The weird and wonderful history of the Alfa Romeo badge
Few automobile brands enjoy a following as large and passionate as Alfa Romeo. Yet few people know the history behind the Alfa Romeo badge, and probably even fewer have ever noticed its subtle evolution over the years.
At least, until now.
Founded in 1910 as "Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili" (which translates as "anonymous Lombard automobile factory") in Milan. Not only was the name "Milano" proudly written on the badge itself, but the city's heraldic symbols were also proudly incorporated into it: a red cross on a white background and, weirdly, a snake eating a person alive!
Both symbols' roots trace back to the Middle Ages and originate from various wholly unsubstantiated legends and popular lore around the origins of the Visconti dynasty, which ruled over Milan between 1277 and 1395 and had the so-called "biscione" on its coat of arms.
The original Alfa badge also included two figure-eight knots. These, known as the "Savoy knot," were a heraldic symbol of Italy's royal dynasty and would remain on Alfa's badge until the end of WWII.
Apart from the inclusion, in 1918, of the name of the Neapolitan industrialist Nicola Romeo, who took control of the company in 1915, the most notable addition to Alfa's badge was a laurel crown to celebrate the company's conquest of the very first World Manufacturers' Championship ever held, in 1925.
The Alfa badge would retain that laurel until as late as 1982.
Following the end of the Italian monarchy in 1946, the "Savoy Knots" duly lost their place on the Alfa Romeo badge, replaced by two subtle undulated lines that fulfilled the same decorative function but came without any uncomfortable political baggage.
Alfa Romeo had been present in the Neapolitan area since the 1930s. Still, the company's badge proudly maintained the "Milano" script throughout the 1950s and '60s, as the lion's share of Alfa's production still happened in and around Milan.
However, that forever changed with the presentation of the new compact Alfasud in late 1971, produced in Pomigliano d'Arco near Naples in much larger volumes than any preceding Alfa model.
To reflect this new reality, the Alfa badge was subtly redesigned to modernize its appearance: gone were the "Milano" script, the decorative undulated lines, and the hyphen between the words "Alfa" and "Romeo."
The redesigned logo, curated by renowned graphic designer Pino Tovaglia, was introduced in 1972 but would end up lasting a mere ten years.
The Modern Era
The Alfa Romeo logo that most enthusiasts are familiar with was introduced in 1982 and lasted all the way to 2015.
The laurel was gone, and the design was sharpened rather nicely, with the badge's background and the Alfa Romeo script gaining a golden tone in place of the previous white, in a nod to the original logo from 1910.
The Present Day
The launch of the brand new, rear-wheel-drive Giulia in 2015 was intended to be a new beginning for Alfa Romeo, one that Fiat-Chrysler's management felt the need to further underline with a new Alfa badge.
Although the new Giulia and its SUV brother Stelvio were undeniably excellent news, the revised Alfa Romeo badge, designed by the prestigious Milanese agency Robilant & Associati, answered a question nobody was asking.
The current Alfa Romeo badge is less colorful than its predecessors and, more importantly, lost the partition between the Visconti shield and the "Biscione," which no longer appear as distinct elements and are placed on a uniform background that sports a rather whimsy, gratuitous dotted pattern.
The gold is replaced by a more subdued silver, which extends to the Alfa Romeo script, whose lettering discreetly homages the one used in the 1950s badges.
Personally, I'd have gladly kept the 1982 badge, but that's probably a generational thing, as it's the one I've grown up with.