PILGRIMAGE

Dom Miliano

Volume 44 Issue 25

Dec 8, 2019

It had been nearly 20 years since my last visit to the Ferrari factory so the concept of making this a personal pilgrimage began to take form.

    The flight from Newark International Airport to Milan’s Malpensa Airport is a good eight hours. Since the personal TV screen at my seat was dead (thanks, United), I had to pass the time thinking about my trip to Italy’s Emilia Romagna – home of our beloved Ferrari.

    The word “pilgrimage” kept creeping into my conscientiousness. Wikipedia calls a pilgrimage: “A journey, often into an unknown or foreign place, where a person goes in search of new or expanded meaning about the self, others, nature, or a higher good, through the experience. It can lead to a personal transformation, after which the pilgrim returns to their daily life.”

It had been nearly 20 years since my last visit to the Ferrari factory so the concept of making this a personal pilgrimage began to take form.

    The drive from the airport to Maranello takes about two and a half hours along some rather boring Autostrade. You could wander on smaller roads and see more of the scenery of the area, but if you, like me, are anxious to dive into a total Ferrari experience, the (expensive) toll roads get you there quicker.

    Our choice of hotel was the first good decision we made. Our home base, the Disney-like Maranello Village complex (Viale Terra delle Rosse, 12 | 41053 Maranello MO) was a brief drive to Maranello and Modena (Enzo’s home) and was dripping in Ferrari cool.

    Originally built as a residence for Ferrari employees and their families, it now offers several Ferrari-themed chalets you can rent at very affordable prices.

    An added plus, the buildings are named after famous races: Suzuka, Daytona, Monza and Le Mans. When you walk in, there’s a full-sized Ferrari F1 car, circa 2011, in the lobby and, of course, the ubiquitous gift shop!

    At check-in I was told that for an added 10€, we can have breakfast in their dining area. For convenience, I said OK, but sorry to report, it’s nothing special. There is, however, a genuine Ferrari engine in the sun-lit breakfast room so they have that going for them, which is nice.

    Our room was a small apartment with a master and guest bedroom, full sized bath with washing machine and a complete kitchen. If you travel with car friends or your family, staying here is surprisingly affordable. Parking was included (a plus for sure) and if you rented something better than the FIAT 500X we had, they even have free secure garage parking.

    Half of the fun for me on a trip to Italy is eating good food. Italians know that the best food is what’s produced in the area that’s fresh and in season. I like to go with recommendations from locals so it came as a surprise the Maranello Village urged us to try a restaurant on their property called Ristorante Paddock.

    Since we were jet-lagged and didn’t want to drive far, we walked across the parking lot with low expectations. I guessed it would be a kitschy “NASCAR-like” eatery serving car-themed menu items (I imagined dishes like Race-a-Roni Risotto and Pit-stop-Pasta). Wow was I wrong!

    This proved to be a serious restaurant serving well-prepared dishes. My friend and I had to literally eat our words as we devoured course after course of flavorful offerings.

    We had done our homework ahead of time so our itinerary was well planned. On our first full day, we drove to Modena and the Enzo Ferrari Museum.

    Modena was Enzo’s home and under a vast yellow tent-like dome is a collection of important cars  inspired by his genius. While we were there, they showed an informative movie, displayed on a building-wide panoramic screen, of exciting moments in Enzo’s racing life.

    Outside the museum they have a second building filled with engines from racecars, street Ferraris and even a couple of experimental prototypes. If you are an engine head, this is your place; be prepared to spend a lot of time getting up close and personal. Street parking is available and if you arrive early enough, there’s a private lot too.

    Across the street is a Maserati showroom with a few historic cars on display (including the tube-chassis from a Maserati Birdcage) as well as a chance to take a 90-minute factory tour. You do have to book ahead for the tour: factorytour@maserati.com.

