Sunday, February 17

Italy's Automobile Museums

Maybe it's because I'm a Detroiter, well, okay, most likely because I'm a Detroiter, I love cars. I love looking at them, eyeballing the interiors while driving down the road, wondering who's made what, comparing designs, checking out the glow they give off when parked under a streetlamp, you name it.  And so, coming to Italy where they know a thing or two about fast cars, well, you know Italians love cars too (as well as their motorcycles).  In fact, in the old days, the faster your car could go, the faster you were allowed to go on the roads.  Now, those nasty cameras have spoiled all the fun, but it seems there's a whole culture of I-Spy going on, where people know where the cameras are and which cameras are working, so they can put the pedal to the metal between photo opps.
In Italy, you'll find a number of wonderful collections of old cars and carriages, items left behind from one collector or another, and they're always nice to look at.  Just down the via Ardeatina in Rome is a whimsical collection of carriages of all sorts, making for a fun outing here, too.  Most of these collections are by appointment only, but once you're in the doors, you're in for a real treat.  But lately, people are starting to take their car museums a bit more seriously.  Heck - even Volkswagon's Skoda over in the Czech Republic just got such a gorgeous makeover, it definitely means a return visit is in store quite soon.
So, here's my short list of fine automobile museums:

Torino (Turin)  Speaking of makeovers, this museum just got one and it's in the heart of car-making country - in fact, it's accessible right near the city center.  They rotate exhibits of about 170 cars and are trying now to make it worth your while. And, true to keeping with Italian form of double naming everything, it's called Museo dell'Automobile - Carlo Biscaretti di Ruffia Turin, but I think you're safe to look for automobile museum.  Torino also hosts a Central Archives to FIAT and I believe some cars are displayed there, but I am not sure if they've been moved to the refurbished museum.  Centro Storico Fiat - Via Chiabrera 20, Torino

Just outside Torino in Cambiano is the home of slick designer of all things automotive, Pininfarina.  They, too, have an impressive museum highlighting a rotating number of their 40 designer hits.  While I think they lack a quality control person when it comes to train design, we're good to go because they don't sport a Eurostar train there as well.  But, I wish they would.  Then, the designers can sort of try them out before forcing the rest of us to sit for hours in their seats.  But I digress.  I've yet to see the museum, but it's definitely on my list.

Going to Milan, the Museum of Science  (second name: Leonard Da Vinci) has an eclectic mix of trains, planes and automobiles, I think even a submarine.  No rhyme, no reason, but they're fun to look at.  And, speaking of fast cars, it's just outside Milan where the Formula1 racetrack is in Monza.  Just at the door to Milan in Arese is the overlooked but totally worthwhile factory of Alfa Romeo (who knew?!).  Again, double-named Automobilismo Storico Alfa Romeo - Museo Centro Direzionale it boasts the entire historic panoply of Alfas.  If you go there, someone's bound to know about it.  The City now wants to make sure people are aware of such a historic place right in their midst.  

Traveling further east to Verona, a businessman left a fabulous collection of all kinds of things which the family has turned into a tidy little museum.  At the Museo Nicolis you'll find cars, motorcycles, bicycles, buses, commercial vehicles, aircraft, heck, even tanks!  http://www.museonicolis.com  Not far from there in nearby Vicenza is a collection of oldies but goodies at the Museo dell'automobile Luigi Bonfanti.

If you still haven't gotten your fill of cars in the industrial (and industrialist) north, head toward Trieste. Just outside of Gorizia, you'll find a collection of a very brand loyal Ford Dealer. He even rebuilt the facade of the factor that made Fords in Trieste. And in his pantheon, you'll find a 1908 Model T along with cars and motorcycles.  Museo Ford Gratton, Farra d 'lsonzo (Gorizia).

But now it's time to set our sights south: to Formula1 territory.  


from San Marino's Maranello Rosso Collection
Ferrari likes to say they're located in Modena, but they're located wayyyyy outside Modena, in Maranello. It's a long drive, but worth it.  You can even see them testing cars on their track there.  http://museo@ferrari.com
Head towards Bologna and you'll come across a spanking assortment of Lamborghinis.  It's actually located inside their factor, but once inside, you'll be treated to some rare cars.  Here, instead of naming the museum twice, it's hard to tell, but it looks like there are actually two of them:  Lamborghini Museum in Sant'Agata Bolognese (BO) http://www.museolamborghini.com and the Ferruccio Lamborghini Museum in Dosso (Ferrara) which shows off his personal collection of vehicles, from famous sportscars to even a tractor http://www.lamborghinicalor.it    
Not to be left out, over in Modena is the collection of Maserati Museo d'Auto e Moto d'epoca Umberto Panini, and at the Museo Stanguellini, many race cars that carried their name.
And finally, another cool collection of Ferraris over in San Marino again, by a dealership.  Called, humbly, the Maranello Rosso Collection it has a lot to meet the eye with its Ferrari collection, Abarth collection and Congress Center.

You can usually find the antiques cars in many a town throughout the country, so, no matter what your speed, there's always something for everyone!

most names and places in color above are live links


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