On a recent trip to Europe, I semi-spontaneously decided to head over to Modena, Italy to see the birthplace of my Maserati Merak and, possibly, visit some of the other high performance car manufacturers in the area. Given the spontaneous nature of the trip, I didn't plan anything in advance. Read on for the only real pitfall involved in doing things this way.

Modena is a lovely little city between Milan and Bolgna in northern Italy. I know just how big it is because I wound up literally walking around it in an attempt to find a hotel shortly after my arrival, but I digress. I suggest arriving via car or train as other means are unavailable (helicopter, maybe). The train from Nice, after a quick change in Milano, arrived at the train station, located at the northern edge of the city, about five hours later. The first part was a lovely little trip along the French/Italian Riviera, after which I slept and just recall blurs of green fields and reddish tinted buildings.

I had the misfortune of arriving on a Sunday and without a single Lire to my name. This meant that taking a taxi or bus to some part of the city where there were hotels was going to be a bit difficult. In good spirit, I decided to hoof it and find a bank followed by a taxi. As with most smaller towns that I have visited in Europe, the banks are to be found near commercial districts, so I decided to walk towards the "center" of town. Unfortunately, I didn't really know just where that was, but I was sure I could find it. I found major boulevards and cheerfully marched along them fully confident that one of them would lead me to the center of town. An hour and half later I was somewhat less cheerful. I had finally found a bank and gotten some amount of Lire of questionable value. I've no idea what the exchange rate was, still don't know. The standard I used to measure everything was a price I saw on the train for a beer, 3,500 Lire. Overpriced beers was from then on my unit of conversion. Unfortunately, being a Sunday, taxis were hard to find so I continued walking. I finally came upon a hotel near what I was still certain must be the center of town. The hotel was booked, but they were associated with another hotel in town that did have a room. A taxi was called and I was shortly on my way. After checking in I decided that it was about time that I found out just where the center of town was. Silly me, the boulevards surround the center, you just need to get away from them to find it. I should have known that. Oops.

After a fine dinner just off of the Piazza Grande, it was back to the hotel to track down the phone numbers of the various car manufacturers that I wanted to visit. I knew that Maserati was somewhere on Viale Ciro Menotti (I had in fact crossed over that street in my wanderings about town), that Ferrari was in Maranello (a village to the south) and that Lamborghini was in one of the Santa Agata's (20 minutes away from Maranello according to a friend of mine). I had no idea where Alfa Romeo was and I was destined not to find out the mystery location due to the fact that I couldn't plug the phone wire from my laptop's modem card into the Italian phone jack and lookup the Alfa website. It was going to be a full schedule anyways.

The following morning I made the phone calls. Everyone that I should've spoken with at Maserati regarding this unscheduled factory tour was unavailable or on vacation. After a bit of back and forth, I found that Signor Cozza would meet me at the main gate at around 2:30 to 3:00pm. I should have just asked for him first since it seems that every other account of touring the factory that I've heard of involved him. Ferrari was a different story. The factory is not open to the public, but there is a nice Ferrari sponsored museum. It's closed on Mondays. Hmmmm. I was still determined to go though since my brother-in-law, Dara Denning, had told me that there was some sort of very nice cafeteria that was open to the public and I assumed that the workers would still need to eat on Mondays (plus, who knows, maybe I could somehow plead with the people in charge and get to see something interesting). Lamborghini didn't have anything at all available to the public, so that was a dead end (of the many Santa Agata's in Italy, it's Santa Agata Bolognese by the way - the helpful staff at the hotel reception set me straight on that one).

