Full Throttle: An Adrenaline-Fueled Tour of Modena, Home of Ferrari
Full Throttle: An Adrenaline-Fueled Tour of Modena, Home of Ferrari - Revving Up in Motor Valley
If you’re a petrolhead, chances are you’ve heard of Italy’s Motor Valley. This slice of northern Italy is the throbbing heart of the supercar industry, home to legendary marques like Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, Pagani, and Ducati. For motorsport enthusiasts, a pilgrimage here is practically a must.
The focal point of any trip to Motor Valley is Maranello. This unassuming town is the home of the Prancing Horse and where Enzo Ferrari first began hand-building race cars in a shed back in 1947. Today the Ferrari factory and Fiorano test track are off-limits, but you can still get a behind-the-scenes peek at the company’s history and heritage at the Museo Ferrari.
Exhibits at the museum trace Ferrari’s evolution from early beginnings to today’s snarling supercars, with important F1 race cars and exotic road models on display. Be sure to allow time to stroll through the adjacent shopping village, filled with official merch and Ferrari-branded luxuries. Or take a tour of the factory gates and snap a photo in front of the towering black Cavallino Rampante sculpture.
Just down the road in Sant'Agata Bolognese is the wedge-shaped headquarters of Lamborghini. Book an appointment in advance and you can tour the factory floor to watch Aventadors and Huracáns come together. The museum next door displays vintage Miuras, Countaches, and other icons of excess.
Over in Modena proper, the Maserati, Casa Natale Enzo Ferrari, and Stanguellini museums offer more opportunities to immerse yourself in the racing legacy of the area. And the Panini Motor Museum houses an incredible collection of vintage cars, motorcycles, and racing memorabilia to marvel over.
But you don’t have to be a museum buff to enjoy Motor Valley. This is a car enthusiast’s nirvana, where you can’t drive more than a few miles without passing a dealership, workshop, or parts supplier. Even just cruising the countryside exposes you to a steady stream of well-heeled Italians piloting pricy exotics.
The area is also home to some of the world’s top racing circuits. Fiorano, Imola, Mugello, and Monza have all hosted F1 and other major events. Taking a hot lap in a rented supercar or racing experience at one of these tracks is the most adrenaline-pumping way to savor Motor Valley.
What else is in this post?
- Full Throttle: An Adrenaline-Fueled Tour of Modena, Home of Ferrari - Revving Up in Motor Valley
- Full Throttle: An Adrenaline-Fueled Tour of Modena, Home of Ferrari - Racing Through Maranello for a Peek Behind the Scenes
- Full Throttle: An Adrenaline-Fueled Tour of Modena, Home of Ferrari - Winding Through the Roads in a Ferrari Test Drive
- Full Throttle: An Adrenaline-Fueled Tour of Modena, Home of Ferrari - Sampling Balsamic Vinegar in Its Birthplace
- Full Throttle: An Adrenaline-Fueled Tour of Modena, Home of Ferrari - Indulging in Parmigiano Reggiano Straight From the Source
- Full Throttle: An Adrenaline-Fueled Tour of Modena, Home of Ferrari - Marveling at the Romanesque Modena Cathedral
- Full Throttle: An Adrenaline-Fueled Tour of Modena, Home of Ferrari - Strolling Through the Porticos of the Historic City Center
- Full Throttle: An Adrenaline-Fueled Tour of Modena, Home of Ferrari - Experiencing the Nightlife of a True Italian City
Full Throttle: An Adrenaline-Fueled Tour of Modena, Home of Ferrari - Racing Through Maranello for a Peek Behind the Scenes
Maranello is mecca for Ferrari fanatics. As the long-time headquarters and manufacturing hub of the legendary Italian automaker, it offers numerous ways to get an inside look at the Prancing Horse.
Visiting the Museo Ferrari complex is a must for any tifosi. This sprawling campus includes an exhibition hall housing iconic Ferraris through the decades, from early race cars to current production models. Seeing the evolution first-hand gives you a new appreciation for the brand.
The museum also hosts temporary displays focused on specific aspects of Ferrari’s history and design. These rotating exhibits give repeat visitors fresh perspectives. And the gift shop is filled with Scuderia Ferrari merch perfect for taking home a lasting souvenir.
Adjacent to the museum is the company’s official F1 store, stocked with team apparel and accessories. Beyond the retail therapy, you can watch mechanics service the Scuderia’s F1 cars in the dedicated garage used on race weekends. It offers a rare glimpse behind the curtain.
