The Mille Miglia, or “thousand miles” race, in Brescia, Italy is an automotive mecca of sorts. A direct descendant of the legendary race that occurred from 1927 to 1957, the event now showcases some of the legends of automotive racing. No longer carrying the stigma of a race that killed 56 people over its 30-year span, the current iteration brings the likes of Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Mercedes-Benz and Aston Martin to the world stage for a few days of glory. We were invited to witness the stunning automotive pageantry by Mercedes-Benz, a manufacturer with a strong historical presence at the event — having won with the 300 SL, the SSKL and the uber-quick 300 SLR, driven by none other than Stirling Moss.

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The iconic endurance race made use of then-luxurious grand touring cars that could hustle drivers along oftentimes unpaved roads in relative comfort; it attracted the wealthy, the automotive cognoscenti and those with the unquenchable will to win. The modern-day version still brings all three types, but it’s less about high-speed racing than it is about showcasing some of the most beautiful and storied cars in the world.

What you see in these photos is the automotive spirit captured, entirely more than alive and well. Its beating heart pulses richly as a parade of vintage cars makes its way from Brescia to Rome and back, both the spectators and the drivers living the dream, rain or shine. The Mille Miglia is still firing on all cylinders — and the exhaust of its participants is nothing short of fragrant.