In March 2012, a new museum arrived on the Modena scene: the Museo Enzo Ferrari (MEF), dedicated to Ferrari’s life and artistic legacy. Its first exhibition, The Great Challenges Ferrari – Maserati, is about the eternal duel between two great names in Italian automobile history. My favorite car on display at the Enzo Ferrari Museum in Modena, Italy was a 1956 Maserati racer that brought back memories of Elkhart Lake’s Road America raceway in Wisconsin during my college days.

A city of food, opera, and automotive pioneers

Modena, Italy, located in the heart of the country’s northern Emilia-Romagna region, is a mecca for foodies. Travelers come from far afield to enjoy outstanding cuisine, and to sample fine cheeses and barrel-aged balsamic vinegar. They come to admire the cathedral and monuments that make up this UNESCO World Heritage site. And opera lovers come to pay homage to Luciano Pavorotti.

Anita and I came to Modena for a culinary adventure while traveling in Emilia-Romagna. I was surprised and delighted to learn that quiet little Modena is also Italy’s “motor city”, and with good reason. Modena is home to the Maserati manufacturing plant, and is the hometown of Enzo Ferrari, autumobile manufacturer, designer and racing-car driver.

Design for the Enzo Ferrari Museum

The guiding principles of the museum’s design were to communicate the motoring vocation of Modena and to tell the story of Ferrari. Ferrari’s home and core of the museum showcasing his life, is reflected in the mirrored wall of the exhibition hall.

The museum’s contemporary architecture was designed by architects Jan Kaplický and Andrea Morgante. They designed the Enzo Ferrari Museum complex according to bioclimatic principles and used innovative materials. The architects aimed to promote energy conservation and environmental sustainability. They also wanted to optimally display the work of some of the world’s most innovative automotive designers. Their environmental efforts resulted in an unobstructed viewing experience for museum visitors.

For more about the museum’s design and the ideas behind it, read this piece about Jan Kaplicky’s last building in Architects Journal. The piece is illustrated with a marvelous aerial view.

“If you can dream it, you can do it.”

Enzo Ferrari

The inaugural exhibition: Ferrari vs. Maserati

Museum curators mount and exhibit cars–the protagonists of the museum–as works of art, atop specially design platforms. They aim to change out exhibitions every six months or so. For me, a car buff and photographer, it was ideal that the cars are mounted about 50 cm above the floor, which allows perfect angles for photographing the displays.

Ferrari and Maserati had different ways of considering the car, and this left a deep mark on the Modena territory and car racing history across the world. Between them, through the 1950s, the two manufacturers kept Modena in the headlines as they captured one racing prize after another.

For the museum’s inaugural exhibition, 19 cars were brought from all over the world for display, carefully selected from the most representative examples of the two makes. The exhibition focused on the most important cars involved in the racing competition between the two Emilia Romagna car manufacturers. This resulted in an almost equal mix of designs from Ferrari and Maserati, showing how close the competition has been through the years.

Italy is known for its influence on the art world and its innovation in automobile design and engineering. If you are a car buff, and especially if you like modern architecture, the Enzo Ferrari Museum is a must see!

If you go

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