No trip to Maranello is complete without visiting the hallowed factory gates. The main entrance is marked by a towering black sculpture of the Cavallino Rampante, Ferrari’s prancing horse logo. Snap a photo in front as proof of your pilgrimage.
If you time it right, you may even spot one of the finished vehicles undergoing final road tests before client delivery. Seeing one of these six-figure supercars roaring through the streets of Maranello is an awesome sight.
The company's Fiorano test track is also located just outside town. While off-limits to the public, you can still walk portions of the 2.6-mile circuit. Watching test drivers put new Ferrari models through their paces is a highlight for many visitors.
Beyond the Ferrari attractions, Maranello itself exudes Italian racing heritage. Historic workshops that originally helped Enzo realize his automotive vision still operate today. Stop by Carrozzeria Scaglietti to see master coachbuilders forming aluminum bodies by hand.
Or visit HPE Coxo, where you can get a close-up look at the NSX's hybrid powertrain assembly. These shops provide a direct link to the early days of Ferrari and Formula 1 racing in Maranello.
Venturing just outside city limits leads to more hidden gems. The house where Enzo Ferrari was born and raised is now a small museum honoring his humble beginnings. And at Casa Natale Enzo Ferrari, you can tour the home and office where he later spent decades realizing his dreams.
For a behind-the-scenes experience in Maranello, consider booking a private tour. Companies like Red Travel offer VIP access to attractions not normally open to the public. Their knowledgeable guides open doors that generic tours can’t.
Full Throttle: An Adrenaline-Fueled Tour of Modena, Home of Ferrari - Winding Through the Roads in a Ferrari Test Drive
For diehard tifosi, the opportunity to get behind the wheel of a true Italian stallion is utterly irresistible. Maranello’s environs offer several ways to fulfill your need for speed in Ferrari’s backyard. You can test your mettle navigating the same twisty tarmac Enzo used to hone his sports cars.
Chief among them is taking a Ferrari test drive from the factory. Organized drive events provide the chance to pilot current models on public roads the company relies on for shakedowns. Zip through sweeping curves just outside Maranello navigating the same challenging topography their engineers do.
This area’s roads were designed with performance in mind. The region’s history as a center of coachbuilding and racing means infrastructure tailored to high-speed handling. You’ll quickly realize how perfectly suited Ferraris are to the environment that birthed them.
Alternately, third-party driving experiences use Maranello as a base for guided Ferrari driving tours. Operators like Red Travel offer self-drive excursions in your choice of Ferrari. You may pilot an 812 Superfast on an all-day adventure across the breathtaking landscape of Emilia-Romagna.
Or spend a few hours storming over mountain passes with a gumball rally style road trip. Some also provide rides alongside a professional driver for those who prefer enjoying the scenery. Either way, you’ll get to sample the prancing horse’s power far from the crowds.
Driving experiences through tour organizers represent the easiest way to slip behind the wheel of an Italian supercar. But renting your own Ferrari for a few days of solo touring might better satisfy your need for freedom.
Local rental agencies offer a range of current models and vintage classics. Imagine cruising the Autostrada and winding vineyards in a bright blue F8 Tributo, drawing envious looks from every direction. Or live your Magnum P.I. fantasies piloting a 308 GTS on an impromptu canyon run.
Rounding a corner to be met with the unmistakable sound of a Ferrari V12, V8 or even V6 is enough to set any enthusiast’s heart aflutter. Finding that sensation multiplied by the environment that inspired it makes for a truly unforgettable adventure.
Full Throttle: An Adrenaline-Fueled Tour of Modena, Home of Ferrari - Sampling Balsamic Vinegar in Its Birthplace
Indulging in authentic balsamic vinegar straight from the source is a highlight for gastronomes visiting Modena. As the birthplace of this complex condiment, the city offers ample ways to appreciation it in its purest form. Most tourists have only ever sampled the ubiquitous mass-produced balsamic sold globally - often blended with wine vinegar or even coloring to mimic the real thing. But venturing into the Emilia-Romagna countryside exposes you to the traditional methods still producing true balsamic vinegar just as it was centuries ago.
Seeing the climate-controlled aging barrels where prized batches mature for 12 or more years provides insight into why genuine balsamic is so precious. The concentrated liquid within, transferred carefully between successively smaller casks, achieves complexity not found in factory produced imitations. Sampling even a drop directly from the master blender, redolent with sweet and savory notes, is an eye-opening treat for your taste buds.
Visiting local estates that cultivate the vineyards of Trebbiano and Lambrusco grapes necessary for balsamic production shows how intertwined the process is with Modena's terroir. The must extracted from the harvest is boiled down into the cooked grape syrup that ferments into the vinegar's base. Without these conditions, found only in this sliver of northern Italy, none of the alchemy yielding true balsamic would be possible.
