Ultimate Supercar Themed Road Trip in Italy’s Motor Valley
If you fancy yourself in a Ferrari, Lamborghini or Pagani, a road trip in Italy’s Motor Valley offers every opportunity to get up close with the car of your dreams. The motorvalley route through northern Italy weaves around the towns of Modena, Maranello and Bologna, an area that’s a mecca for fans of Italian supercars. To bring you this post, in part an advertising feature for Emilia Romagna, we visited the holy trinity of high end automotive art. We wanted to try and touch perfection and found ourselves a tiny bit envious of the wheels and fired up by the stories of the people who design and style these feats of art and engineering…
Welcome to Italy’s Motorvalley
Motor Valley in Emilia Romagna is the Silicon Valley of supercar design and production. Running roughly between Parma and Rimini in Northern Italy, it’s hard to think of anywhere else in the world that is supercharged with more racing and supercar designers, factories, museums, showrooms and attractions. This concentration makes it a great touring destination for petrolheads – I count at least nine museums in this car themed tourist route and many more collections, racetracks and car builders.
As we pull up onto an empty car park in Modena at the start of our Italian Supercars Road Trip my head is full of questions. Why did all these Italian supercar companies all choose Emilia Romagna? Was it the food? The climate? The proximity to Europe? Or did the bosses of the superbrands one day decide to have one big, fast, shiny race?
In our two day trip we blast around four supercar museums, eye up test tracks, have a selection of ultra stylish coffees and spend hours looking for supercars out on test runs in the wild. It all makes me want to buy, borrow or steal a fast car. And here’s the thing. I don’t even like cars.
It’s not about the looks
For my money, (which admittedly isn’t enough to buy a spark plug around here) Motor Valley is not all about engines and wheels. It’s about aspiration. It’s about inspiration.
Yes, it’s about a particular colour of red, about a love of speed, about how fast even the most modest investment can go from 0-100. Yes, it’s about history, the particular position of a prancing horse, and celebrity cheque books. But it’s also about the relationship between human and machine, the desire not to give up, the pursuit of a dream, the desire to win, to be the best. And about giving equal importance to science and style, engineering and art. At points I even wonder if it’s more about art than cars.
Much of this comes down to the influence of one man, whose passion, dreams, determination and quest for perfection still continue to shape the supercar world – the man who is “the one who dreamt to be Ferrari” – Enzo. So this road trip begins with him, visiting the Ferrari museums before heading to check out the competition – Lamborghini and Pagani.
Itinerary for an Italian Supercar Road Trip in Motor Valley
There’s no need to speed down Motorvalley. In fact we suggest you don’t. For a start the roads can be bumpy. And there’s too much to enjoy. Take a couple of days or a weekend and focus on a few attractions or a take week or two to see it properly. It’s not all about cars either – there are bikes too, led by the iconic Ducati. If you’re not a total car geek, two days is probably plenty so here’s our suggested itinerary for a two day visit with a supercar theme.
Day 1 Morning: Museo Ferrari in Maranello
We are the first in the car park at Museo Ferrari in Maranello. But that’s good as we can have a coffee in the stylish museum bar, as the staff in their red boiler suits come in for their teeny espresso’s to jump start the day. At 9.30 precisely the glass doors slide open and we are meeting our guide for an hour long tour of..
Mr Ferrari must have been a nightmare to work for. Not only was a control freak but he hoarded failure. Every little part that didn’t work because some poor engineer didn’t get it right went into his personal museum of rubbish car parts to pick over and learn from at a later date. But what did it do? It pushed him to make better cars. It pushed him on to demand greatness in others. There’s a simple lesson there for us all.
Museo Ferrari traces the development of the Enzo Ferrari story from the boy who went to the racetrack with his dad to the millionaire businessman who reinvented the colour red. The first part ‘Under the Skin’ is a temporary exhibition; a current collaboration with the London Design Museum.
Under the Skin of Ferrari
The exhibition ‘Under the Skin’ marks seventy years of the brand and records the development of Ferrari through the years with cars starting with the 125S; a sports car with a V12 engine that first appeared in 1947. You can see the design process of the cars in a huge display of prototypes, cages and technical drawings as well as the finished models. This was a great museum for the future engineer of our family, but it held the attention of all three children. And me!
The second exhibition is Infinite Red, in both name and game. “Red was the colour the international federation gave to Italy for F1 races,” our guide Bianca Struna explains when we ask her about the obsession with this shade of paint.
Here you can get close up with some of the exceptional cars for road and track that made Ferrari what it is. And you can hear about the boss’s relationship with them – from F1 cars to GT and F50 models. And how the street cars were made only to fund the racing models and the successes on the racetrack. “Enzo Ferrari started to make cars for the streets to have enough money for the competition. The racing was his dream. He saw this when he was five years old with his father and the dream started from this date,” says Bianca.
There are so many red Ferraris here that I wonder if I will start to dream in red. And there a few that make me wince when I hear the price tag.
“This one sold for 29.1 million.”
“So it’s the most expensive car in the museum?”
