Pilgrimage to Maranello

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.)

The more affordable trinket shops cluster around the Galleria like parasites. At Warm-Up Maranello, located just across the street from the Galleria parking lot, manager Stefano Ravazzini told me that his stock includes 4000 model cars, 20,000 Ferrari caps, and 200 styles of jackets and T-shirts.

Via Ascari, a few yards west of the Galleria, dead-ends at Pista di Fiorano, the home of Ferrari’s race team. The tifosi hang on the perimeter fence accessible from side streets. The view from the side of the aforementioned S.P. 3 provides an excellent high-angle look down the longest straights and into the garage and the data-collection center. Screaming engines can be heard for miles.

While you’re cruising Maranello, peel your eyes for Ferrari test cars that dart between the factory’s main gate and the entrance to Fiorano. Their standard route uses Via Fornace, Via D. Ferrari (which runs past the Galleria), and Via Ascari. While in town, we caught glimpses of the new front-engine V-8 two-plus-two – likely to be called the California GT – scurrying about under a black shroud. The engine note has a sharp edge attributable to new direct fuel injection. Ferrari is expected to peel back the wrapper at this fall’s Paris auto show.

FACTORY TOUR While access isn’t available to the general public, it’s evident from the Ferrari plant’s periphery that attractive glass and metal buildings are systematically replacing the vintage brick and stucco facilities. Inside one huge complex, a few workers operate scores of automated machining centers on three shifts around the clock processing seventy engines per day. The environment is climate-controlled, and the working environment benefits from a few potted trees and many leafy plants.

Bare aluminum car bodies shipped from the Scaglietti works in Modena are dipped in cataphoretic undercoating vats and rotated 360 degrees before powder primer and water-soluble color coats of paint are automatically applied. Following assembly on two slow-moving lines – one for V-8 models, another for V-12 cars – every Ferrari is wrung out with a 50-to-100-kilometer public-road run. Watch your mirrors, and don’t even think about dicing with Ferrari’s talented test drivers.

Buying Guide
Powered by Motortrend