UMAMI IN MODENA
Fast Cars, Fancy Food, Fine Views and the Rolling Stones
Modena (and surrounding area) is well known not only for its culinary offerings, but it is also the birthplace of the legendary Italian car maker – Ferrari.
“Think as a winner and act as a winner. You’ll be quite likely to achieve your goal.” Enzo Ferrari
Enzo Anselmo Ferrari was born in the outskirts of Modena on February 18th, 1898. Some six years before the deaths of both his father and brother, all three Ferraris attend a motor car race in Bologna. Ten year old Enzo is completely entranced by the action. During a frantic job search after his father’s death, Enzo unsuccessfully applies to Fiat, but finally lands a job as a test-driver with a small company in Turin. In 1919, he moves to Milan and makes his debut as a competitive racing driver in the 1919 Parma-Poggio di Berceto hillclimb race, in which he places fourth. In 1920, after a series of races, Enzo places second in the Targa Florio behind the wheel of the Alpha Romeo Tipo 40/60. This marks the beginning of a 20 year collaboration which sees Enzo act as a test- driver, a racing driver, a dealer, and finally as head of their racing division.
After winning the Circuito del Savio in 1923, Enzo was introduced to Countess Baracca, who invites him to use her son’s ‘Prancing Horse’ emblem on his race cars, thus establishing one of the world’s most enduring logos.
In 1939, Enzo Ferrari ends his association with Alpha Romeo, with the understanding that he would not use the Ferrari name in the realm of the racing car industry for four years. From that very moment, beating Alpha Romeo in one of his own cars becomes Enzo Ferrari’s enduring passion. Immediately he opens his own car factory in Modena called Auto Avio Costruzione, and by 1940 turns out two cars, both of which fail to impress. Although the war disrupts activity, by 1946 Enzo releases the drawings and specifications of his first Ferrari, powered by a V12 engine – a tradition that would endure.
Ferrari wins his first Formula One Championship Grand Prix in 1951 thereby launching the company bearing his name into infamy. By 1938, Enzo builds an R & D facility and training institute in Maranello (on the outskirts of Modena), which continues to provide the Ferrari company with highly specialized technicians to this day. To ensure the continuing growth and development of his company, Enzo Ferrari signs a deal with Fiat Group, in which he gives away 50% of his shares.
The last iteration of the Ferrari to be rolled out under Enzo’s management was the F40:
The centre of modern day Modena hosts one of Enzo Ferrari’s museums.
Maranello is the location of the second Ferrari museum.
Maranello is also the place where a friend and I were able to rent a few Ferrari’s and take them out for a 20 minute test drive. And had the most fun – EVER!
Before the actual test drive, we were encouraged to try a hand at the Ferrari Formula One simulator. After clambering to get into the car, the attendant explained that the simulator was built to the exacting dimensions of a Formula One race car. It was not the most comfortable experience… The simulator has speakers embedded into the two raised sections near to my head, which is supposed to give the driver a sense of the noise during an actual race. It is LOUD!
Once the program started on the screen, my tendency was to drive as fast as I could – but I soon learned that it is not so easy to handle a Ferrari Formula One race car. After one missed curve, and then a subsequent crash into the fencing, I tried to drive fast but stay on the track. Aaaaannnnnddddd – I lost the race….by a lot…..! It was super interesting to get a feel of the real thing.
After finishing the simulated race, a portly fellow came over introduced himself to me as ‘Hugo Gas’, and led me to my car – this beauty…. OMG! As I slid into the driver’s seat, I could feel my adrenaline start to surge. The interior of the car was B E A U T I F U L! And the dashboard looked like something out of the future.
My adrenaline kicked up another notch, as Hugo Gas instructed me how to A) start the car and B) how to change gears by using the paddles attached to the steering wheel. Once the orientation was complete, Signore Gas whipped out a release form and a pen, and super quickly asked for my signature. Without really reading the paper, I signed it….as Mr. Gas was already urging me to turn on the ignition and pull out of the parking area.
With slightly trembling hands, I pulled out into traffic and started to weave my way through Maranello to the highway. Once on the highway – a two lane motorway, one lane going in each direction – Signore Gas tells me to get ready. Get ready for what?, I ask. To pass….all of them, he says, as he waves his hand at the traffic in front of us. ‘When I say ‘Gas Gas Gas, you go’, he says. Wha?????? I involuntarily start to white knuckle the steering wheel. In what appears to be an inopportune moment, Senor Gas starts hissing ‘gassssgasssssggassss’. And……I panic…..and hesitate….. and do not pass the car in front of me.
