| (23 april 2012) Matilda di Canossa descends from a wealthy feudal family who, in the eleventh century, reigns over the regions of Lombardy, Emilia, Romagna and Tuscany. Her father is murdered when she just turns 6, and her mother takes over power. The empire starts to fall apart, but when Matilda herself ascends the throne in 1076 at the age of 30, she regains control and reigns like an iron lady. Thanks to her unconditional support to the papacy, she receives a lot of support from Rome and so, the Grand Duchess manages to keep her empire together for 40 years, until her death. In 1645, Matilda's remnants are moved to the Vatican in Rome; she is the only Italian woman buried in the St. Peter's Basilica.
The story of this woman was the inspiration for the name GP “Countries of Canossa”. The organizers of the meeting each year schedule a trip across the former territories and along the castles of the Grand Duchess. They traditionally start in Reggio Emilia, the region where Matilda di Canossa resided. This year, the trip takes the cars towards Versilia, the coastal region on the Ligurian Sea, to stay overnight at Forte dei Marmi. The next day, the participants drive along the Cinque Terre to then pass through the mountains to Parma where they spend the second night. On the third and last day, the cars follow the Po River for a while to then head back to Reggio Emilia for the award ceremony.
Approximately 70 vehicles appear at the starting grid, all built between 1919 and 1975. The organizers carefully consider the technical features of the old-timers, and avoid agility tests for which such vehicles weren’t built. The participant knowing best how to handle the chronometer wins the contest. On not less than 70 occasions, times are recorded over short distances. This allows for a pleasant atmosphere where everyone can fully enjoy the beautiful landscapes and panoramas, even though the weather this year hasn’t always been fine. The participants are also well treated from a culinary point of view as each evening, Italian chefs prepare a great dinner.
Now that the Coppa Milano-San Remo is no longer organized, the “Countries of Canossa” is the first important meeting in Italy during springtime. The number of participants is still limited, but we’re convinced this event will quickly grow in popularity.
by Roeland Frère