History19 March 2020

Francesco Baracca: the thousand flights of the prancing horse

Francesco Baracca’s last flight on Montello and the iconic prancing horse: a story of a myth that continues to make you dream.
Next post

Montello is a hill that sits silently watching over the Piave River between Montebelluna and Nervesa. As soldiers in single file formation, the vineyards forever guard the breaths of those who fought here during the Great War.

Perhaps on certain quiet days you can think of the aviators in their narrow cockpit, you can imagine them hovering in the sky like dragonflies playing with death on a summer day. Francesco Baracca was thirty years old when he stepped for the last time in his Spad biplane to face what historians will call the “Battle of the Solstice”, a rite that for mystics symbolizes the return to light. He has thirty-four victories on his roll of honour and is an ace of the Italian air force embarking on his fourth mission of the day. He is tired, it is 1918, the last – but he doesn’t know – atrocious year of war. He doesn’t even know that this will be his last flight, the last time he avoids the enemy anti-aircraft, which will attempt to destroy the Hawker Tempest, which flies at twice the speed and is the brainchild of the highly-advanced Austro-Hungarian technology. The sky above and the hill below, a scenario of war that then, like everything else, will become a place of absolute tranquility and deep silence, an open shrine for the stars and for those who have forever stopped fighting. Francesco Baracca was an equestrian champion as a boy: that’s why there is a black prancing horse on the fuselage. He knows how to fight, is gifted with unparalleled tactical intelligence and his flying technique is flawless; he knows the art of avoiding the enemy and not letting him escape. But that day on Montello a flash takes him away forever and his unbroken body that will be found days later, on a side of the hill, encompasses the mystery of his legend. A small wound on the temple, the clock frozen at 6:45 p.m., the holster of the empty gun. A shot in the dark.

Nobody knows what really happened that night but, just like a phoenix, from the ashes of his aircraft, the prancing horse rises again thanks to Francesco’s mother, Countess Paolina de Biancoli, who entrusts the coat of arms of her not to be forgotten son to Enzo Ferrari. In 1932, Baracca’s black horse appeared for the first time on the Alfa Romeo of the Ferrari team and began to fly again and to live in a thousand dreams of speed.

Back to the list

You might also like

Share your experience