Experience D’Orth

       

A VIRTUAL TOUR OF ITALY

 

 by bill orth

  

I’m sure most of you are familiar with the wonders of Google’s Earth program, but, dinosaur that I am, I only discovered it last week.  Ignoring all of the other wondrous things that the program allows you to do, what I liked was that it makes it possible for me to take all of you on a tour of the Ferrari factory!  If you do not already have GoogleEarth on your computer, first go to www.earth.google.com.  On that website you will be able to download the program for free. There are a couple more elaborate versions for which they charge, but the free version works just fine.  After the download has completed, you will have an icon on your desktop that will bring you to the program.  Once opened, there’s a picture of the earth and a box on the left where you can enter a location you would like to visit.  Since Enzo got his start in Modena, let’s start there, too:

               In the window, type in: modena, Italy.  The world will rotate and zoom in on Modena.  Note that in the lower left corner of the screen are the latitude and longitude of the exact location of where the cursor is resting.  In the lower right corner is the altitude from which you are observing. The controls in the lower area of your screen allow you to move the image and to zoom in. (some regions around the globe have very high resolution photos, others do not; fortunately, all around Modena everything is high res.)  Adjust your screen to get these coordinates: 44.38.43.45 N and 10.55.33.74 E and your altitude to 10,000 feet.  Modena was originally a walled city at the time of the Roman Empire, and from this vantage point you can clearly see how the old city was clustered in a tight, easily-defended ball, but growth since then has moved out in every direction in less-compact density.  Dropping down to around 3000 ft, you can see that the city’s streets appear to be very narrow, but in fact they nearly all have wide arcades over the sidewalks on either side of the street, keeping pedestrians cool, warm or dry depending on the weather, a construction style common to many Italian cities.

               Right in the center of the image you can easily see the city’s cathedral and its adjacent courtyard. During Ferrari’s 50th Anniversary celebration in 1997, that courtyard was filled with a display of important vintage Ferraris from all over the world and virtually every shop window had Ferrari models and flags displayed among their wares.  The noticeably larger street that runs just north of the cathedral and clearly bisects Modena, is the Via Emilia.  (Two thousand years ago Via Emilia was the main north-south thoroughfare of the Roman legions and Modena was a bustling waystation along it.) If you move the image to follow Va Emilia Southeast, it will pass out of the walled area and become much wider, with some landscaped islands in the center.  Notice that the center island has a big fountain in it.  Directly across from the fountain (to the South) is a large building that not-quite-completely encompasses a center courtyard.  This is the apartment building in which Enzo Ferrari lived most of his adult life. It is a four-story structure and I understand he had a large residence on the third floor.  The building is quite elegant and obviously home to a rather select clientele. (It should be mentioned that apartment living, even among the wealthy, is not uncommon in Italy and apartment houses of varying grandeur far outnumber private homes.)

               Move a little farther southeast along Via Emila to the first main intersection.  That is Viale Trento e Trieste, a major commercial street since the early 1920s.  If you “turn right” and go south down Trento e Trieste a block or so, you will see a large light-colored building on the east side of the street that has cars parked on the roof.  Today, this is a parking garage with a supermarket on the ground floor, but in 1929 it became the home of the original Scuderia Ferrari, when Enzo was racing the Grand Prix Alfa Romeos!  His company eventually maintained a Ferrari sales and service presence in this building up until about twenty five years ago, when these activities—under private ownership—moved to a new facility farther east along the Via Emilia.  Although the building was completely reconstructed for its new role and today looks nothing like the pictures we have all seen in the Ferrari books, for the 50th Anniversary celebration, a huge canvas drape completely covered the façade and was painted to look like the original building!

               Now, do a u-turn and move north up the Viale Trento e Trieste, cross the via Emilia and continue several blocks to coordinates 44.38.58.07N and 10.56.24.31E.  That precise location is the new office tower that was built for the Maserati factory five years ago.  The original factory buildings are arrayed just as they were in the 1920s and have been declared a historical landmark in Modena.  Their exteriors are kept exactly as they were painted then, but the interiors are completely modern and up-to-date.  The original factory buildings have the lightest-colored roofs, while the new construction that has doubled Maserati capacity has grey roofs.  Keep in mind the relative compactness of this facility, as when we ‘fly’ down to Maranello soon, you will see that the Ferrari plant is huge in comparison. (Bear in mind that all of Maserarti’s engine assembly, testing and body painting is done at the Maranello facility).

               Some of you may recall an article I did a couple of years ago about the Modena Autodrome, which was a race track built on the outskirts of Modena fifty years ago.  All of the nearby specialty auto builders, like Ferrari and Maserati, routinely tested their cars there and occasionally actual races were held.  Many of the black-and-white photos we have all seen of various prototype Ferraris all through the ‘50s and ‘60s were taken there.  However, Maserati stopped racing, Ferrari built their own track at Fiorano and the city began to surround the track, so it was closed and turned into a park—named for the city’s hero, Enzo Ferrari.  In the box on the upper left of your screen where you had entered modena, italy, now type in: parco enzo ferrari modena italy and hit enter.  The screen will spin around and take you to the west side of the city, and an elevation of around 3500 ft will give you a nice overview of this historic plot of real estate.  There are no remnants of the original track surface left; the ‘roads’ you see are all gravel walking paths.

