For Alfisti the main attraction in a trip to Italy is a visit to the Alfa Romeo Museo Storico at Arese, to the north of Milano. However, Alfisti are usually interested in Italian racing automobiles generally and the centre for competion and high performance cars must be in the Modena and Bologna regions. This region is home to Ferrari, Maserati, Lamborghini, Ducati and a host of smaller concerns involved in specialist automobile and motor cycle production.
In a recent trip to Italy, I visited three museums in this region, all of them fascinating. For the interest of others who may wish to go to this beautiful part of one of the most beautiful countries of the world, this was my experience.
First I went to the internet to discover what museums existed and also most importantly in Italy, to discover the hours when they are open. Armed with printouts from the web I arrived by train at the old city of Modena in the Po River plain, about 30 kms from Bologna. Modena can trace its history back to Roman times but the city became famous during the Renaissance when it was ruled by the Este family. There is also a rich tradition of fine food production with balsamic vinegar and parmesan cheeses among the best known. These days Modena is best known for being the home of Enzo Ferrari and Luciano Pavarotti. Enzo was born in Modena where his father was a mechanic with his own workshop. The building that contained both the house and workshop still exists but now has been converted into the first museum that I visited. The name is Museo Casa Enzo Ferrari and is situated in s suburb of Modena at 85 Via Paolo Ferrari, website www.casaenzoferrrari.it and is open from 9:30 am until 6:00 pm every day. This museum gives the visitor a brief summary of Enzo’s life in photographs and displays, complete with a replica of his modest office and the first production car built in 1949.
Next door to this museum is a stunning modern building, very futuristic in design. This is meant as a tribute to all those in the Modena area who have contributed to the design and manufacture of racing cars. This first car that amazed me to see as I entered was a magnificent Alfa Romeo 159 Grand Prix car, on loan from the Museo Storico in Arese. There were other fabulous cars including a grand prix Mercedes-Benz from 1954, a Lancia D50 grand prix car from 1955, a 1957 Masserati V12 grand prix car, an Alfa Romeo engined Brabham from 1976, Alain Prost’s Ferrari grand prix car amongst others.
All of these cars were well displayed, along with excellent photographs and explanations in Italian and English. For those wishing to visit the Galleria Ferrari museum in Maranello they can catch a special bus that hourly leaves the Caso Enzo Ferrari Museum and takes you to the front door of the Scuderia Ferrari complex. This bus will also bring you back to Modena later in the day if you wish, but it is recommended that you make a booking for the 20 minute journey.
Once you arrive at the Maranello Galleria Ferrari, next to the Ferrari factory you enter a major tourist attraction. It is high tech with sound, film, light and full on entertainment done with such class and Italian style that is bound to knock your socks off. The staff speak English and are very helpful. The displays are truly remarkable with examples of all the great Ferrari racing cars, sports cars and production cars from the last sixty years. Full credit is given to Enzo’s early involvement with Alfa Romeo, both as a driver and as the director of the 1930’s Scuderia Ferrari team running Alfa Romeos for such drivers as Tazio Nuvolari, Nino Farina, Achille Varzi, Ascari, and Biondetti. I was surprised to learn that the first cars specifically commissioned by Enzo was a twin engined Alfa Romeo Bimotore to be raced with mixed success by Nuvolari in the 1935 grand prix season. A particularly fascinating display is of test cars and prototypes, most of which would have been top secret projects at the time. There was also an excellent shop selling a huge range of memorabilia. The museum is packed with enthusiasts from all over the world.
I could have taken a tour of the factory but the gossip was that you don’t get to see much, so I passed on that one. However I was interested to hear that one could hire a current model Ferrari and drive it around the Fiorino test track just up the road. The price for this experience was silly, so I also passed on that. There seemed to be quite a few suckers taking up the offer however.
The next day I visited another car museum called the Umberto Panini Museum, located a short taxi ride from Modena on the Via Corletto Cittanova. This is a private museum located on the farm (fattoria in Italian) of the West Parmesan Cheese Company. Entry is free but the opening hours are strange and should be checked carefully. The phone number is 059/510660. The displays are mainly of Maseratis, all in fully restored condition. Superb racing cars as well as touring cars, along with hundreds of motor cycles, tractors and an amazing collection of motoring and racing souvenirs, including a modern Formula One engine. Well worth a trip – obviously there’s good money in parmesan!
A week later I also had another car related orgasmic experience at Lake Como, north of Milano. This was the Villa d’Este Concorzo d’Eleganza. This annual event is held over three days, always in May. There were fabulous cars and motorcycles on display with an emphasis this year on BMWs. There were also cars such as Bugatti, Lancia, Mercedes-Benz, Rolls Royce, Chev Corvettes, Cisitalia, Ferrari, Porche, and MG all in concourse condition. The Mille Miglia recreation is also run in those parts every May but I was one week too late for that.
If you have a chance to visit you will have a ball. The food and wine and the sights are all a revelation.
Jim Stratmann July 2013