Our first full day in Bologna wasn’t spent in Bologna nearly at all. Instead we were going to be taking a little excursion to Modena and Maranello. For Rasa, these were the places to be excited about. While she certainly enjoyed where we’d been, today was all about her passion: Formula 1 racing.
Marenello is the home of the Ferrari factory and museum while Modena is the home of Italian racing in general. This day had been part of our itinerary from the beginning, even though we weren’t entirely sure where we were going or how we were going to get there. Turns out, not that hard. A quick train to Modena, where every 90 minutes there’s a shuttle to take you out to the factory/museum. There’s also a new museum built at the site of the house of Ferrari founder Enzo and you could get a dual entry ticket good for both places… which is exactly what we did.
Heading out to Maranello it was easy to see how the area was influenced by the car maker. The “prancing horse” design is represented as the 3 meter high sculpted centerpiece of a roundabout and the various restaurants and hotels are named for racing terms. The factory itself seems to be the town’s largest employer. The museum, though, is almost exclusively made up of automobiles. When we were there, the current exhibit was “California Dreamin'” dedicated to the cars and style of the West Coast state.
The ground and second floors were filled with these cars – from early racing models to a Hollywood icons. For me, I could appreciate the art and design work involved. I enjoyed discovering the early form of the microchip was created by a Ferrari tech before he went to work in Silicon Valley. For Rasa though, this was heaven.
For the past half year, every other Sunday or so we’d watch the F1 races and she would try and explain it to me (to be fair, I often fell asleep) but for her, it was the ultimate in excitement. She can identify the drivers by their helmets and has her loves and hates (Red Bull Racing being among the latter). In short, she’s an F1 geek. And when you walk into this building, and one of the first things you see is a car once driven by Felipe Massa, one of your heroes, it’s pretty freaking awesome!
On the third level of the building is the F1 Hall of Champions. Here you see the trophies and awards won by Scuderia Ferrari, the racing arm of the company. Although, I suppose it would be more accurate to say Ferrari is the commercial arm of the racing company, considering it was originally founded specifically as a race team. Enzo Ferrari himself was a driver for Fiat before forming his own “Scuderia” (stable) in the early 40s. The street cars came later, with all of their advancements and technologies being stripped down versions of their racing counterparts.
Here though, in the Hall, there is also on display 8 of the championship Formula One cars, including a second Massa car and a Michael Schumacher car as well. Schumacher, who was also a Ferrari driver for a number of years, helped the company develop race technology still in use today, advancements which changed the entire field, including comprehensive steering wheel controls. Everything in an F1 car can be controlled by the steering wheel, which in some cars can cost as much as $40,000. This is not a cheap sport to get involved in.
Back in Modena, the second museum, while named for Enzo, hosts a rotating exhibit of cars in the main building with a permanent hostelry of racing around the edges. The second, older building, is the remodeled childhood home and garage of the Ferrari family (Enzo’s father was a mechanic) which Enzo had convinced his mother to sell in order to finance his first race car purchase. Currently, the cars on display are all Maseratis, one of Ferrari’s major competitors. The two race teams drove each other, though, with a healthy rivalry. In fact, Modena is known as the “capital of engines” since almost every luxury Italian carmaker has a factory there. The Museo Casa Enzo Ferrari, which opened in 2012, also has displays on the life of Enzo and the history of the famous Prancing Horse design (which comes from a WWI plane).
Before heading back to Bologna, though, we decided on a walk around Modena, to see the sights. We saw the outside of the main church (it was locked) and then headed into the old town to see the old Ducal Palace which is now the home of a military school. Evidently, the courtyard is open to the public, but due to construction, that, too, was off limits. We figured we’d cut our losses there and headed back to the old town of Bologna, where we embarked on a self-guided walking tour. The first stop of the tour was a fountain featuring a statue of Neptune, the trident of which was stolen by the Maserati brothers to make the logo for their company (it started in Bologna before moving to Modena).
We also saw the focal point for the old town, a library/meeting point which was built on old ruins and a small basilica which still held original sculptures by Michelangelo. Ultimately, we decided Bologna, while nice and lived in, didn’t have as much to offer us as we were originally led to believe. After our walking tour, and again beating the bus back to the hotel, we figured an early morning start would get us to Venice, our next stop, to allow us more time to enjoy the sinking city.