the first car body designers transform into elegant cars. Giovannoni's turnover is good: due to the war there are no new cars on the market and anyone who wants to buy a car must settle for the transformed chassis. Enzo Ferrari is hired with the task of verifying the tuning of the chassis and delivering them personally to the Carrozzeria Italo-Argentina in Milan, where they are coached. After the disappointments and deprivations of the first two months in Turin, the modest salary that Giovannoni assures him gives Ferrari the opportunity to eat, although nights when he is forced to go to bed without having eaten are not uncommon. Although the workshop in Via Ormea is certainly not comparable to the environment and the stimuli it would certainly have had at Fiat, from Giovannoni, Enzo Ferrari was not in a bad place. From the beginning, he understands that the role of the employee is all in all not tiring. And although the cold, the little knowledge, the modest salary sometimes cause physical and moral discomfort, Enzo Ferrari faces everything with enthusiasm as he feels he is doing the job he has always wanted. Enzo Ferrari's days are now spent between Turin and Milan. Because of the Spanish flu, the terrible influence that in those months of winter 1919 claims hundreds of lives a day, bars and cafes throughout Italy are almost deserted. In Turin, the Burrello and Allaria cafes, stormed by sportsmen and motorists before the war, are empty. Only the Bar del Nord, near the Porta Nuova train station, is lively. This is a small cafe, a stone's throw from the Hotel Bologna, where every night, coming out of the factories, testers, racers and aviation motorists come. Since he discovered its existence, Enzo Ferrari begins to frequent it assiduously. And it is here that he even finds a Modenese who had been with Bordino, who is called Romolo Bonacini and, together with him and other customers, makes bets on who goes to Moncenisio in the shortest time, or on who is fastest on the Superga uphill road. And when they don't discuss cars, they talk about cycling. In the company of pre-war car drivers and aviators who had fought in the First World War, Enzo Ferrari is definitely at ease, and even manages to forget for a few hours the difficulties that his life still gave him on a daily basis.
It is here that the young Modenese even has the opportunity to meet Felice Nazzaro and his brother Biagio. Subsequently, thanks to the intervention of Bonacini, Ferrari found a decent accommodation at the Hotel Bologna, right in front of the station. A modest but clean room on the mezzanine floor, right next to the laundry room. In the same hotel is the 75-year-old Giovanni Giolitti, four times Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Italy, whom Enzo Ferrari meets almost daily. Afternoons and evenings at the Bar del Nord fascinate him and repay him in part for the many deprivations. Competent and passionate as he is, in short, his opinion ends up being among those who count in the discussions. A single episode risks cracking his morale. This happens when he is summoned to the Police Station and subjected to an interrogation. Enzo Ferrari did nothing wrong, but a man named Aleardo, a Parmesan who is like him in Turin, had summoned his testimony as an alibi. Aleardo had been accused of murder and had defended himself by saying that at the time of the crime he was having dinner with some people including, in fact, a Modenese man who works in the city and who goes by the name of Enzo Ferrari. The young man from Modena is summoned to the offices of the Police Headquarters and subjected to a flurry of questions. Enzo Ferrari says that he does not remember but adds that, if they allow him to return to the hotel and find some cards, he may be able to reconstruct his movements. After returning to the hotel, Ferrari will be able to confirm that on the evening in question he was in a restaurant on Corso Moncalieri, where he had stayed until midnight. In the group there was actually also poor Aleardo, who was then able to prove, thanks to Ferrari's testimony, that he was a stranger to the episode he had been accused of. The story arouses a strong impression in Enzo Ferrari, who with this circumstance understands the importance that his father rightly gave to daily annotations. So, from this moment on, he begins to record every move, meeting, gathering and activity on an agenda. And the habit of keeping a kind of daily journal, in which he will really record everything, will keep him company forever. During his frequent trips to Milan to deliver Giovannoni's chassis to the Carrozzeria Italo-Argentina, Enzo began to stop at another café, the Bar Vittorio Emanuele. Here the clientele consists mostly of athletes and sportsmen from Milan. Some of them were car drivers before the war.
