On the weekend of May 20th, BMW Classic hosted a “Club & Community” event, Amici & Automobili—Wheels & Weisswürscht, at the grounds of Villa Erba in Cernobbio, Italy. This event is just one part of the three-day automotive extravaganza that is the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este, where models of all brands are showcased by car clubs and communities from around the world.
BimmerLife is excited to share an exclusive look at this weekend of automotive activities with professional photographer and Automotive Content Creator Chris Leustean of Milan, Italy (@iamchrisart). Leustean says, “I have been passionate about photography since a young age, and at sixteen, I started my professional career in the cycling industry, collaborating with notable brands. Over time, I transitioned to fashion photography and currently I focus on marketing campaigns and creating images in the technology and automotive fields.”
Even though Leustean doesn’t live in the U.S., he says, “being well connected to U.S. car communities, it is not new for me to have knowledge about BMW CCA and BimmerLife.”
Without further ado, let’s hear about Leustean’s experience and enjoy his photos from BMW Classic’s recent event!
BimmerLife: Do you have any previous experience with BMW Classic’s Amici & Automobili and the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este?
Chris Leustean: This isn’t my first time attending the event hosted by BMW Classic on the shores of Lake Como. Since 2019, I’ve been attending both BMW Classic’s Amici & Automobili and the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este.
In 2022, right after the end of the pandemic when BMW Group decided to expand the event and changed the name to “Amici & Automobili”. The concept shifted from being solely focused on vintage cars to a celebration of all things automotive, encompassing both vintage and modern vehicles and welcoming participation from various brands.
As I attended the event for the third time in 2023, I can clearly witness its growth. Not only has this particular event flourished, but other events associated with it have also experienced similar expansion. Year by year, this weekend on the shores of Lake Como attracts increasing international attention, making it one of the premier car weekends to attend.
BimmerLife: What prompted you to attend this year?
Leustean: My motivation to attend this year remains the same as in previous years. As an avid car enthusiast, I find it irresistible to miss out on BMW Classic’s event while I’m in the vicinity of Lake Como during this time. The picturesque setting of the lake’s shores, coupled with the vast meadows of the remarkable Villa Erba, create an extraordinary backdrop for the event. Moreover, the opportunity to meet friends and connect with fellow petrolheads from all around the world makes this gathering truly unforgettable and thoroughly enjoyable.
BimmerLife: Where do you live and how far did you travel to go to the event?
Leustean: I am fortunate to live just 45 minutes away from Cernobbio, the charming town where Villa d’Este and Villa Erba are nestled. As a resident of Milan, I consider myself incredibly lucky to enjoy the perks of living in the fashion capital while being able to relax by the stunning lake within a short car or train ride.
Here’s a fun fact: It is quite common to witness well known figures from the automotive world, attempting to outdo one another’s arrival time as they make their way, with classics and supercars, from Milan’s city center to Como. It adds an exciting element to the experience and showcases the passion and enthusiasm that surrounds this beautiful region.
BimmerLife: In what capacity did you attend the event?
Leustean: I work as a professional photographer in the automotive industry, collaborating with various car brands and covering events organized by both car manufacturers and individuals within the sector. Over the past three years, during this particular weekend, I typically focus my attention on documenting FuoriConcorso—an exceptional and exhilarating format that generates unforgettable moments in automotive culture. It serves as a remarkable platform for connecting and enriching car enthusiasts from around the globe.
In addition to FuoriConcorso, I also capture moments for several web magazines and the Porsche brand. It is a thrilling and fulfilling experience to be immersed in this dynamic industry and contribute to capturing the passion and beauty of automotive culture through my lens.
BimmerLife: What vehicle(s) do you own personally? Did you show any during the event? Any favorite BMWs?
Leustean: I have been working in the automotive sector for several years, but I didn’t own any cars until 2022. Due to client requests for my presence in remote areas, I realized it was time to make a purchase. Initially, I was captivated by the idea of owning a BMW E34, especially in the stunning red color. However, the costs associated with owning that particular model turned out to be quite high, especially here in Italy. It’s worth mentioning to readers in the U.S. that car ownership in Europe, in general, can be expensive, and public transportation is widely used.
Considering factors such as parts availability, age, reliability, and the growing market, I decided to explore other options. The first modern and reliable car that came to mind for longer trips was the 330Ci (E46 chassis), but unfortunately, the market had limited offerings at that time.
Ultimately, I purchased an Italian car, a mighty manual Alfa Romeo Giulietta in Rosso Maranello, boasting 170 horsepower. It fulfilled all my requirements as a five-seater, reliable, and comfortable for longer trips, while also offering a touch of sportiness for driving through the mountain passes of Italy and Switzerland. Owning someday both a 911 and a classic BMW is my dream to come true.