But beyond just marveling at its production, partaking of delicate dishes spotlighting high quality balsamic is the ultimate treat. Restaurants and food tours in Modena highlighting it as the star ingredient provide new appreciation for its versatility. A thick glaze drizzled over thinly sliced Parma ham creates an irresistible sweet and salty balance. Even a drop mixed into rich gelato churned moments before takes the dessert to new heights of complexity. From meat to cheese to chocolate to fruit, discovering pairings that accentuate balsamic's notes of caramel, cocoa, figs and more opens up new realms of possibility at the table.
Full Throttle: An Adrenaline-Fueled Tour of Modena, Home of Ferrari - Indulging in Parmigiano Reggiano Straight From the Source
No foodie's visit to Modena is complete without indulging in authentic Parmigiano Reggiano, known as the "King of Cheeses," straight from the source. This hard, crumbly cheese has been produced for centuries in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy from raw cow's milk and a small amount of salt - no preservatives or additives. By law, it can only be called Parmigiano Reggiano if it is produced following strict protocols in one of a few select provinces.
Seeing 86 pound wheels calmly maturing for at least a year up to three or more in massive wooden shelves inside temperature-controlled aging rooms demonstrates an artisanal process perfected over 700+ years. Sampling wedges cut from different aged rounds offers a taste comparison - younger cheeses at 12 months still carry hints of fruitiness while older vintages become intensified, concentrated and crumbly with delightful crunchy crystals.
Visiting small caseifici crafting big wheels one batch at a time shows how integral Parmigiano Reggiano is to local culture. Farmers even reserve part of their milk production specifically for transforming into these big cheeses. Watching master casari expertly handle curd steaming and two-day wheel molding processes ties tradition directly to flavors.
Local markets overflow with big wedges for tasting and purchasing. Shopkeepers proudly offer tiny slivers to highlight aromas, textures and sweet nuttiness - a far cry from pre-grated dust. Restaurants proudly shave hefty hunks tableside over pasta and salads. Food tours make it easy to compare and contrast varieties by vintage.
But it's at an agriturismo on a rural farmstead, sampling freshly cut shards directly off an entire wheel, possibly washed down with a little red wine, that Parmigiano Reggiano achieves nirvana. This singular experience in the cheese's native land truly allows its complex aromas, crumble-on-the-tongue texture, and savory umami essence to shine. You'll never view the prepackaged grated version the same.
Full Throttle: An Adrenaline-Fueled Tour of Modena, Home of Ferrari - Marveling at the Romanesque Modena Cathedral
Standing regally at the heart of Modena, the mesmerizing 12th-century Romanesque cathedral is a marvel not to be missed. Dedicated to the city’s patron saint, Saint Geminianus, construction on this grandiose house of worship began in 1099 under the direction of architect Lanfranco. The imposing façade boasts a striking two-tone patterned exterior blending white marble and red brick. Intricately carved arches and galleries give way to a resplendent rose window crowning the main entrance.
Step inside and your gaze is immediately drawn upwards. The expansive interior appears even larger thanks to an optical illusion achieved through vertical striping on the walls. The cavernous space is dominated by the towering square crossing with four remarkable carved capitals depicting biblical scenes atop the columns. Yet the true masterpiece is Cassini's ‘Madonna Enthroned’ gracing the apse. This early Renaissance mural portrays the Virgin Mary and Christ in stunning detail with vivid colors still vibrant after 700 years.
Making your way downstairs leads to the must-see Porta della Pescheria. This entrance is adorned with remarkable Romanesque stone carvings unveiled during 19th-century renovations. But it’s the astonishing crypt that provides profound perspective. Descending into the dimly lit sanctum where Saint Geminianus’ remains are interred connects you viscerally to the distant past.
Ambling amongst the pews and chapels you’ll inevitably spot newlyweds having photos taken – it's a coveted spot for Italian weddings. The whole cathedral takes on an aura of tranquility thanks to a ban on sightseeing during services. Finding a quiet corner to just sit and take it all in allows full appreciation of the sanctified atmosphere.
Guided tours provide insider knowledge on the ornate details and artworks from enthusiastic docents. Or for a truly memorable experience, check the schedule for upcoming concerts or masses with the cathedral’s pipe organ and choir. Their spine-tingling music resonates through the cavernous nave for an unforgettable immersive encounter.
