Hiring a Fiat Panda and taking to Italy’s autostradas could have been a fatal move for any couple, let alone a couple one day after their engagement. Fortunately Em’s calm but forceful approach to navigation kept things under control as we drove from Verona to Modena (an hour and a bit south).
Fiat Pandas don’t comfortably sit at (or sometimes get to) the speed limit of 130km/h. The result is one lane for Pandas and another faster lane for everyone else. We were happy in the slow lane.
The attraction to Modena was the recently-opened Enzo Ferrari Museum. The Museum is a giant yellow structure (designed to look like the air intake of a Ferrari) built around Enzo Ferrari’s family house.
Inside, the display was less about the cars and Enzo Ferrari himself, and more about the history of the car industry in Modena (home to Ferrari, Maserati, Lamborghini, Pagani etc, all still having their factories in the area). The history is basically a story of a bunch of guys all building racing cars to go fast and beat their rivals. Sounded like a lot of fun really, but the result was the development of world-renown brands producing high-end racing and sports cars, creating jobs and wealth for the region.
If you don’t like my facts, skip the next paragraph.
Scuderia Ferrari was established in 1929. Ferrari was the sales agent for Alfa Romeo in that area of Northern Italy. Ferrari supplied service and assistance to the few very wealthy owners of Alfa Romeos. Just down the road in Bologna, the Maserati brothers had been producing racing cars since 1926 and moved operations to Modena in 1940. Shortly after, Ferrari produced its first ever Ferrari-branded car, and an Aeautodromo (race track / landing strip) was built in the town in 1950 (for better racing and more fun). This started the enduring rivalry between Ferrari and Maserati, first with racing cars and then with GT cars. To give you some idea of the strength of the region, in 1956 and 1957 the starting line of Formula 1 was made up exclusively of Ferraris and Maseratis. It was the only time in the history of F1 that all the cars were built in the same town.
As for the cars on display, there were some beauties, ranging from a 1914 Alfa Romeo through to a 2012 Italdesign prototype.
Old Enzo was one smooth dude and had a pretty incredible life, as documented in the displays inside his old house (which was mortgaged to buy Enzo his first racing car). He had some successes racing cars, but his ruthless nature was best suited to running the company. He always wore dark sunnies (Raybans – you were very lucky to see him without them), wrote only in purple ink (it reminded him of his father), and never travelled overseas to watch Ferrari races.
After lunch at the Museum, we were back in the Panda to head to Maranello, 20 minutes from Modena. Maranello is home to the Ferrari factory (sadly, you need to own a Ferrari to tour it) and the Museo Ferrari which houses a massive collection of Ferrari F1 and GT cars. But that Saturday was also “Red Night” in Maranello – a massive party to celebrate all things Ferrari.
We looked around the Museo Ferrari, at all the latest and greatest, as well as most of their F1 cars from 1985 to 2011. It’s incredible to see them all lined up and the changes to the aerodynamics – nowadays with all kinds of wings and fins. There was the (very large) wall of Ferrari trophies and we also liked a film showing clips of Ferraris featured in Hollywood movies (with a good looking actress usually).
Once outside, the band was getting warmed up and hundreds of Ferraris were pouring into town. The Police close some of the roads so you can drive fast, and there are several companies who will let you drive a Ferrari of your choice (prices started at €80 for 10 minutes). Didn’t really need to go to the Museum, because every model from the past 15 years was in the car park across the road. Perhaps more bizarre than the cars, were their drivers – an eccentric lot to say the least.
Here’s a few photos and a video of the car park.
I was just happy to get the Panda out of Maranello without scratching any Ferraris, and back to Verona without an argument with the navigator.