By Dave S. Clark
Nestled in the middle of the northern Italian countryside between the cities of Bologna and Modena are sleepy towns, wineries and farms. There are also the factories and museums of some legendary Italian auto manufacturers.
Ferrari calls the town of Maranello home, Lamborghini is in Sant’Agata Bolognese and every Zonda built by Pagani is assembled in San Cesario sul Panaro. The region is also home to Maserati and motorcycle manufacturer Ducati. It’s no wonder why it’s called Supercar Alley.
How can you visit the world-renowned manufactures and see their museums? One excellent way, which I experienced in September 2011, is the Motorstars tour. Motorstars is run by Francesco, a former employee of both Ferrari and Pagani and a very knowledgeable guy when it comes to supercars.
I took Tour 23, which includes the Ferrari Museum, Pagani showroom and factory, the Lamborghini Museum and factory and a chance to drive the Ferrari or Lambo of your choice around Maranello. The tour starts in Bologna where you are picked up and driven to Maranello. You’ll be picked up in the Motorstars van which is air conditioned and plays short movies about all the manufacturers you are about to visit.
The official program starts once you reach Maranello where you’ll have the opportunity to drive a wide range of Ferraris at Pit Lane Red Passion. It costs extra to drive these beasts, anywhere from 60€ for 10 minutes, to 600€ for the wheel of a 599GTB for an hour. (Full article on Pit Lane coming soon). Whatever the price, it’s well worth it. As you get into the car, you realize that every Ferrari you’ve ever seen has been crafted in the factory right beside you. Every Ferrari, from the street cars to the F1 cars, is born right here. When I got behind the wheel of the 599GTB, it gave me chills driving around the town that Enzo Ferrari chose to build his empire in. Before you start driving, you’ll have probably already heard the screaming of engines from Ferrari’s test track Fioriano. What are they testing at that moment? The newest prototype? New components for their F1 team? Use your imagination.
The 10-minute drive takes you around the town, past the giant prancing horse statue, past the factory itself and on to the nearby highway. Flip through the gears and go for a quick rip along the highway, then turn around and do the same thing all the way back. If you’ve never driven a supercar before, you’ll be in love. Francesco can also get you into a Lambo LP570-4 Superleggera if that’s what you prefer.
Now that your blood is pumping, it’s into the Ferrari Museum, where you’ll see everything from Enzo’s first cars, to F1 motors and the tires that Michael Schumacher one the 2003 F1 Championship with. Actually you’ll see about a dozen of their most successful F1 cars, an Enzo, one of Gilles Villeneuve’s F1 cars and so much more. I’ll have a full article on this museum too, with a lot more details.
After a guided tour through the museum it’s time for lunch at a small café in Maranello, then it’s back on the road to San Cesario sul Panaro to visit Pagani – maker of the Zonda and soon, the Huayra. Read the full article here. The visit starts in the small showroom where there are just three cars… but the value of these cars totals several million euros. Take a ton of photos, before putting your cameras away and entering the factory. You won’t see an assembly line or robots in this factory – just a few small rooms of workers handcrafting each car. You’ll see where they fire all the carbon fibre and where they assemble few cars they are working on. We’ll have more about the tiny, but magnificent operation in an upcoming article.
After Pagani, you’re back in the van and heading to Lamborghini. Once you arrive at Sant’Agata Bolognese, you’ll head inside the Lambo Museum, where you’ll see a wide variety of cars, from the classic Muira and Countach to several concepts that never made it past that stage. You’ll also get a peek and a Reventon, one of just 20 ever made. Drool over all of that for about 30 minutes before you head into the factory for the guided tour. You’ll have to lock up your cameras and cell phones for this part, so you don’t steal any secrects, so be ready to take some mental pictures. You’ll walk the assembly lines of Gallardo and Aventador, getting a lot of history and seeing how the car is manufactured from start to finish. There will be a few subtle and not-so-subtle jabs about Ferrari on the way too. A full article on the Lambo experience is coming soon.
Now that you’ve seen more cars than the Saudi royal family could afford (or maybe not) you’re in the van back to Bologna, with an optional stop at the Ducati store across the street from its factory. Then you’re back in Bologna in time some great food. Be sure to try the obvious bolognese sauce but also the cheeses and Modena vinegar!