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Alfa Romeo Badge and Grille History

Updated on July 14, 2011

The craftsmanship of the Alfa Romeo isn’t all in the engine itself. Well, sure, the engine is one of the most finely tuned and powerful pieces of metal you’ll find on the road, but the actual look of an Alfa Romeo is just as much a part of the brand’s legacy as the way it drives.

Original 1910 Alfa Romeo badge - note the missing "Romeo"

The first time you take a look at the Alfa Romeo badge, you’ll probably scratch your head in puzzlement. It’s a fascinating design, to say the least.

With a bizarre looking serpent and Milan’s city emblem, you might think it looks more like a family crest than a car badge…

Well, yes, actually. Legend has it that the car badge was inspired by the family crest of the great Visconti family.

Milan crest

(c) pixelthing at
(c) pixelthing at

In 1910, draughtsman Romano Cattaneo was hired to design a badge for the company then known as ALFA, and, while waiting for a train at the Plazza Castello terminus in Milan, he glanced at the Visconti crest on the great door of the Castello Sforzesco, and said “Hey, that would make a great badge for a car brand!”

The serpent on the badge is actually a Biscione, a creature of myth known as the “human child eating viper”. The same design has been used for the Inter Milan football club, and even by Bezzera, an espresso machine manufacturer.

To this day the badge has only changed 5 times.

Alfa Romeo Badge 1915(ish) to 1925

When Nicola Romeo bought the company in 1915, their chief car designer Giuseppe Merosi helped to redesign the badge, adding the emblem for the City of Milan and putting them both into a circular motif.

He then went on to add a border of a dark blue metallic ring reading “ALFA – ROMEO” and “MILANO”, with the two separated by a pair of Savoy dynasty knots in honour of the Kingdom of Italy.

Alfa Romeo badge 1946-1972

Alfa Romeo Badge 1925-1946

When an Alfa Romeo P2 won the Automobile World Championship inaugural in 1925, a laurel wreath was added around the logo. That wasn't unique - Mercedes-Benz did the same thing to their radiator badge for the same reason.

In 1932 for that year only Alfa were screwed into a deal by the French that saw exported cars going to France shipped with badges that said "Alfa Romeo Paris" rather than Milano.  These rarities are highly sought after by collecters.

1946 saw the Savoy knots replaced with two curvy lines in honour of the Italian Republic victory.

Finally, the name MILANO and the lines were eliminated altogether when Alfa Romeo opened their Naples factory in Pomigliano d’Arco in the early seventies, and that brings us to the logo we have today: Simple, bold and striking.

Now you come to mention it, it's not that good a likeness, is it?

The Alfa Romeo "Star Wars" Grille

The grille of the Alfa Romeo is just as much a signature piece of the car’s look as the badge and the general design rules followed for creating the body. Such an iconic and recognizable piece of the Alfa is the grille that many collector’s items such as t-shirts and posters feature nothing but an image of the grille itself, and still, fellow Alfista who see it will say “Ah, you must be an Alfa lover, eh?”

Often referred to as the "Star Wars Grille" because it resembles Darth Vader's mask, the Alfa grille is certainly unmistakeable on the road.  The shape of the grille itself necessitates an offset numberplate, even in countries (like the UK) where central numberplates are the norm.

Alfa Romeo Grille

(c) Jukka1 at
(c) Jukka1 at

Originally Designed by Giuseppe Merosi as merely a simple squared shape, the look of the grille simply evolved for reasons of pragmatism and style to become more and more distinctive over the years, until it had become such an icon of the brand that to look at the grille alone was to look at an Alfa Romeo.

This is thanks partly to Giuseppe Merosi’s initial design, but perhaps more responsible are the various design firms who have gotten ahold of the brand over the years, including Pininfarina, Bertone, Italdesign and Zagato, who have made efforts to honour Merosi’s original designs while stylizing them further and further to create an artistic, distinctive look that is one hundred percent Alfa Romeo, preserving the brand identity while creating an even more popular and head-turning visual component to the brand.

Alfa Romeo Grille

(c) Adam Pniak at
(c) Adam Pniak at

When you drive an Alfa Romeo, you’re not only driving a car that handles like a dream, you’re also buying into the legacy of James Bond’s favourite car, and you’re flaunting one of the most beautiful car brands in existence. The aesthetic element to the Alfa Romeo is just as integral a piece of the brand as the engine itself.

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    • profile image

      My Name 7 weeks ago

      It’s Aston Martin the creators of 007 makes him drive, also because the pay the biggest commission. Not Alfa Romeo, you really haven’t a clue what driving an Alfa is all about.

    • profile image

      OpenMind 5 years ago

      Hello interesting explanation of the Alfa Romeo badge/crest.

      However, very sad to see that you did not mention the significance of the serpent eating a human child.

      Besides the fact that this badge clearly advertises the murder of a child, you did not even take the time to look into this.


    • J  Rosewater profile image

      J Rosewater 8 years ago from Australia

      I am fascinated by heraldic art, because it combines history with graphic design... although it couldn't have been perceived like this in the middle ages!

    • HarperSmith profile image

      HarperSmith 8 years ago

      Intersting article, I've always wondered where the design came from. I does raise the question, "Are there copyright laws in Italy." Thanks for the Hub.

    • knell63 profile image

      knell63 8 years ago from Umbria, Italy

      Great Alfa article, I have always loved their badge and only when writing a blog recently about manufactures names did I find the true history behind it. The old style marques just seem to have a class all of their own.