               OK, let’s go to Maranello!  Type in maranello, italy and you’ll be whisked southeast about fifteen miles. Coordinates 44.31.31.75N and 10.51.58.58 center on the village’s main square.  If one walks around Maranello, there are several monuments to Enzo and his company in the various parks, but the Ferrari factory is a little way up the main road that is adjacent to the square.  That road is the Via Abetone Inferiore, and goes right past the factory’s front gate. Follow the road north past another square where the road veers a bit to the left and when you get to 44.31.58.23N and 10.52.04.53E you’re there.  From about 3700 ft you can glimpse the industrial complex that is Ferrari S.p.A. today.  Starting where the Via Abetone passes by, here are some parameters for several of the popular features:  The building directly across the street from the entry gates and on a street corner at 44.31.56.96N and 10.51.48.77E is the Cavallino restaurant.  Just across the street (you can see the crosswalk) is the courtyard famous for having various new (car) models photographed as they pulled out of the gates. The long thin building just behind the little courtyard is all there was when Enzo opened this factory in 1943. (it was moved out into the country to try evading allied bombing targeting Modena)  A vast amount of new construction over the past thirty years has more than quadrupled the factory’s space.  Wander up to 44.32.00.34N and 10.52.12.70 and there’s a large building with a white roof with a brown stain on it.  That building is the foundry where Ferrari casts all their own engine blocks and transmission cases for all Ferraris (including the F-1 cars) and Maseratis. A little further southeast and you will see a strangely-shaped structure at 44.31.51.57N and 10.52.17.17E.  That is the new wind tunnel that was constructed about eight years ago in which all road cars and race cars are tested.

               Wander back to the Cavallino restaurant and trace your way along the street right next to it as it curves to the left and meets a large east-west street after a block or two.  There is a large parking lot directly across the street in which you can see a few white busses parked.  That building, at 44.31.46.85N and 10.51.40.70E is the Galleria, Ferrari’s open-to-the-public museum.  The street in front of the Galleria is Via Dino Ferrari; follow it a few blocks to the west and zoom out to 3200 ft.  Just north of the street you will see the Fiorano test track at 44.32.02.30N and 10.51.28.89E.  (you can see the red jet fighter plane given to Enzo by the Italian air force)  The building at 44.32.02.67N and 10.51.29.86E is the 18th century farmhouse in which Enzo kept his favorite office on the second floor.  At 44.32.03.44N and 10.51.27.17E is the building in which all track timing and service work on the cars is done, and new F-1 cars are often pictured under its eaves when testing.  The track is run clockwise from that point in a sort of figure-eight. You can follow along and see where the track is elevated over the entry tunnel, stays elevated about a hundred yards or so and crosses over itself before diving down to ground level again while exiting the right hand turn.  Pan diagonally across the track toward the northeast until you can see the Via Abetone again, running along the east side of the track.  Follow this slowly and you’ll see where another road passes underneath right at the extreme end of the track’s big sand trap.  (There is a sidewalk along that road and bridge, so if you hear the F-1 cars on the track, you can walk up there and look down into the facility.)  Just a little farther north, beyond the track property, at location 44.32.20.87 N and 10.51.38.89 is a small obscure building that is the Montana restaurant.  Not nearly as famous as the Cavallino, but the private downstairs dining room is where Michales S. and the F-1 team like to eat.  The public dining room is a parody of “western” décor with cattle horn and horseshoe light fixtures, branding irons and other stuff the proprietors think look like, well, Montana.  But the (Italian) food is absolutely terrific—no barbecued ribs or baked potatoes.

               Speaking of the F-1 team, pan back over to the Cavallino restaurant and zoom in pretty close. Note that there is a parking lot to the west of the building.  Pan farther west across the parking lot and you will see a cluster of buildings and some trucks parked outside.  That is the headquarters of the F-1 team.  There are some business offices, but most of the space is devoted to the actual assembly and servicing of the race cars.  Each car has it’s own designated service area with a dedicated team of technicians who are responsible solely for that car.  You can always tell if the F-1 team is in town by looking across that parking lot to see if the big red Iveco transporters are lined up outside.  Recent construction has added the long silver-colored F-1 logistics building (that looks like a half-buried zeppelin) right next to the track, that you can see just to the north of the F-1 shops. (a couple of the transporters are parked outside)  The F-1 cars zip out of there onto the track, do some laps and dart back inside for adjustments when they’re testing.

Well, that’s about it for our whirlwind tour.  A couple of last sights to see would be the Scaglietti works where the bodies for today’s Ferraris are pressed out and welded together before being trucked to Maranello for painting and assembly.  Go back up to the Via Emilia/Viale Trento e Trieste intersection and pan southeast along Via Emilia.  After crossing a large intersection (which is the road that would take you to Maranello), a little farther east there is another industrial complex on the north side of the street exactly at 44.38.04.25N and 10.57.35.56E.  In this building Scaglietti made the bodies for all of the famous competition models from the late 1950s on, including the 250GTOs, P3s, P4s and the original Testa Rossas.  Ferrari bought out Scaglietti years ago, but the sign facing Via Emilia on the building still proudly states: “Carrozzeria Scaglietti.”  The present Ferrari dealership for Modena is just another few blocks farther east along Via Emilia, on the other side of the street.  Lastly, if you type “Florence, Italy” in the search box, and then pan northeast out of the city quite a ways into the hills—near Borgo San Lorenzo—you will find Ferrari’s huge Mugello race track at 43.59.50.81N and 11.22.16.93E.  The Pilota driving schools are held here (and now in Canada, too) plus, the facility has hosted F-1 races and many other auto and motorcycle race events over the years, although it is actually owned by Ferrari S.p.A. along with yet another not-quite-as-large track near Parma, where the Maserati driving schools and F-2 races are held.  Hopefully you enjoyed our bird’s-eye tour of Ferrari’s hot spots in Italy, but it will pale in comparison the first time you are able to experience all of it in person.

  - -  Bill  Orth  - -