Va-va vroom

Va-va vroom

The impressive new museum on the site where Enzo Ferrari was born promises visitors a supercharged take on motoring history, says Maurice Weaver

Motor valley, in the northern Italian region of Emilia-Romagna, stretches along the old Via Emilia from Parma to Bologna. It is known for the production of sports and racing cars and motorcycles: Lamborghini, Ducati, Maserati and Ferrari are all based here. At its heart is Modena, the birthplace of motoring legend Enzo Ferrari and the site of the valley’s new motor museum, Museo Casa Enzo Ferrari. With a roof in the bright yellow of the car’s famous prancing horse badge, the building is designed to bring more attention to Modena than balsamic vinegar and Luciano Pavarotti.

Unlike many entrepreneurs, Ferrari kept his business close to home, first in the town centre and then 10 miles down the road at Maranello. Today Modena is surrounded by car dealerships and factories making automotive parts. But its picturesque centre is untouched: the main piazza, with its 11th-century duomo and Ghirlandina tower, still dominates the arcaded streets.

Its latest landmark stands out like a supercar parked in an ordinary street. Designed by architect Jan Kaplicky of Future Systems, a London-based practice responsible for Selfridges in Birmingham and the JP Morgan Media Centre at Lord’s cricket ground, it opened on 10 March. Tragically, Kaplicky died at the beginning of 2009, as construction was about to begin; so it fell to his colleague Andrea Morgante to bring the project to fruition. The brief had two elements: to create an exhibition space, and to give new life to the building on the site in which Ferrari was born in 1898. The high-gloss finish of the roof of the exhibition space may suggest the bonnet of a high-performance car, but in a montage of his scheme Kaplicky portrayed it as a protective hand, sheltering its elderly neighbour. Dug partly into the ground, the new building seems to emerge from its grassy surroundings. Two steel columns brace its sloping glass facade, and prop up the roof. The interior is a vast white landscape, with ramps for bringing in cars, and another for visitors leaving the building.

Kaplicky was determined to get away from the limitations of conventional motor museums, turning the cars into floating sculptures by placing them on rotating plinths. The museum has space for 17 cars, borrowed from private collections; the current selection includes early Alfa Romeos raced by Ferrari. The display cases contain memorabilia such as the steering wheel of the Maserati 250F with which Juan Manuel Fangio won the world championship in 1954.

Museo Casa Enzo Ferrari, Modena (00 39 059 439 7979; Other Motor Valley museums: Museo Ferrari, Maranello (00 39 053 694 9713; Panini Collection, Modena (00 39 059 510 660). Righini Collection, Anzola dell’ Emilia (00 39 051 733 309;

BA (0844 493 0758; offers a seven-night fly-drive package to Bologna from ?209 per person, including flights from Gatwick and Avis car rental. EasyJet ( flies to Bologna from Gatwick

Pictured: the roof of the Museo Casa Enzo Ferrari, in the bright yellow used on the marque’s prancing horse badge

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