Revving Up in Modena: Exploring the Hometown of Enzo Ferrari
Revving Up in Modena: Exploring the Hometown of Enzo Ferrari - Cradle of Fast Cars
Modena is known as the cradle of fast cars for good reason - this is the birthplace of legends like Ferrari, Maserati, De Tomaso, and Pagani. For auto enthusiasts, visiting Modena is like making a pilgrimage to racing's holy land.
The story begins in Modena with Enzo Ferrari, who started Scuderia Ferrari in 1929 before founding the Ferrari company in 1947. Ferrari's history is so integral to the identity of Modena that you'll find a prancing horse statue right in the main piazza. Beyond the Ferrari Museum, you can visit the Enzo Ferrari House Museum to see where Il Commendatore lived and worked.
But Ferrari isn't the only racing giant with roots in Modena. Maserati was founded here by brothers Alfieri, Bindo, Carlo, Ettore, and Ernesto Maserati in 1914. The original Maserati factory and headquarters are located on Viale Ciro Menotti, where you can tour the showroom and glimpse the automotive past.
Another Modena-born marque is De Tomaso, created by the Argentinian racer and car constructor Alejandro de Tomaso in 1959. De Tomaso cars like the Pantera combined Italian design with American V8 engines. The De Tomaso factory is now being transformed into a multi-brand experience center showcasing the area's motoring heritage.
Modena's latest supercar startup is Pagani Automobili, launched by Horacio Pagani in 1998. Pagani's carbon fiber hypercars like the Zonda and Huayra mix advanced technology with wildly expressive designs. You can tour the Pagani factory to see these million-dollar-plus supercars taking shape.
With this concentration of sports car creators, it's no wonder car spotting is a popular local pastime. Exotic models from the town's legendary brands are a common sight weaving through the streets. Visitors can play along on a guided supercar tour or by visiting gathering spots like Piazza Roma on summer weekend nights.
What else is in this post?
- Revving Up in Modena: Exploring the Hometown of Enzo Ferrari - Cradle of Fast Cars
- Revving Up in Modena: Exploring the Hometown of Enzo Ferrari - Museums for Motorheads
- Revving Up in Modena: Exploring the Hometown of Enzo Ferrari - Tasting Balsamic in the Vineyards
- Revving Up in Modena: Exploring the Hometown of Enzo Ferrari - Walkable Historic Center
- Revving Up in Modena: Exploring the Hometown of Enzo Ferrari - Shopping on Via Emilia
- Revving Up in Modena: Exploring the Hometown of Enzo Ferrari - Festivals and Events Year-Round
- Revving Up in Modena: Exploring the Hometown of Enzo Ferrari - Day Trips to Nearby Towns
Revving Up in Modena: Exploring the Hometown of Enzo Ferrari - Museums for Motorheads
Modena has a high concentration of museums celebrating its motor racing heritage that will thrill any petrolhead. The Enzo Ferrari Museum provides a captivating look at the life and work of Modena’s most famous son and the history of the Ferrari brand he built. Visitors enter under the bold yellow nose of a Formula 1 car into galleries displaying significant Ferrari road and race models through the decades. Standouts include the first Ferrari ever built, the 1948 166 Spyder Corsa, to the modern LaFerrari hybrid supercar. Beyond the cars are exhibits spotlighting Enzo Ferrari’s personal and professional story through photos, documents and films.
Another must-see is the Ferrari Gallery Museum, located adjacent to the Ferrari factory. This museum showcases some of the most important racing and sports cars in Ferrari’s lineup. Famed models like the 250 GTO, F40, F50 and Enzo are represented alongside Formula 1 cars driven by legends such as Ascari, Lauda and Schumacher. Though smaller in scale than the Enzo Ferrari Museum, the museum provides an up-close look at some of the Prancing Horse’s most significant moments.
The Maserati Museum immerses visitors in over 100 years of history from the trident brand. Maserati road and race cars are artistically displayed amid multimedia exhibits that profile the brand’s most important technological innovations and design achievements. Standout displays include the Tipo 26, Maserati’s first ever car from 1926, plus famous models like the Birdcage, MC12 and Ghibli. The Maserati family story is also highlighted through photos and films about the brothers who started it all.
Revving Up in Modena: Exploring the Hometown of Enzo Ferrari - Tasting Balsamic in the Vineyards
With its aged balsamic vinegar, Modena has staked a global reputation on a uniquely Italian elixir. This prized condiment can only come from Modena, produced according to time-honored traditions passed down by generations of artisans. A visit to a traditional acetaia (balsamic vinegar producer) offers a one-of-a-kind opportunity to taste how Modena’s vineyards yield liquid gold.
At an acetaia, you’ll gain an appreciation for the craft behind true aged balsamic vinegar. The process begins with the must, or grape juice, drawn from local Lambrusco or Trebbiano grapes late in the harvest. This must is simmered down into a syrupy base. Then the magic happens - aging this base over many years in a succession of cherry, chestnut, mulberry, oak and juniper barrels. With each transfer to the next barrel, the vinegar evaporates, concentrating in flavor. After at least 12 years - the minimum for “extra old” labeling - the result is an aromatic syrup bursting with sweet and savory notes.
