- Helping you drive happy

In the land of Ferrari

In the land of Ferrari

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Many people wonder if they're allowed to tour the impressive facilities of Formula 1 teams. Sadly, the answer is: no. Access is extremely restricted, even for the media. In our case, the only way is to be handed an invitation -- a very special one, I might add.

There is one place, however, that lives and breathes sports cars and auto racing, Formula 1 in particular, a town that welcomes tifosi with arms wide open, and where speed is worshipped as a goddess.

Meet Maranello, Italy: home of all things Ferrari, including the assembly plants, the Scuderia Ferrari complex, and the legendary Fiorano Circuit.

While access to Scuderia Ferrari is prohibited, everything else is pretty much like an all-you-can-eat buffet. If you ever plan a trip to Europe, this is a must-see. After landing in Milan, head toward Modena, then Maranello.

On Via Tazio Nuvolari, you'll see brand new production Ferraris roll off the assembly lines. On Via Abetone Inferiore, you'll be facing the official gateway to Ferrari S.p.A.

Just across the street is the internationally acclaimed Il Cavallino restaurant -- a bit starchy and quaint, but irresistible. I guarantee you'll want to have dinner there.

Dino Ferrari leads to the Scuderia Ferrari headquarters. On the left is Galleria Ferrari, a fairly comprehensive museum where you can admire classic road cars and F1 cars (including the famous Ferrari IndyCar), as well as engines, transmissions, trophies, and countless photos. Really interesting.

The only street that leads to the Fiorano Circuit is none other than Via Gilles Villeneuve. A bronze bust of the famed Canadian driver, proudly sitting on a pedestal and decorated with some nice flowers, graces the entrance.

Since testing is very limited now, you won't see any F1 cars at Fiorano. However, you might spot a few GT cars. The track goes through the city's industrial area, and crash barriers run the length of nearby buildings. Up in the air, apartment balconies provide a unique view of the track less than 100 metres away!

Like I said, Maranello is all about Ferrari. Members of the F1 crew can be seen all across town after a hard day's work wearing their signature red shirts. Some of them will hit Made In Red, a bar at Piazza Liberta that pays tribute to the F1 team.

As a matter of fact, every bar and every hotel in Maranello has hundreds of stickers, posters and photographs (a lot of them signed) of great Ferrari drivers such as Niki Lauda, Didier Pironi, Jody Scheckter and Gilles Villeneuve. The many boutiques are filled with memorabilia and rare items depicting the history of Scuderia Ferrari.

Once again, if you happen to travel to Italy some day, make a point to stop by Maranello. You'll be forever glad you did.

Photo: Philippe Champoux