Modena is correctly considered the global hub of Italy’s unrivalled motor industry. It’s the birthplace of the storied and ingenious Enzo Ferrari and the jewel in the crown of the wider Emilia Romagna region, an area home not only to Ferrari, but also Lamborghini, Maserati, Ducati, Dallara and Pagani. How’s that for heritage? Which is why, every year, the Motor Valley Fest brings together everything that makes this area special in an annual motor-themed celebration. It’s a spectacular tribute to the region’s distinctive and characteristic devotion to design, performance, luxury and speed.
A bucket list event for every petrolhead, Motor Valley Fest is something that every car fan should see at least once in their lives. And here’s why…
Something in the water
Massimo Bottura, the impassioned Italian chef behind Osteria Francescana, Modena’s culinary mecca, famously said: “… there must be something special in the water that makes Modena so fearlessly creative and daringly industrious. Everyone is interested in what we are doing and the entire world is looking with renewed interest at our iconic cars, our cultural renaissance and our culinary creativity.”
There is no better place on earth to indulge the two intangibles of Italian supercars and gastronomy. Throw in legendary roads you’ll have seen in many films and photoshoots over the years, incredible racetracks, spectacular mountain scenery, sunny beaches and the best lunches in the world, and you’ll see why Emilia Romagna is the fantasy road trip for any self-respecting car fan.
The Strada Statale 9 was originally built by the Roman Empire. Locals simply call it “The Via Emilia”, a historic 170 mile road that physically and spiritually joins northern Italy’s most beautiful renaissance cities: Piacenza, Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Bologna, Forli, Cesena and, all the way to the south-east, the Adriatic beaches of the “Riviera Romagnola”.
The Via Emilia also provides the backbone of the Italian supercar legacy. Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, Ducati, Dallara and Pagani have their headquarters, factories, racetracks and automotive museums scattered over Emilia Romagna. It’s the same cultural identity shared by the food that has spread to all four corners of the world: Parmigiano Reggiano, Mortadella Bo, Prosciutto di Parma and Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena. Fast cars and slow food – nothing better…
Motoring melting pot
Motor Valley Fest is an extensive and diverse calendar of exhibitions, pop-up events, conferences, car and motorcycle races, gatherings, and test drives. The celebrations are centred in Modena, but the Motor Valley Fest itself embraces all of the provinces of Emilia Romagna: with a backdrop of four International racetracks, six iconic motoring brands, 18 evocative private car collections and 13 automotive museums, the entire region becomes the venue, which this year shrugged off the COVID emergency and opened its doors to hoards of impassioned enthusiasts on the 1st of July for an unmissable four day party (helped in no small measure by Italy’s victory over England in the European Championships to round off the weekend). The atmosphere was… special.
The centrepiece of Motor Valley Fest is the historical town centre of Modena, a breath-taking backdrop for the traditional supercar exhibit. On the Piazza Roma, in front of the baroque façade of the historic Military Academy, an array of the very best of Modena’s wares: Ferrari’s Roma, Portofino M and SF90 Spider; Lamborghini’s Aventador SVJ, Urus and Huracán Evo and Maserati’s MC20, Ghibli and Quattroporte Trofeo.
A short walk along Modena’s most characteristic cobbled sleepy streets, on the square of the monumental Piazza Grande, were Dallara race cars, Ducati superbikes and, most notably for the mobile phone cameras snapping everywhere the eye could see, Pagani’s Huayra, Huayra BC, Huayra Roadster BC, Huayra Tricolore and its forthcoming Zonda C12.
Motor Valley Fest is also the venue for a whole series of conferences and workshops. Following the ribbon-cutting ceremony - performed by Manlio Di Stefano, Undersecretary of State for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, with Stefano Bonaccini, President of the Emilia-Romagna Region; Carlo Ferro, President of the ITA (Italian Trade Agency); Gian Carlo Muzzarelli, Mayor of Modena; and Claudio Domenicali, President of the Motor Valley Association and CEO of Ducati - the Military Academy’s historic halls host a rich panel of live streamed events, workshops and roundtables focused on automotive sustainability, digitalisation, racing, technological innovation and consumer trends with industry leading keynote speakers.
Hundreds of petrolheads crowded The Motor Valley “top table” for the rare opportunity to listen to and grill supercar royalty: Claudio Domenicali, CEO of Ducati; Enrico Galliera, Sales and Marketing Director of Ferrari; Horacio Pagani, founder of Pagani Automobili; Andrea Pontremoli, CEO of Dallara; Francesco Tonon, Production Manager of Maserati, and Stephan Winkelmann, President and CEO of Lamborghini.