Since I didn't need to be at Maserati until the afternoon, I decided to have lunch with the workers at the Ferrari cafeteria and see what else I might find nearby even though the museum would be closed. How does one get from Modena to Maranello? A taxi seemed a bit much. The hotel receptionist had given me a map of Modena and included on it was a tourist information center and that seemed like a logical starting place. Upon arriving at the designated location, I found that there was a shop of some sort in the place marked as the information center on the map. There was another hotel across the street and they gave me a different map with another location marked for the tourism information center. Off I go again and, hmmmm. Not quite it either. Peering through a window on the opposite side of the street, I see some maps and an entrance around on the Piazza Grande. Found at last. Inquiring as to the best way to get to Maranello, I'm informed that I should take a bus and that the schedule is posted at the bus station which the helpful information woman points out on one of the maps in my growing collection. The bus station is located in the northwest part of town conveniently close to my hotel. Off again I went. After sort of speaking with an attendant at the bus station who was really having a conversation with someone else on the phone, I purchased what I hoped was a round trip ticket to Maranello for the overly optimistic price of a bit more than one overpriced beer.

A short while later the bus arrived at the first Maranello stop and having just seen the word Ferrari flash past, I got off the bus. Off to my left, there it was. Ferrari. To my right, a resaurant with a prancing horse posted on the sign. Must be the "cafeteria?" I have no idea if il Ristorante Cavallino is associated in any way with Ferrari, but I had a fabulous lunch surrounded by various suit wearing individuals obviously working at Ferrari and a few prospective customers. Wine and dine I guess. After lunch I passed through the hallowed gates bounded by Ferrari logos and entered the reception area. Yes, the museum was closed. No, there was no way it would be open until tomorrow, but I was welcome to have a look at the cars, engines and models just past the reception area. Oh well, it was still interesting. Back across the street was a pretty neat store of (mostly) Ferrari stuff called "Shopping Formula 1." A true store for the Ferrari enthusiast with a rather nice selection of books on cars of all marques. I left the store a bit poorer to catch the return bus that was supposed to be arriving in a few minutes. It was an hour later before I finally caught the bus, but the intervening time was interesting. For starters, it got windy. And then the skies opened up and things got wet. A Lamborghini Espada that had seen better years passed by. Every fifteen minutes or so a wail was heard from the direction where I had first seen the word Ferrari flash past on a building, followed by the gleaming red or yellow paint of a 360 Modena pass in front of the bus stop that I can only assume was coming off the assembly line for a road test. What an incredible noise and beautiful car! I was now going to be late at Maserati, but it was worth it. As it turned out, my fears that I had not purchased a round trip bus ticket were well founded. You can't pay the driver for the trip, you need to have previously purchased a little card with the proper value for the trip. I had tried to the right thing. Oh well. The driver wasn't all that mad...

Maserati was a quick taxi ride from the bus station, as near as I can tell, in the northeast part of town. The entrance is just off of Via Ciro Menotti. Rather hard to miss with the huge logo and all. The security gatehouse is just in front of the car assembly building with an even larger Maserati logo on the fence off to the right. The guards notify Signor Cozza that I have arrived and a few minutes later he gives me a warm greeting. The Maserati staff have informed him that I have one of "the older" cars. This seems to interest him. The fabulous new cars are everywhere, the Quattroporte Evoluzione and 3200 GT. First we take a stroll through the vehicle assembly building and then the engine assembly facility. Both have clearly been completely renovated since Ferrari took control moe than a year ago. All for the better it seems. Have a look for yourself for more details!

I inquire as to the availability of original records for the cars and Signor Cozza tells me that yes they have the original records and he can send me all of the information. This will take time though. The records are not computerized, but if I give him the chassis number of my car, he will fax me the information they have. I will have it in about a week. I can just see it now, some poor guy going through dusty boxes of old records stored away someplace (in)conveniently out of the way. I would like to have the information though, it may help in color matching when the car is stripped and repainted this summer.

Here are a few photos from my trip to Modena.

Contact Information

Via Abetone Inferiore
0536 949 111

Museum open Tuesday-Friday
No factory tours available (unless you are a very good customer :-)

Sant' Agata
051 681 7611

Not generally open to the public

Viale Ciro Menotti 322
059 590 511

Factory tours available with previous appointment

I'll probably never update this again, but just in case - "this page is under construction." What isn't?

Ultima modificacion: Ocho de Febrero, dos mil tres (desde Armour Drive). Una hora menos en las islas Canarias.

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