The International 4x4 Meeting Città di Gradisca is today a real tradition, a custom that an off-roader cannot miss. Since 1985, the year of the first edition with only 30 cars entered, almost 19,000 crews have chosen this event to end the off-road year. Over the years, from an all-Italian custom, the Gradisca 4x4 has become a European appointment with foreign crews, especially from Central Europe, who take advantage of the event to enjoy a long weekend dedicated to both quality off-road and to discover the culture and renowned Isonzo food and wine products. In 2003 the Gradisca 4x4 set a record, certified by the Guinness Book of Records, of 853 participating vehicles. In this article the exclusive interview with Tiziano Godeas president of G.F.I. Alpe Adria Offroad.
Story by Paolo Baraldi
International 4x4 City of Gradisca Rally, from 30 cars registered to the Guinness Book of Records: a winning recipe!
The winning recipe of the International 4x4 City of Gradisca Rally (discover the 2021 edition), which in 2003 recorded the record, certified by the Guinness Book of Records, of 853 participating vehicles, is that of a simple, fun and above all accessible experience. To which I would add impeccably organized by all the members of the G.F.I. Alpe Adria Offroad. A further merit of this success was the ability of the organizers to have been able to combine different needs, always welcoming off-road vehicles of any type: from the historic one to the latest model on the market, from well-prepared ones to standard SUVs, to which a specific one is dedicated path very appreciated by the participants. Off-roaders of all kinds participate in the Gradisca 4x4, from 4x4 newbies to veterans of the discipline, many with their families and all together to celebrate their passion.
Gradisca 4x4 2019: 648 participating cars
648 - Italians, Dutch, Germans, Austrians, Czechs, Slovaks, Hungarians, Swiss, Slovenes, Croats, Liechtenstenians, Poles, Russians and a Saudi - gathered on 8 December morning in the wonderful central square of Gradisca from where they started. to live every moment of this experience that has alternated moments of tasting with off-road. In addition to all this, on Saturday 7 and Monday 9 the City of Gradisca 4x4 has planned collateral events, thus expanding the cognitive offer of the territory, always on off-road tracks, with historical-cultural programs in the karst area and with guided visits to some sites of the WWI.
Tiziano Godeas talks about the Gradisca 4x4 from the point of view of the organizer
In all the articles and reports dedicated to the 34th edition of the International 4x4 City of Gradisca Rally you will have read the reports of the event and seen the galleries of the participants in action. In this article, I wanted to have a different approach, which reflects more my style and that of Offroad Lifestyle, to understand what made the Gradisca 4x4 so famous and appreciated and what organizational work it requires. To do this, I interviewed Tiziano Godeas, historical president of the G.F.I. Alpe Adria Offroad.
- Tiziano, before delving into the topics of this interview, could you do one of the 34th edition of the International Meeting of the City of Gradisca?
The balance is certainly positive with the comments of the participants who fully promote the 34th edition of Gradisca. There was a growing number of participants and thanks to the good weather conditions the mudslides of the roadways at the intersections with the dirt roads and the cart tracks of the field were reduced. Even the water level in the streams has been contained, allowing you to tackle the fords according to the indications of the road-book. Hotels, restaurants and wineries, with the various programs completed, have benefited from an interesting induced.
- In December 1985 the first edition of the meeting took place, tell me how the idea was born and how the first years of this event were.
The idea of the 4x4 meeting was born from the president of the then local traders association and our partner Renzo Gerometta who asked us for some initiative with off-road vehicles to move the center of Gradisca in the pre-Christmas period; so on 1 December 1985 the first edition of the rally started with 30 vehicles participating. The following year the initiative was repeated with 50 vehicles registered, then in the 3rd they became 101 and so on increasing in the following years.
From 30 cars to 854; figures that have no equal in Italy
- From the 30 off-road vehicles in the first edition to the 854 registered vehicles in 2003, how has the rally evolved?
The rally has had an evolution especially in numbers as it has always had a formula that privileged aggregation and the pleasure of being together, with different moments of refreshment and without competitive exasperations. Over the years the sponsors have also approached, all of the highest order.
- When did you get the feeling that the Gradisca 4x4 was becoming something big and important?
We perceived the importance of the rally when the numbers constantly increased from edition to edition and reached figures that had no equal in Italy; the advent of important sponsors also testified to the media and commercial appeal that the event was beginning to have.
Being at the Gradisca is a unique experience to try at least once in a lifetime
- To hold the record for the highest number of participating vehicles and to be recognized for this reason in the "Guinness Book of World Records", how did it affect the event?
It is certainly a prestige to be able to keep the page where Gradisca is mentioned in the Guinness book, complete with an aerial photo of the square full of off-road vehicles; many participants are aware that being at Gradisca is a unique moment to be done at least once in a lifetime.