One day Enzo meets a former cyclist from Salerno, named Ugo Sivocci and whose brother Alfredo is still a professional cyclist. Having gone from two to four wheels, Ugo had acquired a modest reputation by placing sixth in the 1913 Targa Florio, won by Felice Nazzaro. Ugo Sivocci now works at CMN - Costruzioni Meccaniche Nazionali - a small automotive company established recently. Immediately after the war, CMN had incorporated the Milanese plants of De Vecchi, the brand for which Sivocci had raced in the Targa Florio. Conquered by Enzo Ferrari's infectious enthusiasm for cars, Ugo Sivocci talks about him to the head of CMN, a young engineer named Piero Combi. Sivocci organises an interview between the two, at the end of which Enzo Ferrari is offered a job. Shortly before Easter 1919, Enzo Ferrari moved from Turin to Milan. The pay is good, almost 400 lire per month, twice what a normal mechanic receives. The social situation that Enzo Ferrari finds in Milan does not differ much from the one he left in Turin. Widespread poverty dangerously leads to a great disillusionment with politics. In Italy, incidents of violence in the streets are a common occurrence. But there's also a deep excitement in the air about everything to do with the car. At night, Sempione Park is stormed by young aspiring drivers eager to experience the intoxication of speed. Shortly after his arrival in Milan, Enzo Ferrari rents from a widow a room on the third floor of a building at number 1 of Corso Vittorio Emanuele, right next to the Bar Vittorio Emanuele, where he now spends most of his free time. At the bar he meets Marco Garelli, a motorcycle rider who convinced him to assist him in the first edition of the North-South Raid, a race that starts from Milan and ends in Naples. Ugo Sivocci joins them and leaves for Naples as the third element of the formation. Enzo Ferrari and Ugo Sivocci join as Garelli's motorcycle refuelers, but they also make themselves useful beyond the tasks assigned on the eve: in Capua, not far from the finish line, after an accident, they change the wheel of Garelli's bike, allowing him to finish the race. In the early days of June 1919, at the Bar Vittorio Emanuele, spirits suddenly flare up, when news arrives of the triumph of Peugeot in the first edition of the Indy 500 held after the end of the war. To the disappointment of the sportsmen who attend the bar, in Italy there still do not seem to be signs of the resumption of motor racing. The same goes for the rest of Europe devastated by the Great War.
Then, one summer day, comes the news that everyone is waiting for. Denmark is hosting the first race in Europe since the end of the war. The race will be held on Sunday, August 24, 1919, on the small island of Fanoe. No newspaper or magazine reports the news, which is delivered to the fans of the Vittorio Emanuele Bar directly from Ferdinando Minoia, himself one of the regulars of the bar and the only Italian driver invited to the event. With the exception of Enzo Ferrari, everyone at the bar knows Minoia, who will win the race behind the wheel of his 130 HP Fiat. In the excitement that follows Minoia's victory, Enzo Ferrari buys his first race car from CMN, thanks to a large discount. As a guarantee, the young Modenese commits his salary for the following months. The CMN model purchased is the Type 15/20, with a four-cylinder engine of 2300 cc, a power of 36 HP and a speed of 80 km/h. The month of September 1919 finally brings the news that Enzo Ferrari and the rest of the company have been waiting for some time. The first post-war Italian race is scheduled for Sunday, October 5, 1919. It is the Parma-Poggio di Berceto, an uphill race. All Italian car manufacturers, professional and aspiring drivers, including Enzo Ferrari, receive a letter a few days later in which the secretary of the organising committee explains the event. Due to a ban imposed during the war and not yet lifted, manufacturers are not actually allowed to participate directly in motor racing. But the ban does not apply to drivers, who can circumvent it by personally registering for the race. The press pompously describes the race as Italy's automotive renaissance. The organisers receive a total of 38 entries, including that of Enzo Ferrari. Strangely, given that the Modenese is at his first absolute experience, in presenting the race, La Gazzetta dello Sport speaks of Enzo Ferrari as one of the favourites to win. Along with most of the other drivers, Enzo Ferrari goes to Parma a couple of weeks before the race.
Cars and drivers are the same as before the war. The austere Ferdinando Minoia tries two different Fiat models. Guido Meregalli introduces himself with a Nazzaro. At the wheel of his Alfa Romeo, Giuseppe Campari completes the entire distance of the race several times. But the real favourite to win is Antonio Ascari, who tries his hand at driving a pre-war Fiat Grand Prix. During the day of Saturday, October 4, 1919, the drivers try the route in torrential rain. On Sunday morning the rain ceases to fall, but the air is cold and a thick fog blanket closes the horizon. Despite the weather and the temperature, thousands of spectators line up from the early hours of the day on the long climb from Parma to Poggio di Berceto. The prolonged absence of competition due to the war has made them impatient to see their idols in action. Some enthusiasts travel hundreds of kilometres to reach the race track, along which half a thousand cars are neatly parked over the side of the road. At 8:30 a.m. the first driver, Carlo Alberto Conelli on Aquila, starts. At this moment, the rain begins to fall again on the second stretch of the route, from Fornovo to the finish line. Enzo Ferrari starts at 10:55 a.m. His CMN has the number 29 painted on the radiator. At his side sits the mechanic Nino Berretta, a stranger who volunteered, since for the purposes of the regulations, each car must have two people on board. Enzo is ranked fifth in his class, twelfth overall. But following the disqualification of a competitor who precedes him, he climbs one position both in the class ranking and in the absolute ranking. The winner is of course Antonio Ascari, on board the Fiat Grand Prix. Thus begins Enzo Ferrari's story as a race car driver.