The Sport Club Pirelli was founded on 13 December 1922, with its headquarters in Via Ponte Seveso, and its pitches and gym in Bicocca di Niguarda. The chairman, nominated by acclamation, was Cavaliere Ufficiale Ingegner Giuseppe Venosta, who had always been the right-hand man of the founder, Ingegner Giovanni Battista, and an “ardent advocate of all forms of physical and moral education”. The co-chairman was Giuseppe Vigorelli, director of the Agenzia Lombarda Gomme Pirelli and an expert on cycling, who a few years later would make his dream of creating a velodrome in Milan come true. Another expert was the Club’s cashier and timekeeper, the Anglo-Italian Gilberto Marley who, after an unbroken streak as the winner of the Italian Championship from 1887 to 1889, had ended up in the company that made the Tipo Milano bicycle tyres that had taken him to so many victories. The photographs on the grey-green paper of the Bollettino dello Sport Club Pirelli show an obstacle race and weightlifting, high jump and football, cycling and javelin throwing. The Club was for men but also for “atletesse” like the fierce zebrette of the Pro Patria in Busto Arsizio, who filled the Bicocca stadium with admiration during the Adunata Sportiva in June 1923: the undisputed star was Signorina Lina Banzi, the high jump record-breaker. And there were pleasure trips up and down the country, in both summer and winter. Exactly ninety-four years on, we can tell you how, on 8 and 9 December 1923, a merry band of Pirelli sports lovers tackled the snowy slopes of the Mottarone, a mountain now in the province of Verbano-Cusio-Ossola but then in that of Novara. The following tale is taken straight from “Gita al Mottarone”, an article by Cesare Piantanida.
The picturesque mountain costumes, with heavy-duty boots, thick woollen sweaters, caps with bows, skees and sticks – the skees in particular looking somewhat anachronistic, as though Tartarin himselfhad stepped into the station square in the damp, trickling air of the town. The trip could hardly have begun under better auspices: the tireless Meloni had gone on ahead to reconnoitre the accommodation and victualling services, and Gironi, assisted by Anselmi, had taken command of the expedition. And, at last, came the long-desired and much-invoked cry, the cry that ushers forth spontaneously from the chest: “Snow! Snow!”. A few more minutes and here we are at the summit. And now Signor Valentini, accompanied by his charming consort, dons his skees and departs for the slopes. Bagnato follows suit, anxious to emulate his exploits, and here come Mascherpa, Muggia, Dottor Prestini and so many others, including many courageous young ladies on their skees. The others follow them to admire the sport or to wander across the mountain. Cavalier Marley is soon standing with his Signora and Signorina. Ingegner Avanzini, Ingegner Giussani, Signor Bianchi and Ragionier Gogna have all come with their respective consorts and other family members. Ragionier Crosio, looking very Far Eastern in his sporting outfit, appears together with Ingegner Chiesa. Signor Sberze has come with his son. Then there are the Signorine Banchieri and Benincasa, the ever-faithful Signorine Verga and Pissasegale, Signori Brizza, Bagnato, Berti, and Saroldi and so many others that it would be impossible to name them all. The skeers come hurtling down the slope, flashing by in front of the spectators, turning and sometimes falling, though gracefully, and then they are back to the ascent. Much admired are the flights of Signor Valentini, a master of the telemark and the stem christie. Bagnato, his worthy pupil, shows he has what it takes. Signor Muggia is elegant and Signorina Muggia intrepid as she unhesitatingly sweeps down fast and free. Other young ladies show the men how the sport is done, while the latter demonstrate how to fall with insouciance. But now it is time to leave and, with much regret, to put back the skees, pack the bags, and set off for the railway station. Now the warmth of the train, as it rushes headlong through the night, and the jollity brought on by the delightful day bring out songs that reveal the most exceptional talent where one might least expect it. It is much to the chagrin of all when the train enters under the vast canopy of the station in Milan perfectly on time. The trip ends with fond farewells and much gratitude, and the travellers find their own separate ways through the muddy streets of the city, which has been enshrouded in fog and rain all day.