Car Museums of Europe - Italy
There are sports cars and supercars made all over the world, but the Italians seems to understand how to make them pull on drivers' heart strings like nobody else. Italy has long manufactured some of the most beautifully-designed high performance cars in the entire world. Almost all of the best Italian sports cars come with lofty price tags that put them out of the reach of the average buyer, but that doesn't mean one can't dream. Staring at the exotic lines of a Ferrari, a Lamborghini, or an Alfa Romeo can be a semi-religious experience, and hearing their respective engine notes can easily cause the hair on the back of the neck to stand at attention.
The Emilia-Romagna region of Northern Italy is the heart and soul of Italy's sports car industry. It one of the wealthiest and most developed regions in Europe. Bologna, its capital, has one of Italy's highest quality of life indices and advanced social services. Emilia-Romagna is also a cultural and tourist centre, being the home of the University of Bologna, the oldest university in the world, and contains Romanesque and Renaissance cities (such as Modena, Parma and Ferrara). The region is known for its eminent cuisine-famed cheeses, prosciutto di Parma, tortellini and zampone (salty pig's feet). The greatest chef in the world, as ranked by France's International Academy of Gastronomy this year, is in Modena - Massimo Bottura of Osteria Francescana. But it is the song of finely tunes engines that lures visitors from all corners of the globe to pay homage to the high performance cars of the Emilia-Romagna region, a place they refer to as Motor Valley.
Motor Valley is the home of the greatest names in exotic motoring: Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, Ducati, De Tomaso, Stanguellini and Pagani, maker of the new $1 million-plus Huayra. The tradition of hand-building beautiful vehicles in Italy goes back to the days of Roman chariots. Today, the streets of Motor Valley, carved out during the Middle Ages, swarm with supercars old and new. As the curator of Bologna's Ducati Museum says: "This is Silicon Valley for the need for speed. If you don't like to drive 55, this is heaven on earth."
Most of these firms have museums and factories a tourist can visit (some by appointment only). The collections are about more than cars; they trace the history of the 20th century through works of mechanized art that were owned by celebrities and royalty. As the Italian film director Roberto Rossellini put it in the 1960s: "There is no finer thrill in the world than driving a Ferrari flat out."
Though Motor Valley is where Italy's supercar museums are located, there are other motoring museums at various localities throughout northern Italy that play their part in Italy's dominance in the world of beautifully-designed high-performance motoring. Most of these can be reached either on your way to or from Motor Valley if you are based in Northern Italy, and should be included in any trip to the area if you seek the complete Italian motoring experience.
Founded by Carlo Biscaretti di Ruffia, the museum has a collection of almost 200 cars among eighty automobile brands representing eight countries (Italy, France, Great Britain, Germany, Netherlands, Spain, United States of America, Poland). The collection includes: 1896 Bernardi, 1893 Benz Victoria, 1894 Peugeot, 1899 Fiat, 1904 Oldsmobile, 1907 Itala (Peking - Paris), 1913 De Dion Bouton, 1914 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost, 1916 Ford T, 1928 Isotta Fraschini 8A, 1929 Alfa Romeo.
Library: 6000 volumes, documentation centre, cafeteria, parking, bookshop, auditorium for conferences (450 places), exhibition hall.
Address: Corso Unitas d'Italia, 40 - 10126 Turin. Contact: Tel. 011 677666011 677666 /7/8
The exhibition space presents the evolution of the work of the Pininfarina design company from its foundation to present day, an history always focused on design quality. The most important automobiles designed in Pinifarina's history are exhibited, from the Cisitalia and the Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spider to the Sigma Grand Prix and the Maserati Birdcage 75th. The core section of the collection has a new layout provided with iconographic panels and multimedia exhibits. Visits must be booked in advance and are allowed for groups of at least 5 people.
Address: Via Nazionale 30 - 10020 Cambiano (Turin). Contact: Public Relations Manager. +011 39 011 9438104
Paolo Gratton was one of the biggest Ford dealers in Italy. He's now retired and enjoys running his own museum. The facade resembles the old Ford Trieste factory from the 1920s. A collection of Fords plus many other cars and motorcycles. Reproduction of the first Ford assembly line, 1897 Cleveland. The collection includes: 1902 Oldsmobile Curved Dash; 1909 Ford T Sport; 1913 Ford; 1918 Fiat 501; 1932 Ford V8 Tudor; 1934 Lancia Augusta; 1959 Ford Zephyr (GB); 1963 Ford Taunus (D); 1965 Ford Mustang. Additionally there are old radios, automobilia and more.
