Francesco Baracca was born at Lugo di Romagna on 9 May 1888. One of the most proficient students at the Military Academy of Modena, he became a cavalry officer in less than one year. Interested in aviation, he went to Reims in France to take a pilot license that he got in June 1912.
By May 1915 Baracca was a good pilot and an expert trainer. He was asked to test the Morane Parasol, then to go to Paris and take care of the delivery of the first Nieuport planes to Italy. He was there on 24 May, when Italy joined World War One. He was back in late July and joined 8a Squadriglia on Nieuport 10, under Capitano Tacchini. He scored his first victory on 19 November 1915, shooting down Albatros B I 24.17 of Korporal Adolf Veselic and Lieutenant Ludwig Riesenecker (Flik 4): the plane landed behind enemy lines so the victory has not been claimed.
His first official victory was to be scored at 7 am on 7 April 1916, on Nieuport 1451: together with Tacchini on a Nieuport 10, Baracca wounded Adolf Ott and Franz Lenarcic from Flik 19 on their Brandenburg CI 61.57, forcing them to an emergency landing. It is one of the first two official air victories for Italy, together with Brandenburg 61.59 of Bogut Burian and Johann Osterreicher (Flik 2) shot down the same day by Olivari, Bolognesi and Tacchini. At that time his unit had been renamed 1a Squadriglia da Caccia (Ni) on 1 December 1915. Then, on 15 April 1916, it was renamed again 70a Squadriglia Caccia. He scored 9 official victories in that unit, on Nieuport 11 and then on Nieuport 17 2614. On the latter he painted for the first time his personal insigna: a prancing black horse.
In Spring 1917, a new elite unit was formed: 91a Squadriglia. Baracca was appointed commander and he could choose the best Italian pilots to form the roster.
On 19 June 1918, during the Battaglia del Piave, he was hit while strafing Austro-Hungarian positions and crashed against Montello hill. He had scored 34 victories.
After the war, his mother gave it as a gift to Enzo Ferrari, who was from the same region, so he could use it racing. "Ferrari, put on your cars the little prancing horse of my young son", she said. "It will bring you good luck". And so it did.
His house of Lugo can be visited. It is now a museum exhibiting many uniforms, personal belongings, documents of the ace. There are parts of the planes he shot down, kept as memories of his victories. A section is dedicated to WW1 weapons. The original SPAD VII S2489 is on display in one of the floor halls: it has been perfectly restored by Gruppo Amici Velivoli Storici in 170 days of work.