Although I haven’t personally showcased any of my own vehicles, I have friends and acquaintances who have impressive ones. For example, there’s the Mint Green Ferrari F40 of Schaltkulisse, then the remarkable boat collection from Motoring Attitude, and the small community of the Italian K&Y FOB.
Among my all-time favorite BMW vehicles are the Z8, E30 M3 and E46 M3, E34 M5 Touring, M2, 1M Coupe, and the legendary M1. These models hold a special place in my heart and represent some of the finest examples of BMW engineering and design.
BimmerLife: Did you have a memorable experience at the event?
Leustean: The event was a bit affected by the recent weather conditions in Italy.
Rains in the northern part of Italy and heavy rains and floods in the Emilia Romagna region caused some challenges and unfortunate loss of lives.
Despite the weather and the unfortunate period we Italians were going through, Amici & Automobili remains an exceptional event. The setting with the grand Villa, expansive meadows, and the Museum creates a breathtaking atmosphere. People and families from all over the world gather here.
This year, the weather wasn’t as sunny as in previous editions, which dampened the overall vibe. The area reserved for BMW Car Clubs and Classics had muddy fields due to the grass. However, the organizers managed to keep the public entertained with the captivating sounds of roaring engines, such as the F1 GTR, Porsche 917 and many other unicorns. The presence of gravel roads and trees in certain parts helped preserve the experience, and that’s where most of our focus was.
The event is organized into three distinct parts, each offering a unique experience:
- The live RM Sotheby’s auction takes place inside the Museum, providing an opportunity for attendees to actively participate as bidders or enjoy the excitement as spectators. This portion of the event allows enthusiasts to witness the auctioning of remarkable cars and automotive collectibles.
- The expansive meadows host a dazzling display of cars presented by various brands and international car clubs. This area allows visitors to leisurely stroll among the vehicles, taking in their beauty and engaging in conversations with the passionate owners. It’s a great opportunity to relax in a chair nearby, enjoying the atmosphere and connecting with fellow car enthusiasts.
- The food area serves as the culinary centerpiece of the event. Here, attendees can indulge in a wide array of delicacies from both Italy and Germany. The food is enjoyed under the shade of large trees, providing a serene setting with breathtaking views of the astonishing Villa and elegant automobiles.
These three distinct parts combine to create a truly immersive and memorable experience for attendees. Whether you are captivated by the auction excitement, fascinated by the stunning cars on display, or savoring the culinary delights, the event offers something for everyone to enjoy.
What I truly appreciate about this event is the sense of friendship among fellow petrolheads (female audience is well present as well), whether they are long-time enthusiasts like me or newcomers to the passion for cars. It feels like one big family, coming together to celebrate automotive culture. The presence of families with kids adds to the vibrant atmosphere.
Although I couldn’t be present on Sunday due to a prior commitment with my staff at Special Stages Car Club (@specialstages_official)—where we arrange dynamic events made for the pleasure of driving, across Italy to experience the country and food—I would have loved to experience the event throughout the weekend. However, the highlight of seeing the McLaren F1 GTR in person near Villa Erba was truly indescribable. It brought immense joy and even tears of awe.
Despite the challenges posed by the weather, the event still managed to captivate attendees with its unique ambiance and the opportunity to witness remarkable automobiles up close.
BimmerLife: Did you have a favorite car (or cars) that were in attendance?
Leustean: My personal favorite among all the cars I’ve encountered is the E46 Touring M3 prototype, which is an incredibly rare one-of-one model.
Other notable vehicles that have captured my attention include the astonishing McLaren F1 GTR, a car I haven’t seen in person before. Additionally, the timeless beauties like the Alfa Romeo 33 TT 12, the iconic Porsche 917, and the legendary Sauber C9 hold a special place in my heart.
I would also like to give honorable mentions to the BMW M1 Turbo owned by Rennmeister72, the iconic BMW 3.0 CSL, and the captivating new BMW Concept Touring Coupé.
BimmerLife: Do you have any advice for those traveling to this event next year?
Leustean: If you’re planning to attend this event in Italy next year and coming from the U.S., I highly recommend allocating at least one week for your trip to fully experience the country’s rich offerings, including its food and breathtaking landscapes. Italy has so much to offer beyond the event itself.
Don’t hesitate to bring your family along as well. There are plenty of activities and attractions to keep them entertained at the event itself. Italy and Amici & Automobili is a family-friendly destination, and they are sure to have a great time. Additionally, I recommend visiting the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este, which is open to the public at a reasonable price of $30-45 USD. It’s an opportunity to witness a prestigious showcase of elegant and classic automobiles.
For those BimmerLife readers that didn’t travel overseas to this year’s Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este, it’s a real treat to see the event through Leustean’s professional lens. And given the fact that he’s attended this event a number of times, perhaps you can build on his experience for your very own automotive-themed adventure to Italy next year.
Leustean, thank you for sharing your special weekend with BimmerLife! —Mike Bevels
[Photos by Chris Leustean.]