No track gets a Formula One fan's pulse racing faster than Monza. It’s the quickest circuit on the calendar and also one of the most evocative: the old banking - last used in 1961 - is clearly visible, as are some of the old stands. And when you combine the track’s merits with the cultural delights of nearby Milan, you are left with one of the most alluring races of the season.
As well as the city and the circuit, the charms of Lake Como are just a short drive to the north and the Mediterranean coast is only a couple of hours away.
“Milan is undoubtedly a great city,” says Italian former driver Giancarlo Fisichella. “It’s very beautiful, with some great places to see and good food. But there are some great pizzerias in Monza itself and I try to eat in one over the GP weekend."
Did you know? A staggering 83 Italian drivers have started Grands Prix and two - Nino Farino and Alberto Ascari - have become world champion.
There are two main airports in Milan: Linate and Malpensa, with the Orio Al Serio airport a 40 kilometre drive from the circuit. Malpensa handles the most international flights, but Linate is closest to the city centre and is the most convenient for the track.
Shuttle buses into Milan operate from all three airports, but the Malpensa Express Train offers the shortest journey. Once in Milan, there are plenty of public transport choices: bus, tram, underground or taxi.
To get to the track, you can either drive or take the train to Monza station, where there are shuttle buses to take you to the circuit.
Thick woodland in the centre of the track limits the amount of grandstand space at the second chicane and the Lesmos, but there are great seats available at the first chicane, Ascari and Parabolica. Grandstand prices are split into three categories, while general admission has the advantage of letting you visit the more inaccessible areas of the circuit, such as the old banking.
Where to go?
Milan has every kind of bar, club and museum you could wish for. The Duomo is the world's fourth-largest church, the Pinacoteca di Brera is the city's leading art gallery and take a look at the San Siro football stadium, home to both AC and Inter Milan. The way to start an evening out is with cocktails at the Piazza del Duomo in the centre of town before checking out the numerous nightspots.
Where to stay?
One of the best places to stay in Monza is the Hotel de la Ville. It’s where the senior Ferrari personnel stay, so it’s suitably plush. Other upmarket options are to be found in Milan, while for those on a more everyday budget, there is plenty of affordable accommodation in the towns surrounding the circuit, most of it aimed around the three-star mark.
There is also a huge campsite on the outside of Monza’s second chicane - the lively Tifosi (the fanatical Ferrari followers) might limit the amount of sleep you get, but the party atmosphere is certainly hard to beat.
Nearby Lake Como is the choice holiday destination of many celebrities. Actor George Clooney has a place there, and many Formula One VIPs stay there for the Italian Grand Prix, catching a helicopter to and from the track every day. If you like beauty, seclusion and good weather rolled into one, then join them.
The delights of the south of France are not far away either. Many of the Monaco-based F1 fraternity drive to Monza, so you could follow them back after the race, stopping off en route in delightful haunts such as San Remo.
“If I have time to take an extended break during the season, I visit my home town of Rome,” adds Fisichella. “It’s the centre of the world!”
If the mystique of Monza alone is not enough for you, then head a couple of hours south along the autostrada towards Imola, former home of the San Marino Grand Prix. En route, of course, you might want to stop off at Maranello, the home of Ferrari, or perhaps pay a visit to the old racing track in nearby Modena.
Autodromo Nazionale di Monza