Test drives and rides
It’s not just looking and listening: visitors can also jump behind the wheel a mouth-watering choice of iconic Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, Dallara and Pagani supercars, plus the Energica Motor Company as well as Ducati Superbikes. From the lineup, we finally singled out laps in the still astonishing Ferrari 458 Challenge at one of Ferrari’s home circuits in Modena. Launched at the Bologna Motor Show in 2010, the Ferrari 458 Challenge has undergone an endless succession of tweaks, tunes and enhancements in the subsequent 12 years to maximise performance for the Ferrari Challenge client racing championships.
Strapped into a racing bucket seat, surrounded by roll bars and very little else in the stripped-out cockpit, the 458 Challenge makes no concessions to its road-going cousin. With the 4.5 litre V8 powering a dry weight of the conventional sighting lap was more than welcome – learning exactly when and where to direct the 458’s racing slicks – before pinning the accelerator pedal… PAM, PAM, PAM!
Despite its startling performance, once underway the 458 Challenge is surprisingly accessible. There are no servos on the brakes, and no torque vectoring electronic trickery on board, all of which makes it truly rewarding every time you hunt down an apex. Ferrari’s clients are extremely lucky to experience this level of merciless acceleration on a regular basis, but frankly, the chance to drive one of these peerless cars just once was a rare privilege.
Motorcycle adventure touring
Very little can follow an experience like that, but jumping onto two wheels on the rapid and surprisingly comfortable Ducati Multistrada V4 S Sport managed it.
The Ducati Multistrada V4S, unlikely as it may seem, shares much in common with vinegar. Balsamic vinegar is the famed product of Modena, and so a visit to Acetaia Villa San Donino astride the Ducati, run by the Lonardi family seemed like the ideal road trip destination for our two-wheeled adventure.
Riding the Ducati Multistrada V4S on the roads of the Motor Valley, where it was first developed by the Ducati test team, is one of life’s pleasures. The bike is one of the most accomplished and refined going: outrageous performance alongside all-round practicality and comfort. It looks toweringly lofty when you climb on, but once on the move the Multistrada becomes light and nimble. There’s plenty to fiddle with too: three different riding modes remapping the glorious V4 power output to hot sticky tarmac, wet cobble stoned streets or off-road gravel.
If you’re attending the Motor Valley Fest, don’t forget Emilia Romagna’s 13 automotive museums dotted though the region. The Museo Enzo Ferrari Modena - not to be confused with Museo Ferrari Maranello which focuses more on Ferrari’s cars and racing – is dedicated to the man himself, Enzo Ferrari. Located in Modena, it comprises Ferrari’s family home and his father’s workshop and, in a newer building, a full museum. Walking through the rooms of Ferrari’s family house is an experience you should not forego.
In the neighbouring museum building the Museo Enzo Ferrari was staging “The Grand Tour” exhibit subtitled “A Journey Through Beauty and Passion”: a tribute to Ferrari’s most luxurious GTs and five multimedia arches representing five cities that have defined Ferrari’s global appeal: Paris, London, New York, Shanghai and Abu Dhabi.
Days at the races
All of Emilia Romagna’s four international race tracks staged a diverse and intoxicating array of motorsport: most memorably the the GT World Challenge Europe held at the Marco Simoncelli Misano Adriatico racetrack, and the Italian Motorcycle Speed Championship at the Enzo & Dino Ferrari Circuit of Imola.
Modena’s urban Novi Sad Park, appropriately transformed into a Monaco styled racetrack, hosted a some incredible race car pageants both old and new from Motor Valley’s most prized supercars, race cars and superbikes – just check out the gallery below for a taste of the action…
Plan to visit Motor Valley Fest 2022?
Enzo Ferrari once said: “You can’t describe the passion, you can only experience it”. Well, if you want to experience the passion, detail, culture and intangibles that make supercars so fascinating, then the 2022 Motor Valley Fest is already taking bookings. Fast cars and slow food – is there anything better in life?
Pictures: Andrea Casano / courtesy of EmilioRomagna region
The 2021 Motor Valley Fest took place thanks to the Made in Italy project (www.madeinitaly.gov.it). An initiative that aims to promote the best businesses in the country as part of an agreement between the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, the Italian Trade Agency – the government agency for the promotion and the globalisation of the Italian companies abroad – and the Emilia-Romagna Region.