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Why Modena is the Car Capital of Italy

13 December 2023
by Regan Hofmann
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The culinary mecca in the north of Italy has an unexpectedly speedy heritage

Modena is a charming city in the northern Italian region of Emilia-Romagna beloved by many (including us!) for its gorgeous medieval piazzas and rich culinary heritage. But for car lovers, the town has a very different reputation. This little city is the spiritual home of Italy’s sportscar industry, the birthplace of Enzo Ferrari, and an important destination in the region known to gearheads as the Motor Valley.

To them, Modena is the supercar capital of the world, surrounded by the headquarters of such storied names as Lamborghini, Maserati, Ferrari, De Tomaso, and Pagani. In this corner of the country, automakers compete to build the sleekest sportscars designed to break records, regularly topping speeds of 200 miles per hour. But how did this quiet little city get so fast?

Maserati in Modena

The region’s history can be traced back to the very beginnings of car racing. At the turn of the 20th century, long-distance car racing began in France and was starting to take hold in the U.S. In 1908, the Circuito di Bologna race passed by Modena, and a 10-year-old Enzo Ferrari and his family made the trip out to view the newfangled spectacle. He was immediately taken with the speeding cars, and decided to devote his life to racing. After racing for Alfa Romeo in Milan and forming his own team, he moved into building his own cars in his hometown.

Ferrari was one of a number of Emilians finding inspiration in the newfound technology; around the same time, the Maserati and Ducati brothers each founded their own manufactories in Bologna. A generation later, Lamborghini and De Tomaso joined the crowd, filling out the region with high-velocity thrills. For decades, races like the 1000 Miglia and Modena Cento Ore have taken advantage of the wide, flat landscape of the surrounding Po Valley to showcase these stunning vehicles.

Giada in a sportscar

Today, when you visit Modena, in addition to touring balsamic vinegar producers and tasting handmade tortellini, you can explore the Ferrari museum and even drive one of these super-fast cars yourself! At the Autodromo di Modena, a mile-long race track, rent a Ferrari or Lamborghini to take a few laps in one of the world’s fastest cars—a very different way to experience the artistry that Modena has to offer. 


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