Dear Mariella… It Is Very Hard To Say Goodbye

Images: Gautam Sen

Dear Mariella,
I remember so well when I met you for the first time… in China, at Beijing, during the second edition of the Great Wall Rally and the Yangqi Concours d’Elegance that followed, in 2018. I had arrived a day after you and your colleague Lorenza Maccio had already been in Beijing, and, in fact, we met when you had returned all sweaty and excited from your visit of the Forbidden City.

The ever-smiling Mariella Mengozzi with her colleague Lorenza Maccio in Beijing in 2018

It could very well have been love at first sight. Here were two beautiful young ladies, one younger than the other (who I had already met the year earlier with Rodolfo Gaffino Rossi), both so charming, so full of smiles, so high spirited and so gracious and elegant. Lorenza was the younger one, slightly retiring and a bit shy, but always wore a naughty smile. Mariella, on the other hand, was more outgoing, confident, and exuded an air of class and gentility.

The museum—Museo Nazionale dell'Automobile or MAUTO—that Mariella Mengozzi took to greater heights than ever before

For the following week, we spent time together in the vehicles that followed the rally, visiting various parts of the Great Wall, and eventually ending up in Beijing to participate as judges in the concours d'elegance organized by the Auto Bild China team, led by Sherry Xu and Michael Wang. I remember very well that as members of the jury we were completely at sync, choosing that amazing Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint Speciale prototype of Corrado Lopresto as the Best of Show.

At MAUTO, Mariella initiated a series of special exhibitions that had enthusiasts excited about the featured themes, and visitors increased exponentially

Soon after, when we were both back to Europe in our respective cities, I made it a point to drop by at MAUTO when visiting Turin for FIVA work. Not only did you make sure to receive me so warmly, and to show me around, but you also introduced me to Alberto Corteggiani, from the Archivio Centrale dello Stato of Italy, which was the beginning of another great friendship.

One of the earliest special exhibitions initiated by Mariella featured design genius Marcello Gandini, seen here during the show's inauguration.

In fact, every time I met you, you were brimming with ideas, a list of people to meet, and a plethora of activities to engage in. It was a unique blend of serene energy, tempered enthusiasm, and exceptional warmth that radiated friendship. And not just with me, but with everyone around (which was why everyone was a fan, a friend and an admirer of Mariella Mengozzi).

With curator Giosuè Boetto Cohen, Mariella was able to arrange for some of the most remarkable of Gandini's designs, including this Miura.

Mariella, you left us on May 31st, leaving behind an extraordinary legacy that stands as a testament to your remarkable achievements and the profound impact of your boundless warmth, love, and kindness.

Her good connections with the Alfa Romeo museum in Milan helped get one of the two prototypes that Gandini had designed for Montreal Expo in 1967; further away we can spy another briliant Gandini design, the Lancia Stratos HF

Born in Forli in 1962, Mariella, you were a trailblazer, becoming the first woman to lead MAUTO, the Italian National Automobile Museum in Turin. Prior to that, you held key positions as the head of sales and marketing at Walt Disney and later at Ferrari, where you played a pivotal role in overseeing marketing initiatives and strategic planning.

...and then there was this extraordinary concept car from 1968, the astounding Alfa Romeo Carabo; the other Gandini masterpiece was the Lancia Stratos Zero, which was sent by owner Phillip Sarofim, all the way from the US

At MAUTO, the wonderfully renewed museum in Turin (for which, no doubt, credit would also go to Rodolfo Gaffino Rossi), you dedicated the last five years of your life. Appointed as the director in 2018, after taking over from the redoubtable Rodolfo Gaffino Rossi, you were the first woman to head such a prestigious and prominent automotive museum.

Mariella was also able to convince Albert Spiess to showcase the Gandini-designed Marzal, one of several Lamborghini concept cars that the swiss collector owns

With you at the helm, alongside President Benedetto Camerana, MAUTO achieved an impressive milestone, welcoming a staggering 240,000 visitors last year, surpassing the previous record of 221,000 set in 2011 when the museum had reopened. Moreover, under your leadership (and with a team headed by Davide Lorenzone), MAUTO transformed into a genuine hub of culture and leisure, appealing to a diverse audience of all ages. It became a destination not only for petrolheads—although they would undoubtedly proclaim it as an automotive heritage mecca.

Between Mariella and Giosuè, they were also able to get hold of three of the two-wheelers designed by Marcello Gandini, a concept of a folding cycle in wood, the Lambretta Lui scooterette and the Moto Guzzi V7 Sport sports bike from the early 1970s

And despite the demands on your time for the running of MAUTO, you still managed to do jury duty at the likes of Chantilly Art & Elegance, at the Poltu Quatu Classic Concours d'Elegance, as well as visit Pebble Beach and Concorso Italiano, where you collected the ‘La bella macchina’ trophy on behalf of MAUTO last year in August, before you discovered that you were not well.

MAUTO, which has been at the very heart of Italian automotive history for the best part of nine decades, since its foundation in 1933, has also been the centre of your heart. Over the past five years, the museum has enjoyed a significant increase in activity, and resounding success, what with more than 25 special exhibitions, 40 events and conferences, over 20 digital events and numerous online conferences during the pandemic.

Including the brilliant line-up of Formula 1 cars, which are on display at MAUTO

After reaching a record of 207,000 visitors in 2019, public attendance did decline during the Covid years, but you managed to bring the visitors back by 2022, with a series of brilliant exhibitions.

Between you and Benedetto Camerana, you also managed 12 archival donations, 12 car donations as well as increase the number of working cars from five in 2018 to 25 by the end of 2022. Plus, the 14 restored cars, seven international partnerships and participation in 49 events around the world in the last four years has been an astounding achievement on your part and the team at MAUTO.

Yet she found the time to help out with other projects such as the book written by our good friend Paolo Martin, here with Mariella the day we all met to work on his book

Yet, you found the time to help out our common friend Paolo Martin with his book, for which you not only wrote a beautiful tribute to him and his design brilliance, but also helped translate and clarify communication gaps between Paolo and I.

The epilogue of Paolo Martin's book by Mariella Mengozzi—who would imagine that we would be writing her epitaph barely a year later?

Thank you, Mariella; thank you for the five years of magic that you brought to the world of historic vehicles, for the light that you brought to our lives, for the love and the warmth that perpetually accompanied you. We will miss you very much, maybe not as much as your daughter Cecilia and your husband Gian Luca—and our heartfelt condolences to them—but enough to leave much sadness in our heart. Gautam

Gautam Sen

Serial concours judge, author, founder-editor of several Indian auto mags, as well as co-conspirator with design greats Marcello Gandini, Tom Tjaarda, and Gérard Godfroy on a few vehicle projects


Sign in or become a deRivaz & Ives member to join the conversation.
Just enter your email below to get a log in link.