It was like a dream. My first time in Italy, and I also got to spend a little time at the Museo Enzo Ferrari in Modena, Italy, in a vast roomful of the rarest, sexiest, most expensive cars on the planet. It was the closest I may ever get to this many jewels of the automotive world.
Backpacking through Europe, I had already been to several countries and seen many European cars that don’t show up at all in the United States: Skoda, Lancia, Opel, Peugeot, Renault, Seat, Dacia… Great stuff, really, but Modena was my Mecca for this trip. The birthplace of Enzo Ferrari, and those amazing cars that do make it to the States, but are still only dreams for most of us.
Enzo Ferrari’s Story
The Ferrari name has become synonymous with excellence. Born in Modena in 1898, Enzo Ferrari begins racing in 1919 and is an official driver for Alfa Romeo by 1924. He quits racing after 1931, but stays with Alfa Romeo until 1939 when he leaves to start his own manufacturing company. Due to a clause in his departure, he can’t use his own name for a few years. So the first car he produces in 1940 is not honored with the Ferrari name. The factory is moved to nearby Maranello in 1943 during World War II, and it is from there that the first official Ferrari finally rolls out in 1947.
For the next 41 years, the “Old Man” guides his company to the forefront of public adoration and makes his name a household legend in the civilized world. Aside from the racing circuit, Ferraris appear in movies, television shows, and lay tracks in all corners of popular culture. (Hot Wheels has issued numerous different Ferrari models over the years.) Enzo passes away in 1988, leaving behind a solid empire that is strong to this day.
Modena is not a large city. I arrive on a Sunday afternoon in May and the weather is pleasant and mild. I am able to walk from the train station to a nice hotel, and the nice hotel turns out to be a block away from the Museo Enzo Ferrari (only newly reopened in February). I’m planning to visit the factory in Maranello the next day, but why miss this? The hotel concierge tells me I should still be able to get in, so I grab my camera and off I go.
Out in front of the Museo sits an old building that Enzo Ferrari’s father worked in. It now houses Enzo memorabilia like his trademark spectacles and sunglasses, his racing goggles, his diaries, and a pink marble staircase that he claims was his only family luxury growing up. There is also a great display of the Ferrari logo history, some racing memorabilia and a recreation of Enzo’s office.
The Museo itself is carved into a little hillside. Slick curves and a wavy front set it apart from the more conventional European buildings behind it (well, except for that castle-looking thing back there – but those seem to be everywhere in Europe).
Museo Enzo Ferrari
Upon entering, my first encounter is a vehicle I wasn’t expecting here – a boat. The Arno XI-Ferrari is a hydroplane that set a world speed record in 1953 with the help of a Ferrari V12 engine. I had no idea. This visit was going to be even more interesting than I thought, and I already thought it was going to be pretty awe-inspiring.
When you walk into the main room, you lose your mind a little. It takes a second to re-orient and catch your breath. Strewn about in a voluminous white cavern is a wide selection of Ferrari’s most interesting hits. Not gonna lie – I swooned.
The first section you come through is a display of some of Enzo’s early collaborations with Alfa Romeo, including the last car he raced in. Beyond that is an assortment of Ferraris from the very first one all the way up to the Enzo Ferrari, created in 2002 and named after the founder as a tribute. Projected on the walls and the ceiling around you is a film loop of clips about Enzo and his story.
You wander around the room, picking your favorites as if you actually had any chance of taking one home. They are all colorful and shiny, smooth and glistening, like giant ice cream cones you just wanted to lick. There is nothing like a Ferrari. I take so many pictures that I expect my camera to overheat.
Tomorrow, I will visit the factory in Maranello. Maybe they’ll give me one if I’m a good boy?
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