- In Italy there are many rallyes. In your opinion, why has Gradisca become an appointment not to be missed?
Perhaps because there is a mix of many factors that satisfy all the palates of off-roaders, from easy to challenging routes, from the pebbles of the creeks with yielding bottoms to the more or less deep fords of the participant's choice. You eat a lot and well in the many refreshment stops, the road-book gives a lot of information and there are many off-roaders with whom to share the day, a good part even foreigners.
- Over the years, how has the rally changed and how has it adapted to the new needs of the participants and the different types of off-road vehicles?
The meeting has not changed over the years in its setting but the possibilities for routes, stops and diversity of proposals between easy and challenging stretches have increased. Now the 4x4s are much more comfortable and performing than they used to be; it is a very different thing to face the day aboard a Spartan Uaz or a super-equipped Jeep. For this reason the kilometers of routes have increased over the years and now touch about thirty municipalities in Friuli Venezia Giulia and 2 in Slovenija. Now the gathering also has collateral programs aimed at getting to know the area with historical tours and 4x4 tests.
From year to year more and more foreigners have joined the Italian crews
- Many foreign off-roaders come to Gradisca every year to participate in the rally. When did their participation start and, in your opinion, why do they participate?
Foreigners started attending the Gradisca rally from the very first editions, perhaps in a haggard way and involved with the simple word of mouth across the border; then our communication in the early 90s reached their specialized magazines and so the number of foreigners increased from year to year. For those coming from abroad, it is a great opportunity to take a good off-road vehicle reaching Gradisca with no more than one day of travel. They are also very interested in the gastronomic side of the event and greatly appreciate the local wines which they make great purchases.
- In addition to the obvious drafting of the road-book in English, what organizational changes did the increasing presence of foreigners require?
Foreigners are usually very loyal to the rules of the rally and scrupulously respect the indications highlighted on the road-book. Many of them have various editions of Gradisca behind them and this makes it easier for them every time they repeat the experience of the rally; in addition, assistance is always present on the route to give appropriate information, perhaps in a simple but always understandable form.
The Gradisca 4x4 is a puzzle, every piece is fundamental, if one is missing, it would no longer be the Gradisca
- As a percentage, how do the territory, the routes, the food and wine and the organization influence the success of the Gradisca 4x4?
These are all fundamental aspects in equal measure. It would not be a Gradisca if the many kilometers of the streams' shores were missing, the hundreds of employees on the route, the crossing of territories that reflect the off-road spirit of the participants, just as a Gradisca would not be without the numerous and well-stocked refreshment stops. Gradisca is a puzzle, every piece is fundamental, if one is missing, it would no longer be Gradisca.
As an organizer it is essential to have a responsible approach
- A topic that is very much felt today, and which was less obvious in 1985, is that relating to respect for the territory and the environment. As the organizer of the gathering, how do you approach this delicate issue?
Respect for the territory is a fundamental aspect; it is necessary to have a responsible approach, to know well where to go and where it is not appropriate, to contact all the owners, to have their consent; even the rules imposed by the stringent regulations must be fully respected. After the event it is necessary to return immediately to the same to see together any deterioration of the roads in order to intervene with the restorations, perhaps even making improvements. Before the event it is always necessary to clean the places crossed, a sort of make-up to best present the territories crossed; it also needs a nice thinning out of the branches and brambles protruding in order to avoid scratches to the bodies of the 4x4. This is well perceived by the almost total of the local population even if it always remains a sort of "intransigent" who are against this aggregative moment always and in any case and without any reference to the reality of the facts that they do not know in the least, as they say "by side "; they are the same ones who in the past supported extensive overbuilding of our territory when we off-roaders were the only ones who fought to keep the countryside for natural agricultural uses.
- How do you make participants and staff aware of this issue?
These are themes that must be reiterated on every occasion of meetings and also presented on the road-books.
- Public administrations, also pushed by the green movements, are increasingly attentive to motoring activities. See the controversy related to the latest Camp Jeep in San Martino di Castrozza. What obstacles do you find in applying for authorizations and what reassurance do you give them in this regard?
Certainly it is important not to create any situation contrary to respect and protection of the environment by continuously demonstrating goodwill in this regard accompanied by ecological initiatives such as the collection of any waste that may be found in the areas crossed. In addition, the rally is organized in the period of least environmental disturbance such as late autumn. In spring, for example, the weather would be better and the gathering would have less weather risks but the fauna would be more disturbed with its reproduction.
- I have always been a supporter of the idea that this type of events are important both for the local economic induced and for the tourism promotion of the territory. Do you agree with me?