Full Throttle: An Adrenaline-Fueled Tour of Modena, Home of Ferrari - Strolling Through the Porticos of the Historic City Center
One of the great pleasures in Modena is simply strolling beneath the covered walkways of the historic city center. The porticos here are an architectural tradition dating back centuries, providing shade and shelter as locals go about their daily lives. Unesco recognized their cultural significance by designating Modena's porticos as a World Heritage Site.
As you amble down the Via Emilia, the energy is palpable. Families chat animatedly over afternoon coffee on sun-dappled piazzas. Hip youths whiz by on bicycles en route to the university. Shopkeepers sweep stoops or recalibrate their window displays in preparation for evening passeggiata, that lively Italian tradition of leisurely strolling once the late afternoon heat has passed.
Ducking under the porticos feels akin to entering a bustling covered market, with their arched ceilings festooned with Italian flags and sultry saxophone jazz drifting out of cafés. Makeshift galleries display up-and-coming artists’ works under magnificent frescoes commissioned by noble families centuries ago. Locals line up for scoops of gelato or picnic provisions while debating the upcoming MotoGP standings.
Modena’s porticoes have served as urban connective tissue since medieval times. Many originated as temporary wooden structures erected outside homes during celebrations and community events. Stone and mortar soon replaced wood, as residents realized the practical benefits of covered walkways to escape harsh sunlight and rain while remaining part of the street life.
Several porticos are wide enough to accommodate automobiles, thanks to later expansions. But many retain their original proportions, ideal for pedestrian traffic. The narrow, low-slung architecture provides natural shade. And limited vehicle access keeps these lanes intimate. Theonian, Tuscan, and elliptical columns lend visual variety, their carved capitals adorned with familial crests and imagery.
Diverging down a side alley barely one shoulder-width across transports you back centuries. Laundry lines strung across the gap dry slowly in the shadows as they have for decades. The patina of the stonework bears witness to generations of footsteps. Graffiti reveals the modern preference for spray cans over chisels.
But plenty of pomp surrounds the circumstances, too. Palatial porticos flanking Modena’s Duomo are adorned with elaborate friezes and Shakespearean inscriptions, whispering of a prosperous past. Statues honor luminaries like Luciano Pavarotti in these shaded loggias. And buskers bang out folk classics, their instruments echoing under the archways as if in a natural amphitheater.
Full Throttle: An Adrenaline-Fueled Tour of Modena, Home of Ferrari - Experiencing the Nightlife of a True Italian City
After the Ferraris return to their stables for the night, Modena transforms into a lively Italian city glowing with gusto and thirsty for indulgence. La vita notturna qui è una festa per i sensi, an all-night party for the senses embracing joie de vivre. Nighttime is when Modena truly comes alive.
Enthusiastic university students and hip young professionals flock to the city’s bars and pubs, their lively conversation and raucous laughter spilling out into the streets. Trusty birre like Peroni and Moretti flow freely as patrons unwind over rounds of cards or games of bocce in alleyway pits. Scooters line the sidewalks haphazardly like metallic jungle vines. Impassioned debates rage over the merits of tortellini vs tagliatelle, unlikely to be resolved before the sun rises again.
Finding a seat at the Enosteria del Teatro, a cozy restaurant attached to the Teatro Comunale Luciano Pavarotti, offers a prime view of the nightly aperitivo spectacle. Patrons packed elbow to elbow at outdoor tables indulge in aperitifs like vibrant negronis and spritzes paired with plates of cured meats, cheeses, and fritti. As the evening wears on, regional wines and digestifs provide a comfortable buzz.
When hunger strikes, osterias beckon with the day’s freshest pastas handmade that morning. Pair the tortelloni in brodo with a bold Sangiovese before joining the crowds promenading down Via Emilia. Stop into a neighborhood joint for a few rounds of tarocco, a rapid trick-taking card game using a traditional Modenese deck. Or try briscola chiamata, a two-player game with trump cards and risky bets.
As Thursday through Saturday nights progress, activity concentrates in the bustling Largo Hannover district. Uni students flock together, barhopping between cocktails or grabbing a slice at Sauce Pizza & Wine. DJs spin pulsating mixes and live bands rock out as young Modenesi let loose. Dancing spills into the streets with carefree revelers living in the moment.
Enthusiasts debate tuning specs at fluid dynamics-themed watering hole Triangolare Bar, or talk torque over Negronis next door at SiamoMotori. For digestifs, the cozy Jazz Club Modena draws music aficionados with its extensive list of amari, not to mention smooth piano sets. Or sip stratospherically-priced vintages at the Ferrari-owned Cavallino Classic Bar draped in racing memorabilia.