“No, it’s the second most expensive. The first is the 250 GTO,” smiles Bianca, moving on to yet another beautiful car.
“If you want one of those for your birthday you are going to have to make a very big wish,” says Stuart. I resist the temptation to tell him I will wait for his mid life crisis.
Inside the trophy cupboard
I couldn’t even afford to buy the family silver. There’s a whole room of this; 119 trophies according to Cameron who counts them all. But that’s not the whole collection; it’s just the constructor’s trophies and only how many can fit on the shelves. As we prepare to leave, for Ferrari’s sister museum in Modena, Bianca tells us Enzo never wanted a museum. He thought museums were for dead things. He also never wanted a four wheel drive. But even a supercar boss can’t heave everything he wants after he’s gone. Both were installed after he died.
Cool things about Ferrari Museum Maranello
If you fancy living like a racing driver you can rent one of the racing car simulators. In fact members of the family can each book one and race each other. You can choose from circuits such as Monza, Barcelona, Silverstone, Imola and Nürbürgring. The car lets you feel the track surface and responds to everything you do.
It’s not cheap but where else do you get to sit in a racing car and try one out? Ah, that would be next door where you can pay to drive one of three different types of Ferraris around a track. Prices depend on which one you choose and how long you want it for. If you take the F12 and drive like a pensioner you are going to need to skip lunch to pay for it.
Here’s how Matthew, who is not old enough to drive, got on with the simulator at the Modena museum.
Practical Information – Museo Ferrari Maranello
The Ferrari Museum in Maranello opens every day except December 25 and January 1. November/March 9.30 – 18.00; April/October 9.30 – 19.00. At the time of writing adult tickets are €16, students €14 and children under 19 a very reasonable €5.
You can book a Ferrari simulator experience at the information desk in the museum for €25. If you have a family and a wodge of cash, you can even have a go at all four simulators across the two Ferrari museums.
Day 1 Afternoon: Museo Enzo Ferrari in Modena
After lunch we zoom off for our next guided tour; twenty kilometres and thirty minutes away at the Museo Casa Enzo Ferrari (MEF) in the historic town of Modena. Not for the first time I wish I had a Ferrari rather than a Citroen Picasso.
MEF bought back Enzo Ferrari’s old family house (which tellingly he sold to pay for the contents of his garage) and it has now been restored and paired with an exhibition hall so yellow and curved it is like a cross between the Italian sun and a supercar.
MEF – Museo Enzo Ferrari
In 2005, a competition to redesign the site of the former Ferrari family home was won by a company called Future Systems. Jan Kaplický, its ‘neofuturistic’ Czech architect died before his designs could be realised. Nevertheless the building went up on the outskirts of Modena with a huge fanfare. And it was worth it. The house is modest, but the yellow gallery/museum looks like a showroom from the future and reflects the personality of the man and the cars; with colours as bright as emoticons.
Driving with the stars
Museo Enzo Ferrari is less about Enzo and more about his most famous cars and who owns them. The company never officially says who has a Ferrari but word leaks out and some of the models are infamous from screen and legend. The Dino was apparently in Hart to Hart. A bright green LaFerrari site on a pedestal advertising the model’s allegiance to Jay Kay from Jamiroquai. (There were only ever 499 of them made.) When we see the 430 Scuderia that inspired the Cars movie, everyone gasps. It’s impossible not to be drawn in especially when the lights suddenly go off and the music starts and the whole gallery becomes a cinema.
Cool things about Museo Enzo Ferrari
Do make sure you stay long enough for one of the immersive movies when the museum lights dim and dozens of projectors turn the museum into a giant cinema. Also, do check out the on site restaurant, Ferrari Giallo Modena, where the food is both local and traditional. But don’t be tempted to send back the coffee if you didn’t order it. It’s actually a very stylish pudding, as you can see in the following video.
Practical Information – Museo Enzo Ferrari
The Museo Enzo Ferrari (MEF) is open every day except December 25 and January 1. November/March 9.30 – 18.00; April/October 9.30 – 19.00. You can buy a combined ticket for the Casa Enzo Ferrari Museum and the Ferrari Museum. Ticket price for both for a full adult is €26,00, or €22.00 for a student and children under 19 are €10. Or you can purchase separate tickets online or at the museum. There is a shuttle bus running between the two if you don’t have your own transport. It also runs to the train station in Modena.
Day 2 Morning: Pagani Factory & Museum in San Cesario sul Panaro
From MEF to our next stop, Pagani, the drive is thirteen kilometres direct (about twenty minutes) but we break things up with an overnight stay in Modena. From the Best Western Resort in Modena (see below for details) it takes twenty five minutes to do the twenty kilometres to the Pagani factory. As we drive up to it we decide this posh car factory looks very unassuming in a residential housing estate. That’s because the sat nav has taken us to a residential housing estate. The factory and museum building we are looking for is actually down the road. And it’s not exactly what you’d recognise as a car factory because this is the ultra modern and luxurious…
Pagani Factory and Museum
If Ferrari screams red and yellow, this factory tour glimmers in futuristic silver. The Pagani Museum is tiny compared with Ferrari and a much simpler experience. You look at a dozen cars. You watch a short film. And then you give up your phone and camera. Because you are going into the coalface. But don’t expect dirt or grime. This factory looks as clean as a hospital.