I fully agree because the consent of the related companies is essential and there are many who benefit from the event, especially the hotel and food and wine sectors and tourism in general. Almost all of the expenses invested refer to local firms.
- Do you think that local authorities and businesses themselves are aware of this?
Certainly those who benefit from it are, but in the end only a few who manifest it.
The rally has become part of the town tradition
- How Gradisca welcome the event and its participants? And how has the relationship between event / participants with the city evolved over the years?
Gradisca welcomes this type of event because it is part of a tradition that has lasted for many years and the positive aspects are many; not everyone benefits from it because in any case it is an impactful event due to the large number of vehicles and people who peacefully invade the Isonzo city but there are very few contraindications that the rally generates. When we were forced to cancel the event due to a flood, all the entities involved sincerely expressed their displeasure for the missed opportunity.
Local administrations have always been close to Gradisca 4x4
- The International 4x4 City of Gradisca Rally involves a vast territory of 32 municipalities. How do you manage the delicate relationship with each of them and how do local administrations welcome the event?
It must be admitted that over the years all, absolutely all, the municipal administrations have been close to the event by granting not only their transit permit but also patronage. This year, unfortunately, the administration of a municipality in the Isonzo area has changed and the mayor, also pushed by a faction that saw in the event a reduction of its own interests (anti-environmental in addition ....) denied some sections of the route.
G.F.I: a long history of people and passion
- Having said that, now I'd like to explore another aspect. Perhaps the one without which the rally could not exist. The history of G.F.I. Alpe Adria Offroad has its origins back in 1980. Can you introduce me to the club and briefly retrace its history?
The Isontino Fuoristradistico Group was born on 24 April 1980. In the early years the club's activity was rather limited, mainly aimed at establishing friendly contacts with other owners of off-road vehicles. A first organizational approach took shape on 13 September 1981 with the "1st National Off-road Meeting". Only in 1985 the G.F.I. he began to offer himself as an organizer of events and on 1 December the first edition of the “4x4 City of Gradisca Rally” starts with the presence at the start of 30 off-road vehicles. The following year the event grows and the participants become 50, then in '97, 101 and so on to rise up to over 600 appearances in the last editions of the rally, with a maximum peak in 2003 with 854 4x4 off-road vehicles, event several times remembered in the book of the "Guinness Book of Records". In the meantime, the club expanded territorially and the name of the association, in 1995, was expanded to "G.F.I. Alpe Adria Offroad ”. In addition to the Gradisca rally, the G.F.I. organizes numerous other initiatives among which some rallies must be remembered such as those commissioned by Rusconi Editore "La via delle Malghe", "Tra Vapori e Sapori" and "Passaggio a nord-est". A part of the club is dedicated to volunteering in the Civil Protection, teaching safe driving in 4x4, solidarity initiatives with the accompaniment of disabled people on days entirely dedicated to them, fundraising for disadvantaged people or communities, as well as themes of ecology with the cleaning of all the routes involved in the 4x4 events promoted by the club itself. In 2018 it obtained the recognition of legal personality from the Autonomous Region of Friuli Venezia Giulia.
- How important is having a solid and cohesive club behind you for the success of the rally?
Cohesion is an important factor but it is not always easy to unite the various souls. Here too I take up the concept that everything must be considered as a mosaic and all particles are equally important; there are those who do a lot or a little, but all are important and fundamental to achieving the objectives.
- How is the preparation work for the rally structured and organized?
First of all, there is a bureaucratic work that begins even before the event of the previous year ends; then during the summer period we work on the definition of the routes and on the issuing of permits and in October the "scouts" of G.F.I. they leave for the cutting of shrubs and brambles along the various itineraries that include many more paths than those that will then be used so as not to be displaced in case of natural events that preclude certain passages.
- How many people are involved in the staff and how do you manage them before, during and after the rally?
The organizational staff reaches one hundred people with about sixty off-road vehicles, 8 tractors, in addition to about forty units engaged in refreshment, parking and bathroom services.
- At the end of the rally, the participants return home happy and satisfied. An important reward for you and the club. However, I believe that your work does not end with the end of the event. In the days following the Gradisca what awaits you? What kind of work do you need to do?
After the rally, the work is very intense because we have to do a lot and above all quickly; we need to intervene immediately on many fields and this makes the post event as challenging as the days before it.
A great passion drives us to organize the Gradisca every year
- For you and for the G.F.I. club, organizing the International 4x4 City of Gradisca Rally is a huge job, which - I add - you do very well. What drives you to face all this work every year?
An immense passion and the conviction that something must also be done for others and our territory; a certain amount of recklessness must be added because, in the end, the responsibilities are enormous.