The museum is 40 km from Trieste, 120 km from Venice, 35 km from Udine, on road 351 between Gorizia and Farro d'Isonzo. Large parking area. Free entrance. Open every working day 10.00-13.00 by appointment.
Address: Via Gorizia, 150 34072 Farra d'Isonzo, Gorizia
Museo Lamborghini (translated as the Lamborghini Museum) is owned and operated by Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A. in Sant'Agata Bolognese, Emilia-Romagna, Italy. Opened in 2001, the two-storey museum is attached to the Lamborghini factory, and covers the history of Lamborghini cars and SUVs. The goal of the museum is to cover all major milestones throughout Lamborghini's history, with the current gallery containing iconic cars such as 350 GT and the Sesto Elemento. A factory tour is available, which includes a visit to the production lines to see Lamborghinis being made by hand.
The Alfa Romeo Museum has been completely renovated and is even more prestigious. The historical site in Arese has a new look and will be open to public with a refined arrangement that reflects Alfa Romeo's distinctive DNA. Six floors of history binding past, present and future and complimenting the achievements of an extraordinary brand, its vehicles, its technology and style.
Address: Viale Alfa Romeo, 20020 Arese (Milan)
The great moments of the Ducati past are recounted using a variety of Ducati racing motorcycles, images, memorabilia and componentry. Divided into nine main sections, the museum reiterates the chronology of over fifty years of Ducati's evolution from a small electrical company to a motorcycling giant. The history of Ducati motorbikes spans more than half a century and includes many models which are still highly sought after. Whether you are a vintage collector, or simply interested in classical bikes, you will find something of interest here.
As well as the Museum, the Borgo Panigale factory is also open to those fans who want to see how today's Ducati bikes come into being.
Address: Via Cavalieri Ducati, 3 40132 Borgo Panigale (Bologna)
After Ferruccio Lamborghini died, his son Tonino managed to build and open th museumis as a tribute to his father. The museum was inaugurated on May 13, 1995. Occupying the original Lamborghini tractor factory building, the museum is very much a labour of love by the Lamborghini family to keep both Ferruccio's memory and his legacy as a progressive developer and manufacturer of a variety of products. As such holds just about everything Ferruccio achieved during his life with most of the cars on display being from Ferruccio's own private museum. Ferruccio's nephew Fabio Lamborghini is heavily involved with the museum and if you are lucky, you might get a personally guided tour from the man himself.
Address: Strada Provinciale 4 Galliera n. 319 - 40050 Funo di Argelato (Bologna)
One of two museums owned and operated by the Ferrari company which tell the story of Ferrari past and present. Its roots lie deep in the Prancing Horse's extraordinary history, and the displays in this museum span both the most famous and successful Formula 1 cars, Ferrari's legendary Sports Prototypes and GTs, and their most significant road cars. Visitors can also enjoy a host of other amenities: a cinema with looped showings of themed films, semi-professional Formula 1 simulators, a photographic set where they can have their photo taken in a Ferrari, the opportunity to try a real tyre change, big screen showings on Grand Prix days, a great Ferrari Store and cafe.
Visitors wishing to also take in the Museo Enzo Ferrari in Modena can avail of a special shuttle service departing from the plaza in front of the Ferrari Museum in Maranello. This service links the two museums at regular intervals throughout the day. Tours of the Fiorano Test Track and factory complex are available from Ferrari Museum Maranello. Visitors may not leave the bus, take photographs or video footage during the factory tour, however.
The museum is located a short distance from the Ferrari factory, at Via Alfredo Dino Ferrari, 43, 41053 Maranello.
If your visit to Motor Valley requires you to stay overnight in the area, there is no better place to stay than Maranello Village, especially if you have a soft spot for the high performance vehicles made in the area. Maranello Village is a Ferrari themed motel/hotel, with the accommodation decked out in Ferrari red, motor racing pictures adorn the walls of each room - and if that's not enough to convince to stay the night in Ferrari heaven, the Ferrari race car in which Michael Schumacher won the Formula 1 World Championship in 2000 is part of the hotel's reception desk!
A variety of rooms and suites are available to suit all budgets, all motor racing themed, as are the onsite dining options - Paddock Restaurant, Pit Lane Restaurant and Stop & Go Bar. There is also an offical Ferrari Store selling merchandise and providing information about the Galleria Ferrari museum, 3 km away in Maranello. The only drawback is its isolated location if public transport is how you are getting around the area. If you are coming by car, it's easy to find and has plenty of space for parking.
Address: Viale Terra delle Rosse, 12 | 41053 Maranello.