    We discovered another small but fascinating place (free to the public) called the Panini Motor Museum (Via Corletto Sud, 320 41126 MODENA). Here, among other cars and motorcycles, you will find historic Maseratis rescued by the Panini family from worldwide dispersion at auction. They offer guided tours in English and parking; both free. Highly recommended!

    Just down the road from our hotel, we found the Promised Land: the Ferrari factory and Fiorano racetrack. Crossing the overpass into town, we slowed and then parked on the shoulder to get a peek at cars being driven on the track. Sadly, unlike the last time I was here, FIA rules limit F1 practice so we only saw street Ferraris at speed, but it was still exciting.

    In the center of town the iconic entrance to the factory still brings chills. I bet it’s one of the most photographed spots in northern Italy.

    Across the street is the famous (rightfully so) Ristorante Cavallino. Book early to get a seat! Back by the overpass at Fiorano is the Ristorante Montana; equally famous and decorated with lots of Ferrari memorabilia. The same booking rules apply here.

    I have had dinner at both eateries so I tried a new-to-me place called Ristorante Retrò Gusto, literally a stone’s throw from the center of town.

    Upon recommendation from a local, we introduced ourselves to the chef and owner (believe it or not, named Enzo), told him who sent us there and he greeted us as old friends. My friend (braver than I) said, “Bring whatever you have – we’ll love it. We trust you!”

    Enzo asked about food allergies and then brought dish after dish of local specialties. For one pasta dish, (as we say in New Jersey, ‘Ta die for’) he sprinkled freshly ground Parmesan whispering as he did, “Thirty six months old”.

    After lunch, we went to Museo Ferrari; formerly called the Galleria. It’s much larger than it was on my last visit and vastly improved. They have rotating exhibits of important Ferraris with English language placards telling the story of each car.

    We were there for Hypercars exhibit so they were displaying cars from the 288 GTO (my personal favorite Ferrari) to the amazing LaFerrari. The non-rotating exhibits dip deeper into racing history with racecars hanging from the walls, a three-story glass case filled with trophies and life-sized photos of their GP champions. Thrilling.

    We booked a bus tour that took us behind the guarded gates of the F1 works and into the grounds of the factory. We toured on Sunday so we didn’t experience any hustle and bustle on the grounds, but we did see a few cars poised for their shakedown drive prior to delivery and the iconic wind tunnel.

    I was expecting a better experience; we were not allowed on the Fiorano track. They claim the bus’s weight would damage the racing surface. It’s not expensive so you probably want to take a shot but keep your expectations low!

    We did a couple of side trips worth noting. First, we drove to the small Lamborghini museum, called the Museum of Technology (Via Modena, 12 40019 Sant’Agata Bolognese). Two floors of interesting cars can be entertaining for an hour or so but the factory tour is why you want to visit.

    As with other attractions, you need to book early to get the day and time preferred: (https://www.ticketlandia.com/m/event/museo-lamborghini-visita-guidata-en).

    Finally, no trip to the area is complete without a visit to the new and vastly improved Alfa Romeo museum in Arese (www.museoalfaromeo.com). The old museum was wonderful but seemed neglected.

    The day I went in 2001 it was practically devoid of visitors! Today’s museum is bigger, better and more exciting with more cars and interactive displays. Personally I found it more impressive than the new Ferrari museum (Shhhh!).

    Our pilgrimage only lasted a week but I thoroughly enjoyed every minute. My friend and I didn’t take trains to get around; instead we rented (what else) a FIAT 500X and found it more than adequate for the cut and thrust of local Italian byways.

    Even more important, prices for hotels, food and museum admissions were unexpectedly affordable. If you don’t hit the Ferrari gift shops too hard (in Maranello, they sell 45€ hats!) you should come back with your credit card relatively free of stress, a camera full of pictures and memories of food that will spoil you for most local Italian restaurants.

    Why not start now to plan your own personal Ferrari pilgrimage. I think every Ferrari owner should go, “In search of a new or expanded meaning about self, others, nature, or a higher good…”

Bonus Photos!

Alfa Museum

Ferrari Museum

Panini Motor Museum