During a tasting, an acetaia will demonstrate the striking difference between traditional and commercial balsamic vinegars. An expert guide will have you sample vinegars of various ages, from younger 4-5 year old batches to generations-old family reserves. You’ll experience how the vinegar’s viscosity, complexity and intensity of flavor transform over time. Sipping from a spoon, you’ll pick out flavors like dried fruit, coffee, licorice and honey in the dark concentrates. The older reserves, though thinly administered in drops, offer incredible depth and balance of sweet and acidic tones. This tasting illuminates why connoisseurs esteem traditionally crafted balsamic as a precious artisanal delicacy rather than simply a salad dressing.
Beyond the tasting itself, a visit to an acetaia provides a fascinating look behind-the-scenes into time-honored production methods. Guides will walk you through the progressive aging barrels, explaining the crucial role of each wood type to the flavor profile. You’ll gain insight into how master tasters assess the vinegar’s aroma, texture and taste at every stage. Many acetaias have been crafting their balsamic for generations, proudly showing visitors their prized family barrel sets.
Revving Up in Modena: Exploring the Hometown of Enzo Ferrari - Walkable Historic Center
Modena's historic center is a pedestrian paradise perfect for wandering. As a UNESCO World Heritage site, Modena safeguards its medieval and Renaissance core by restricting traffic and preserving narrow lanes ideal for strolling. This intimate scale allows you to soak in the sights, sounds and flavors as you amble under iconic arcades and past charming piazzas.
A highlight of this historic district is Modena's striking Romanesque cathedral, begun in 1099. The splendid facade marries Biblical reliefs, magical beasts and an ornate rose window. Inside, the atmospheric gloom is pierced by stained glass rays and the tombs of historic figures like the 14th century writer Boccaccio. Make time to climb the Ghirlandina bell tower for panoramic views of the red-roofed old town.
Nearby Piazza Grande is overseen by the white marble Communal Palace with its clock tower called the Torre Civica. This airy square hosts a bustling farmer's market as well as evening aperitivo crowds. North of the piazza, seek out the 16th century Church of San Vincenzo with its mannerist paintings and the adjacent Este Palace Gardens.
Just west lies Piazza Roma, a long, rectangular plaza lined with cafes perfect for people watching. Don't miss the impressive facade of the Palazzo dei Musei, home to the Civic Museums. Must-sees inside include the Estense Gallery with works by Botticelli, Velazquez and El Greco and the Museum of Illumination showing elaborate 18th century candlesticks.
To dive into old Modena's atmospheric lanes, head south from Piazza Grande down Via Castellaro. You'll pass historic churches like San Filippo Neri with its impressive dome. This area is full of richly decorated palazzos as well as inviting shops and osterias. Make your way to Mercato Albinelli, a covered food market laden with local specialties. Nearby Via Cesare Battisti and Via Emilia also promise picturesque strolling and shopping.
Revving Up in Modena: Exploring the Hometown of Enzo Ferrari - Shopping on Via Emilia
Among Modena's charming pedestrian lanes, Via Emilia stands out as a shopper's paradise. This bustling street follows the path of the ancient Roman Via Aemilia highway that linked Piacenza to Rimini. Today, it remains Modena's premier shopping thoroughfare, tempting with trendy boutiques alongside traditional food shops. Exploring Via Emilia provides a perfect blend of retail therapy and local flavor.
As a center of slow food culture, Modena excels at small specialty stores dedicated to a single beloved ingredient. Foodies flock to Hombre for perhaps the city's finest selection of aged balsamic vinegars. Shelves brim with bottles from local producers, some containing precious batches aged for a quarter century. You can taste test to find the perfect concentration and complexity. Just down the street, La San Nicola draws cheese devotees with cases stacked high with Parmigiano Reggiano wheels at varying ages. Chatty clerks happily shave samples so customers can distinguish the nuances of 12, 24 and 36 month maturation.
For carnivores, Salumeria Giusti is a required visit. Illustrious for its artisanal cured meats, this shop dazzles with garlands of prosciutto hams and countless salami varieties. Generous staff by the antique slicer encourage you to try Modena specialties like zampone stuffed pig trotters before ordering a made-to-order panini or taglieri platter. Across the street, Le Farine dei Nostri Sacchi entices with a rainbow of local flours milled on-site from heritage grains. Bakers load up on specialty flours like whole wheat Timilia and farro to craft their perfect loaf.
Beyond edible treasures, Via Emilia tempts with leather goods, jewelry, ceramics and clothing representing the best of Italian design. At Ceramica Gatti, admire hand-painted pottery with traditionalModenese patterns before selecting cheerful serving pieces. Lovers of fine linen won't want to miss Loreta Caponi's airy boutique stacked with blouses, chemises and robes sewn from luxurious fabrics. The handmade jewelry and accessories at Marie Generalle use natural stones and recycled metals in bold, modern designs. For trendy fashions with Made in Italy pedigree, Jeckerson and dueA style the Modenese with cutting edge men's and women's looks.