The Stanguellinis were father-and-son pioneers of the car racing stables in Modena in the early 20th century. Enzo Ferrari and the Maserati brothers followed, transforming the city in the world capital of high performance motor vehicles. Many racing cars were derived from the Fiat ones (Sport 750 and 1100), whereas others were entirely built in Modena, and used by great drivers such as Lorenzo Bandini, Manuel Fangio and Tazio Nuvolari. The Museum, established in 1995 under the will of Francesco Stanguellini, tells the story of the brand, starting from the first registred car in Modena (numberplate '1-MO', 1910). Located at the Stanguellini Fiat dealership, the museum displays mostly Stanguellini cars and racing memorabilia, with other makes like Porsche, Maserati and Alfa Romeo belonging to the family collection. Admission is free (bookings preferred). Open Mon - Fri 3pm-6pm.
Address: 756 Via Emilia Est 41100 Modena. Ph +39 059 361105
Museo Casa Enzo Ferrari (also known as Museo Enzo Ferrari) is a museum housed in the painstakingly renovated workshop where Enzo's father used to work. It is focused on the life and work of Enzo Ferrari, the founder of the Ferrari sports car marque.
A Ferrari company museum dedicated to the Ferrari sports car marque, it is not purely a display of cars; also on view are trophies, photographs and other historical objects relating to the Italian motor racing industry. The exhibition also introduces technological innovations, some of which had made the transition from racing cars to road cars. It is also possible to visit some of the rooms of the house where Enzo was born in 1898.
Next door is an imposing hall built using the most cutting-edge, an environmentally-friendly building providing 5,000 m2 of pillar and obstacle-free exhibition space. The architecture that references the contours of 1950s racing car bonnets, creates the feeling of having entered a temple dedicated to the Car and its history. The cars on display are perfectly lit, ensuring every photograph taken by visitors is superb, even if the photographer is a novice. Every 30 minutes or so the hall turns into an all-round screening room where images of the history and the men and women who made the marque so iconic are projected from wall to ceiling. On a previous visit, the cars on display were all Maseratis. On my most recent visit, the cars all carried the Ferrari prancing horse emblem.
Address: Museo Enzo Ferrari - Via Paolo Ferrari, 85, 41121 Modena
In the course of its long history, Maserati kept the most significant vehicles produced in addition to the prototypes, creating over the decades, a collection of cars, engines and components which are unique and able to illustrate the historical, technical and design evolution of the company. This amazing collection of mainly Maserati memorabilia is now in the hands of Italian farmer Umberto Panini. They, along with many other vehicles collected by Panini over the years, are displayed in a nonedescript barn within the Hombre organic farm of the Panini Family, just outside the outskirts of Modena, between the towns of Baggiovara and Cognento.
The Collection can be visit only upon written request and only during the months of March, April, May, June, July, September and October. Guided tours require a mandatory reservation. Guided tours are not guaranteed under six persons. An application form to view the collection is on the museum's website (click on museum name above for website link).
Address: Via Corletto Sud, 320 41126 Modena.
Pagani is very much the new kid on the block in terms of supercar manufacturers, but has quickly cemented its place among the big boys in a few short years. The showroom come museum has on display the very first model to scale which Horacio Pagani, the founder, made when he was just 12 years old. There is also the first racing car that he ever built, at the young age of 20, as well as the very first drawing of the Zonda and the latest Zonda Revolution and Huayra. Guided visits of the production work-shop are included with visits.
Address: Pagani Automobili S.p.A. Via dell'Artigianato, 5, Vill. La Graziosa 41018 San Cesario sul Panaro near Modena, Italy
Maserati Headquarters - and the home of Maserati since 1940 - is situated in Viale Ciro Menotti in Modena, Italy. The original redbrick factory buildings still stand as a reminder of the marque's heritage. It was here in Modena that most of the iconic Maserati cars were born and indelibly stamped the mark of the Trident on the automotive world. Although much of Maserati's manufacturing has now relocated to the factory in Turin - where production of the new Quattroporte and Ghibli is taking place - the Viale Ciro Menotti factory is far from silent. After a complete overhaul and modernization over a decade ago, this factory still maintains its posizione centrale as the Maserati epicentre of 'excellence through passion' and it is here that the GranTourismo and GranCabrio models are hand-crafted and assembled.
There is no museum here, nor is a factory tour offered, but visitors are welcome to visit the showroom in the entrance hall to Maserati Headquarters. It is a grand affair with a stylized representation of a racetrack dominating the substantial floor space. The racing heritage of Maserati - from the Fangio Formula 1 era to the the modern Trofeo Maserati - remains the defining essence of this Italian marque despite the modern emphasis on luxury.