Just saying it (rolling my r’s of course) fills my imagination with the excitement of Formula One Grand Prix racing - magnificent road cars that look like they’re going fast even when they’re parked. The Ferrari red and the Prancing Horse logo. It’s the brand that defines Italian sports cars, despite its luxury neighbors Maserati and Lamborghini just down the road. Even if you’re not a racing or car enthusiast, the next time you visit Bologna, Italy, take the Ferrari tour.
There are actually two Ferrari museums to tour an hour outside Bologna in the Motor Valley - Ferrari museum Maranello and Ferrari museum Modena. There’s also a third, the Ferrari Factory Tour, however since we don’t actually own a Ferrari we were unable to take that one! We’re sometimes asked “which Ferrari museum is better?” The short answer is they are both excellent and a visit to both makes for a more comprehensive experience. To make it easier, a shuttle bus runs between the two museums throughout the day, just a 10 minute ride. Whether you visit one or both, learning more about Ferrari is one of the most interesting things to do in Modena.
Ferrari Museum Modena
Our tour began at the Museo Enzo Ferrari in Modena where just pulling into the parking lot is impressive. His father’s workshop and the house where he was born - parts of which are open to the public - stand in the shadow of the new modern glass museum, the design of which was inspired by bonnets (hoods) of cars built in the ‘50s. Walking through the doors into the museum feels like you’re entering a cathedral, and Ferrari fans no doubt would agree. Here's where the history begins.
To have a full appreciation of what that Prancing Horse stands for, you need a full appreciation of where Enzo Ferrari came from and his evolution from a race car driver to racing division Manager at Alfa Romeo, to a developer and builder of one of the premier marques in automobile history. And it’s here in the Modena museum where you’ll experience that. The pavilion is stunning in its design, with Ferraris on raised platforms and an enormous wraparound film screen on which a video is played every half hour that showcases Enzo's life story and the cars and moments that defined his career.
Each car has a small plaque on the pedestal describing the model, year it was built and how many were built. What I also found interesting were the ones that had the name of famous people or celebrities who had bought one. One model - the Ferrari F40 built from 1987 to 1992 - had an original production plan of only 400 but eventually more than doubled that number due to preproduction orders. It was designed to celebrate Ferrari's 40th anniversary and was the last Ferrari automobile personally approved by Enzo Ferrari. If you have the money and love fine exotic automobiles, I’d buy one, wouldn’t you? We could have easily spent more time here lost in fantasy about putting one of these - any one - in our garage. But it was time to leave for the Maranello museum.
Ferrari Museum Maranello
It’s here at the Ferrari Museum Maranello that you’ll see where Enzo Ferrari’s years of racing brought him ideas that a better engine and car design were necessary, not just to compete in Grand Prix racing, but to win. The museum features technical drawings, photos, and actual engines showing Ferrari’s development over time which led to the renowned Ferrari 12 cylinder engine, something the world had never seen before. This first room is like a giant science project on engineering, but you don’t have to be an engineer to appreciate the detail and thought that went into these incredible machines.
The main exhibit showcases the 70 year history of incredible Ferrari Formula One cars, some of which are the most successful ever in the sport. From the 1952 500 F2 which gave Ferrari its first world drivers’ title, to Michael Schumacher’s F2004 which won the most Grand Prix titles ever, there are more and they’re all here. If you love Grand Prix racing you really need to see this.
What if seeing isn’t enough? If you’ve always wanted to drive a Ferrari in Italy, you can make your dreams come true with a test drive in a Ferrari California T starting at 100€ for 10 minutes!
But if you don’t want to spring for the big bucks, there’s the next best thing. For 25 Euros you can “drive” one of two semi-professional training simulators with your choice of circuits. I couldn’t resist and it may have been the best 25 Euros I spent the whole time. I climbed in the car and a technician briefed me on the controls, strapped me in, and I was off. It’s only 7 minutes long but is so realistic in how the simulator moves and sounds along with the surround visual screens, it seemed like I had been in the cockpit for much longer. It was an exhilarating experience and one I won’t soon forget.
If you’re thinking of a trip to Italy, add Bologna and Modena to your itinerary. Especially is this is your first time to Bologna, the Emilia Romagna region offers an authentic look at Italy, and the glimpse into the incredible life of Enzo Ferrari is a must-see when you’re here.
If You Go
The popular Ferrari and Pavarotti Land Tour leaves daily from the Bologna Bus Station at 9:00am, combining visits to the Luciano Pavarotti Home and Museum, the Museo Casa Enzo Ferrari in Modena, and the Ferrari Museum Maranello.
Tickets for the tour can be purchased online through Bologna Welcome or at the Welcome Center on Piazza Maggiore. Be at the bus station on time and you’ll see the van(s) waiting curbside.
You can also tour both Museums on your own from 9:30am-6pm. There's a joint ticket to both, and a shuttle that runs between the two.