Grande Enzo and quiet Modena (our family weekend in Emilia-Romagna, pt. 2)

Unfortunately, our beautiful Saturday in Bologna ended not so beautifully: upon returning to our hotel in the evening, Oliver came down with a fever. Naturally, this confused mother packed absolutely zero things that could help in such a situation (It was only a weekend, what could have happened in only two days? Well, it turns out – anything could.) so our evening was spent with last-minute runs to the nearest pharmacy and discussions whether we should just pack and return to Rijeka immediately or stay the night as planned. Luckily, Oliver fell asleep easily, was feeling better in the morning, he had no fever and was in good mood, so we decided to go on with our plan and visit another town of Emilia-Romagna before heading back to Croatia.

We could have picked any of the famous towns of the region for our Sunday stop, such as Ferrara, Parma or Ravenna, but we chose Modena because of one of its most famous sons – Enzo Ferrari. There are two amazing Ferrari museums in the area dedicated to the life and legacy of Enzo Ferrari: the one in Maranello, which we visited a few years ago, focuses more on Scuderia Ferrari, its racing program and technical aspects of the famous factory, while the museum in Modena that we visited this time displays the more personal story of Ferrari’s founder, Enzo. The story about his life is displayed in his birth house, while the cars are displayed in a fantastic futuristic gallery space designed by a radical neo-futurist architect Jan Kaplický. Cars are scattered within the space like sculptures in classical museums, and different elevations allow for seeing – and admiring – them from different perspectives.

I whole-heartedly recommend this museum to anyone who appreciates beauty and passion, in any form. It displays the idea of “big things having small beginnings” and tells the story of how Ferrari, a world-known symbol of wealth and luxury, has always been and probably will always stay, intimately linked with Italy, the country, the culture, the mindset and the way of life. And how much the two owe to each other.

The highlight of the museum experience was the movie about Enzo and the creation and development of the company which was played on the gallery wall. All of us visitors stood still and quiet and I am sure that there was not a dry eye in the room when the screen went dark and words Grazie, Enzo were displayed for a few seconds before the credit roll. We were all under great impression as we exited the gallery, the experience was at the same time so intimate and personal as well as common and majestic.

Although probably too young to understand all of it, Oliver, who was two-and-a-half then, really enjoyed his encounter with colorful cars. He was especially happy when his grandfather bought him his very first Ferrari toy car in the museum’s gift shop. Ever since he got it, his red Ferrari holds a very special place in his assortment of toys. He treasures it, displays it on the shelf in his room, plays with it very carefully and proudly shows it to all his friends and our guests.

We continued our walk towards the center of Modena. I know that every Italian town is beautiful in its own way, but I was genuinely impressed by this quiet, elegant Northern Italian beauty. Modena is a town of quiet, cultured people and simple, traditional living; of busy narrow streets and large quiet squares where children are learning how to ride a bike. It exudes the atmosphere of calm, good, high quality life.

During our walk, we stumbled upon Palazzo Ducale, an imposing Baroque palace that was once the residence of counts d’Este and today houses the Military Academy. The vast open area in front of the palace narrows down onto Via Luigi Carlo Farini, a lively street, again with its elegant porticoes and shops, like those that we saw in Bologna.

The heart of the town is Piazza Grande. I will never get tired of the feeling I get when moving from a tight, narrow street onto a vast open piazza, a transition so typical for medieval and Renaissance towns – the sharp contrast of the amount of space, the way the sun suddenly floods the area and blinds you, the way the air changes, how you lose the sense of direction for a second and you have to turn around yourself to see where you are and what surrounds you.

Piazza Grande is quite literally “grande”, spacious and beautiful, flanked by the most important town buildings: the light Romanesque Cathedral designed by Lanfranco, whose build began in 1099, tall, elegant Ghirlandina Tower with its marble balustrades and Palazzo Comunale, a set of buildings from the 17th century connected by a portico, the most Emilia-Romagna architectural element of all.

After the lovely, cultured, history-laden and delicious two days in Emilia-Romagna, it was time to head back home. We know that we have only scratched the surface of the rich culture and history of these two towns, not to mention of the amazing region that is Emilia-Romagna, and know that we have to return there again, but regardless, we enjoyed our weekend immensely. For two days, we were a part of an Italian story that may not be as popular and well-known as the “Roman Italy” or “Southern Italy”, but that helped us realize how rich, wonderful and deep this Italian region is. And – naturally – how we will have to return to it again, sooner rather than later.

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