Signore Gas shakes his head……as if to say ‘Opportunity missed’. ‘Not enough time’, I say. He just shakes his head, and says, ‘Get Ready’. Eeeeeekkkkkk! The moment I hear him hiss ‘gasssgassssgasss’, I floor the gas, pull out from behind the car in front of me, and literally shoot past the other car as if it was standing still. Surveying the traffic I figure I should pass the next car as well, and before I can even ask, Signore Gas starts hissing again, and so I keep flooring it, and pass a bunch of cars, before having to hit the brakes and pull back into my lane.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, and all of the Angels in Heaven! What a feeling! It felt like an accelerating rocket ship! Complete with G-forces! Unbelievable! And the sound of the engine, is something between a rumble and a purr….. ‘What a sexy sound’, I say to Signore Gas. He shrugs and says, ‘Italiano’. I am not about to argue, and just nod in agreement.
At this stage, I no longer need Signore Gas to hiss at me. Whenever I see a hole in oncoming traffic, I pull the hell out, punch the gas, and laugh my fool head off, as the car feels like it is literally taking off.
All too soon, the ride is over, and I am cruising back into Maranello.
Big smiles…..and shaky knees after the ride….!
Signore Gas and I!
As much as I wanted to dine at Osteria Francescana, Massimo Bottura’s 3 Michelin starred restaurant in Modena, it was simply not possible to secure a reservation.
However, I was able to reserve a table at his other restaurant in Modena called ‘Franceschetta 58’.
Interior of ‘Franceschetta 58’
One of the menus at Franceschetta 58
The Emilia Burger by Massimo Bottura – a burger comprised of ground beef and cotechino (a large Italian pork sausage), with Parmigiano Reggiano, salsa verde and a mayonnaise of Balsamic vinegar. I can’t think of ingredients that more reflect this region, than the ingredients of Massimo Botturo’s Emilia Burger.
Tortellini in crema di Parmigiano Reggiano. I ordered this and enjoyed it immensely.
Pork ribs on potato puree
Torta Sabbiosa with mascarpone cream and warm Morello cherries
If you have the opportunity to dine at Osteria Francescana, please enjoy it and then email me and let me know how great it was. But, if you cannot secure a table there, please give Franceschetta 58 a try. You won’t be disappointed….!
The next Day
After driving to La Spezia, and getting settled in our apartment, we hopped on the local train to Levanto. From there, we planned to hike 2 of the 5 villages of Cinque Terre – from Levanto to Vernazza.
Cinque Terre is a string of centuries-old seaside villages on the rugged Italian Riviera coastline. In each of the 5 towns, colorful houses and vineyards cling to steep terraces, harbors are filled with fishing boats and trattorias turn out seafood specialties along with the Liguria region’s famous sauce, pesto. The Sentiero Azzurro cliffside hiking trail links the villages and offers sweeping sea vistas.
Here are some photos of the picturesque villages of Cinque Terre.
Manarola, Cinque Terre
Vernazza, Cinque Terre
Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre
The plan was to start in Levanto and follow the blue footpath to Monterrosso al Mare, have a quick lunch before climbing up the mountain to the Santuario Madonna di Saviore, and then descend on the red footpath down to trail #8 to Vernazza.
Foot path to Monterroso al Mare
Cresting the hill with views down towards Monterosso al Mare
The beach at Monterosso al Mare
The views of the sea from Santuario Madonna di Saviore
Alvis resting at the Santuario
Views of Vernazza during the descent
After a 7 hour hiking day, we enjoyed an early dinner in La Spezia, and then set out early the next morning to Castelfalfi, for a round of golf with friends.
The beautiful Castelfalfi Golf Course
I cannot think of a better way to cap off this incredible trip through Italy, than going to see the Rolling Stones – No Filter Tour. Some 50,000 people were jammed into this large outdoor courtyard. The only space we could find was behind these trees and some scaffolding.
Our view to the stage was somewhat impeded, but once they started to play it seemed to matter less. It was a super satisfying concert as they played all of their greatest hits – one right after the other! And it was fantastic!