The Pagani factory tour
In fact as the door slides back I wonder if we’ve stumbled into a coffee shop. The Pagani factory is designed as an Italian piazza. There’s a clock tower, and a polished floor, elegant windows and lots of light. There is no noise, oil, dirty rags or rumbling production line. Here, each car is hand built using carbon fibre parts baked on the premises. And they only make 40 a year. In the centre of the mall, there are a handful of men peering into gleaming machines. We are shown how the carbon fibre is pushed into the mould. No mess, no fuss. We are allowed to touch- yes I said allowed to touch – a piece of car. But it’s not on a car. We aren’t allowed to touch a car.
That could be because each car is roughly worth the price of a house in London. The most expensive in the museum is worth 7 million. But that’s small change for the guy that ordered one the same colour as his wife’s purse. Or the man (name not supplied!) who keeps his Zonda R in his living room.
If you are surprised about this fact, you won’t be when you visit the factory. These aren’t cars. They are art. I didn’t know much about Pagani other than the fact they make Zondas. Which I only knew about from Top Gear. You may remember that when the current model The Huayra was driven round the Top Gear test track by The Stig it became the fastest road car round the track at the time. And Richard Hammond was a bit keen on the open top Zonda: “I would sell my house. Buy one of these. And live in a tunnel.”
Mr Pagani’s parking place
“Is he here?” someone whispers reverently to the tour guide. Who – Richard Hammond? No, the man who set up the company in 1992.
“Mr Pagani. Is he in today?”
“I don’t think so. I didn’t see his bike,” the guide replies.
His bike? The guy has a factory of Paganis and rides…a bike?
“He has many vehicles. That’s his Porsche over there. He uses this as a personal garage.” Respect.
Cool things about the Pagani museum
You get inside the factory and see first hand a supercar being born. You get to find out what Mr Pagani drove to work today. You can’t test drive a Pagani at a track for obvious reasons, but if you are very lucky you may see one being taken out for a test drive. Let’s hope they don’t use the satnav to try and get back.
Practical Information – Pagani Factory and Museum
Pagani tours run Monday to Friday. They start promptly at 11.30 and you are out on the street an hour later – there’s no loitering in the gift shop. Adults cost €35, children from 13 to 18 years cost €22 per person and children under 12 are free.
Day 2 Afternoon: Lamborghini Museum in Sant’Agata Bolognese
After a leisurely lunch we put our foot down on our accelerator and drive the sixteen kilometres (18 minutes – not a land speed record) to the Italian sounding Sant’Agata Bolognese and the house of the raging bull, the Lamborghini museum…
Lamborghini. Even the name is exotic. Like Ferrari, the Lamborghini brand is named after its owner and was created out of passion. Ferruccio Lamborghini began his career as a tractor manufacturer and dedicated tinkerer of engines. Like Ferrari, an animal is the mascot. But this time a bull not a prancing horse takes centre stage.
The winking bull
Although much smaller than the Ferrari exhibitions and with no noticeable wizardry of simulators, screens or movies, it’s packed full of iconic designs that turned the design ideas of one man into one of the most iconic brands in the world. The Lamborghini Museum traces the various manifestations of this supercar brand. All the faves are there including F1’s, the new URUS and the beguiling Miura S with eyelashes that seem to wink at you. Unsurprisingly there are a fair few engines too.
Cool things about the Lamborghini museum
Until November, a large space on the second floor is also home to an exhibition documenting and celebrating racing driver Ayrton Senna. There’s a video which showcases the Brazilian Driver’s career and the run up to his death. It’s sobering to watch it while sitting in front of a display of the F1 driver’s winning cars. Having just driven the same loop in the Ferrari simulator and seeing for himself how hard it is, Matthew is more absorbed than he might have been in the final moments of the documentary.
Practical Information – Lamborghini Museum
The Lamborghini Museum is open every day: From April 1 to October 31, from 9:30 am to 7:00 pm. From November 1 to March 31, from 9:30 am to 6:00 pm. Lamborghinis may not be cheap but entry charges are reasonable. Adults cost €15, with concessions at €12 and €5 for under 6’s. You can book tickets directly from the museum or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Where to stay
We stayed at The Modena Resort Hotel near Modena. This Best Western Plus is a good base for a visit to Motor Valley. Based on the outskirts of town, this modern hotel has a swimming pool and rooms with all conveniences including tea and coffee making and ensuite facilities. But its secret weapon is its breakfast. We counted 18 varieties of cake alone at Nero Balsamico restaurant. Although it prides itself on the excellent dishes of pasta and fillet of beef, cakes are chef Fernando’s passion. In the evening we have dinner in the restaurant’s delightful rose garden, while sipping on a local cherry scented Lambrusco rose.
Disclosure Note: We travelled to Motor Valley with the Emilia Romagna tourist board, with the car factories providing entry to the attractions. All car envy, racing simulator expertise, words and photography were, as ever, all our own.