Pilgrimage to Maranello

Don Sherman
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Mark Bramley

The name of Ferrari's hometown sounds like a candy bar, which is only fitting because this small village, located at the top-center of the boot-shaped Italian peninsula, is a scrumptious destination for any car enthusiast. Even though a factory tour is unlikely without a pass signed by the pope, visitors will find Maranello attractions are well worth a day trip.

WHERE TO STAY There are four comfortable hotels in town. The newest is the Maranello Palace, which offers a prime view of Ferrari's wind tunnel and its state-of-the-art machine shop. Maranello's grandest prancing horse - a sixteen-foot-tall stainless-steel tribute by Albanian sculptor Helidon Xhixha - stands in the center of a nearby traffic circle.

The Hotel Domus, where Ferrari racing drivers of yore resided, is located adjacent to the Piazza Libert in the heart of downtown Maranello. Nearby attractions include Auditorium Enzo Ferrari, where you can view Formula 1 telecasts live on race days, and a bronze sculpture donated to the city by Piero Ferrari to mark the 1998 centennial of his father's birth. The Maranello Made in Red caf sitting on the same square is the coolest place to enjoy a cappuccino or a Campari while scooters, three-wheel truckettes, and Ferraris buzz by with engines singing at their redlines.

The Hotel Europa is located on a quiet street on the east side of town. The Planet Hotel, sited one block from Ferrari's front gate, offers modern accommodations and convenient access to the official Ferrari Formula 1 trinket store, where goods ranging from candles to child seats are available at astronomically high prices. Since Maranello is a small town (population: 16,638), these hotels aren't expensive.

WHERE TO DINE Ristorante Cavallino, on Via Abetone Inferiore directly across the street from Ferrari's main entrance, is a must-stop. Take your pick between the main dining rooms, where Ferrari engineers and managers frequently lunch (at least until the construction of the new restaurant on factory property is finished), or slip into the quiet bar entrance in back for lighter fare. Try not to gawk at the historical photos on the wall or point at the Ferrari employees if you visit during the week.

Ristorante Montana isn't located in Maranello, but it's such a notorious hangout for Ferrari Formula 1 drivers that it warrants at least a Kodak moment if not a leisurely dinner. You'll find it tucked adjacent to an elevated section of the S.P. 3 road connecting Maranello and Formigine in the town of Fiorano. Yes, Ferrari's famous test track is visible from both the road and the restaurant. The food is only average by the lofty culinary standards of this region of Italy, but the racing memorabilia more than compensates.

WHAT TO DO Galleria Ferrari is a museum, although this facility isn't called that because the factory deems its products works of art and the legends associated with them as divine. Pay the €12 admission and decide for yourself. Inside, you'll find a fascinating assemblage of racing cars, trophies, engines, photographs, and production models, along with an array of Ferrari collectibles for purchase.

Scale replicas depict how Enzo's original shop and residence in Modena evolved into the first Maranello factory. His desk is here, topped by a thick pair of reading glasses. There's also a look inside the factory wind tunnel, several scale test models to examine, and a small video theater running vintage road and racing footage.

A life-size race pit includes two current F1 Ferraris flanking a huge Shell V-Power fuel dispenser that looks like it could also service spacecraft. Vintage advertising posters show how Shell's image has evolved over the years.

Slip a €5 token into one of the two simulators, and you can steer a Ferrari Formula 1 car around a video race course if you're small enough to fit into the tight cockpit. (Warning: dropping in is easier than wriggling out.)

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