The old man. Alvise Luigi Andretti. He goes by Gigi. He is a proud man who at age 82 still has great difficulty understanding English and is sensitive about it. He grew up speaking German—when he was born, Istria was a possession of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He also speaks Slavic, Croatian and Serbian, as well as Italian. Perhaps there just wasn't enough room in his head for English.
"He was orphan, my husband," says Nonna Rina. "His father die from pneumonia in 1912. His mother die from pneumonia 1914. He was raised by his uncle from his mother's side, a priest."
All his life Gigi had worked to build something in Istria. And now all was shattered, and there was no time for his kids to be idolizing this fellow Alberto Ascari, the Italian-born star of corse—"racing." What foolishness, dreaming about this realm of barons and dukes, and of needless death, when Gigi couldn't even find a job for hourly wages.
"A guy in his position, who didn't follow the sport, only heard about it whenever there was a fatality," says Mario.
Gigi had no idea that the matter was far past the magazine and hero-worship stage. On weekends, claiming they were off to Boy Scout camp, the twins were racing. At age 13 they were driving Formula Junior cars, with 1,100-cc engines and no seat belts or roll bars. The Andretti twins were living on the edge—in the cars, which were owned by friends, and with the old man.
Then, says Aldo, came "quite a jolt." Nonna Rina had an uncle who had emigrated to Nazareth, Pa., and he offered to bring one family, that of Nonna Rina's brother, over to America. But, says Nonna Rina, "my sister-in-law, she don't want to leave her parents, and she say she don't want to come in this country. And so I have the opportunity for my family.
"Really, I didn't want to come in this country because I don't like to leave my parents and all my relatives there, but I was forced, because I have three children, and we have to think for their future."
The twins were sick at the thought. "As kids, we had all our dreams in place," says Mario. "And all of a sudden we're displacing to a new world, where we only knew of one race happening—Indianapolis. And so it didn't seem like we were going to be able to fulfill our dreams. But in fact it was probably just the opposite. We probably never would have fulfilled our dreams if we had stayed there."
At just after 6 a.m. on the morning of June 16, 1955, the Italian ocean liner Conte Biancamano steamed past the Statue of Liberty and into New York Harbor.
"I can see my children now," Nonna Rina says, beaming. "They were so happy. You could see in their faces. And they were singing."