Part of Via Emilia's appeal lies in ducking into its atmospheric side streets that reveal hidden craft workshops. On Via Cesare Battisti, Antica Orologeria Borsari houses a collection of rare vintage timepieces within its wood-paneled interior. Continue down on Via Cesare Costa to uncover violin-makers and bookbinders practicing their time-honored trades.
Revving Up in Modena: Exploring the Hometown of Enzo Ferrari - Festivals and Events Year-Round
Modena keeps the party going all year long with a calendar jam-packed with festivals and events celebrating the city’s passions. Auto racing, music, food, history, culture and innovation all have their time in the spotlight, so there’s always an excellent excuse to visit.
Petrolheads will want to target their trip around the Modena Cento Ore classic car rally held each May. For four days, vintage racers roar around the roads of Emilia-Romagna in hotly contested time trials.Spectators can watch the pulse-quickening start in Piazza Roma and track side to see these rare vintage Ferraris, Maseratis and more competing at speed. The event culminates in a celebration along Via Emilia where drivers show off their glorious machines.
If engines aren’t your thing, plan your escape for September when Pavarotti and Friends floods Modena with world-class music. This charity festival honoring hometown opera legend Luciano Pavarotti fills Modena’s historic squares with live rock, pop and classical concerts. Previous stars gracing the main stage in Piazza Roma include Sting, Sheryl Crow and Andrea Bocelli. Locals love the free daily performances held in intimate venues around the city center.
Epicureans should target October and November when Modena celebrates its bounty during the festivals of Toscanello and San Giovanni. Zampone stuffed pig trotters take the spotlight during Toscanello, when local restaurants serve special menus centered around this prized winter delicacy. The streets fill with music and coloring contests delight kids. November’s San Giovanni highlight is the Razdôra festival dedicated to Modena’s beloved radicchio, enjoyed slow-roasted over charcoal. Chefs demonstrate their razor-thin slicing skills before dishing up grilled radicchio tasting plates.
History buffs will savor re-enactments of Medieval and Renaissance life during May’s Time Machine festival. For three days, the historic center returns to the Middle Ages with staged shows depicting knights’ feats of arms, medieval dancing and period craft demonstrations. Costumed performers transport visitors back to the Renaissance in June during the Euphoria festival. On the streets and in the palaces, players recount intrigue and secrets from the era of the Este dukes who ruled Modena
Revving Up in Modena: Exploring the Hometown of Enzo Ferrari - Day Trips to Nearby Towns
Modena provides the perfect base to explore the captivating towns and countryside of Emilia-Romagna. This prosperous region tempts with storybook medieval hill towns, regal Renaissance cities, motor museums galore and Parmigiano Reggiano farms waiting to be discovered. Having your own set of wheels makes day tripping a breeze, but trains and buses also connect Modena to top destinations.
For vintage Vespa lovers, there’s only one day trip destination - Pontedera and the Piaggio Museum. The Vespa scooter was invented here in 1946, quickly becoming an iconic symbol of “La Dolce Vita.” At the Piaggio Museum, vintage Vespas in candy colors line the halls, including the rare model ordered by Audrey Hepburn. Imaginative exhibits like a mechanical assembly line bring manufacturing innovations to life. Test drive your dream vintage Vespa during a factory tour before grabbing lunch at the Cacio e Pepe cafeteria.
An hour west, Parma beckons gourmands with its fragrant cheese and famed prosciutto. Parma’s stately historic core contains the camera-ready Piazza Garibaldi framed by pastel buildings. The frescoed halls of the Palazzo Della Pilotta now contain the Gallerie Nazionali museum, exhibiting works by local greats Correggio and Parmigianino. But Parma’s tastiest treasures are found at shops like Salumeria Garibaldi, stacked high with 24-month aged Parmesan wheels and salty San Daniele prosciutto.
Motorheads gunning for Maranello can tour both the Ferrari Museum and F1 factory. The museum celebrates iconic racing models like the first Ferrari ever made, the ultra-rare 1948 166 Spyder Corsa. At the Fiorano test track, watch current Scuderia Ferrari F1 cars rip around the banked curves during hot laps days. Between track times, sip espresso like a tifosi at the trackside Casa Enzo Ferrari cafe.
For Renaissance splendor, Reggio Emilia dazzles with frescoed palaces and Europe's first public theater. Pay tribute to the tricolor Italian flag born here in 1797 at the Piazza Prampolini before seeing rare Greek and Roman antiquities at the Musei Civici. Theater fans can stand on the stage of the 18th century Teatro Municipale Piazza, marveling at the four-tiered gilded "box" seats. Don't miss the domed Basilica Della Ghiara with its Elliottian-style frescoes by Ludovico Carracci.