Top Ten Italian Auto Museums
Love cars? If you want to take a tour of the greatest automotive
museums in the world, it's kind of a no-brainer that you're ideally going to
start in Italy;
home of Alfa Romeo, birthplace of the Ferrari, and stomping grounds of the
Lamborghini. Simply put, no country has been responsible for more top-tier,
beautifully built, adrenaline boosting, jealousy inspiring cars than Italy.
If Italy sounds a little out of the way, well, think of it this way; if you shop around for a good deal on airfare and a hotel room, you can take a weekend trip for less than a thousand bucks, and that's something like 1/100 the cost of actually buying a Ferrari Testarossa. If you’re a serious car collector, then you practically owe it to yourself to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land of automotive excellence.
I recently made a whistle-stop trip to Italy with my Dad to watch the Mille Miiglia and visit the Ferrari Museum. Well worth the money and I have many more planned, possibly doing a road trip to get there at some stage across Europe in my own beloved Alfa Romeo.
There's a sign that says it all in the Ferrari Museum....
10. Vintage Car Museum – The Righini Collection – Panzano, Italy
Mario Righini's private collection, while not being housed in a six story showroom, contains some of the most important vehicles in automotive history.
There are a number of Alfo Romeos, Ferraris and Maseratis on display, but the spotlight really goes to the 1940 Auto Avio Costruzioni 815, the very first real Ferrari ever made.
They weren't legally allowed to call it a Ferrari, as part of the engine comes from a Fiat 508 C with 8-cylinder 1500 engine, so while the rest of the car was built by the folks at Ferrari, Alfa Romeo had it that they couldn't call their racing cars Ferraris at the time of production.
1940 Auto Avio Costruzioni 815
9. Maserati Museum - The Panini Collection – Modena, Italy
The Panini Collection is considered the Official Unofficial Maserati Museum, focusing largely on vintage models.
The 1936 Tipo 6CM is the oldest Maserati on display, and one of the most impressive. As much as we can admire modern engineering, there's something about those classic racers that you just don't see anymore.
The story behind the museum is pretty interesting. When Modena fell upon hard times, there were fears that the Maserati factory would be forced to sell their entire historic collection, with the pieces being spread around bit by bit at auctions.
Matteo Panini opted to buy the entire collection himself in order to store these beautiful cars within Modena to preserve the local history.
Maserati A6GCS 1947 (taken at the 2009 Mille Miglia)
8. Car Design Museum – The Pininfarina Collection – Torino, Italy
The car design firm responsible for the look and feel of the modern Alfa Romeo, Ferrari and Maserati offer their collection up for touring by appointment only. The collection itself is not modest, but exclusive: Only their favorites are on display. But... it won't leave you wanting. Through videos and guided tours, you'll hear the stories behind the design of these cars and how they come to settle on designs that are practical, efficient, effective, and, of course, absolutely beautiful. They know what you're really there for, though: To sit in the 1989 Ferrari Mythos, pretty much one of the coolest concept cars ever built.
7. Vintage Alfa Romeo Museum – The Quattroruote Collection – Milano, Italy
As you might have guessed, the Quattroruote Collection is just a really great collection of the Alfa Romeo Gran Sport Quattroruotes they were making from 1965 to 67, basically revamped replicas of the 1750 Gran Sport models they were producing in 1930. These hand built cars weren't actually very popular when they first came out, and of course, you know how that goes: They're now amongst the rarest and most sought after cars for any collector with the cash to spare. For that reason alone the collection is worth visiting, as it might be the only opportunity you ever have to see one of these "retro replicas".
Website at The Quattroruote Collection
Alfa Romeo Gran Sport Quattroruote
Alfa Romeo 6C Gran Sport 1930 (taken at 2009 Mille Miglia) - the Alfa Romeo Gran Sport Quattroruote was a 1960s revamped replica of this model
6. Italian Automotive Museum – Museo Dell’Automobile “Luigi Bonfanti” – Torino, Italy
The Museo Dell'Automobile "Luigi Bonfanti" takes a cool approach to their exhibitions: Only a few of the cars and motorcycles are permanent, while the rest are temporary vehicles touring the museum. This means you can visit the museum a dozen times and never see the same exhibit twice. One month might be dedicated to Alfa Romeo F1s, while the next might focus on early model Ferraris. You can never be sure what you'll get the chance to see, but you can bet it'll be something interesting... Then again, if the current rotating exhibit isn't exactly your thing, you can just enjoy the permanent Pininfarina displays.
Website at Museo Dell’Automobile “Luigi Bonfanti”
5. Italian Automotive Museum – Museo Dell’Automobile di San Martino – San Martino in Rio, Italy
Go to San Martino in Rio in the Po Valley, do some sightseeing, and then check out the four hundred odd cars they have on display at the Museo Dell'Automobile di San Martino. The collection is sort of a mish mash of vehicles gathered since the museum's opening in 1956. The focus is mostly on the road cars, but there's a lot of variety here, and you'll find everything from an Auto Avio Construzioni 815, the original unofficial Ferrari to some F1s and oddities like Lamborghini tractors. Interestlingly, admission is free, but, rather bizarrely, they ask that you bring a trademark food from your native country.
Website is Museo Dell’Automobile di San Martino
The museum has an Alfa Romeo 1900 Super Sport, like these shown here (taken at 2009 Mille Miglia)
4. Lamborghini Museums (there are 2)
4A. Lamborghini Museum - Ferrucio Lamborghini Museum – Dosso, Italy
The official Lamborghini museum is dedicated not only to the cars, but to the man who made them. The collection itself takes visitors through the whole history of the brand, from the first tractors built by Ferrucio Lamborghini to the models being produced today. One of the most notable items on display would be Ferrucio’s personal car, one of the 152 Lamborghini Jarama GTS sports coupes ever built, also known as the Jarama S, unique from the 1970-73 Jaramas for its enhance output, power assisted steering, and a number of body modifications.
Website at Ferrucio Lamborghini Museum
4B. Lamborghini Museum - Centro Studi e Ricerche Ferrucio Lamborghini – Dosso, Italy
This Lamborghini Museum, rather than being owned and operated by the company itself, was founded in 1995 by Tonino Lamborghini to honor the passing of his father.
Interestingly, Tonino Lamborghini actually got into some trouble with the Automobili Lamborghini SpA, as they weren't too keen on the idea of the Lamborghini name beind used on anything besides the cars themselves, but they eventually came to their sense and realized that a museum to honor the founder of the brand could hardly be considered detrimental.
The collection on display is impressive, with just about everything Lamborghini achieved in his life being present and accounted for, from the early 400 GTs to the Espada, Ferruci Lamborghini's own personal vehicle.
Perhaps the rarest spectacle on sight would be the Lamborghini Helicopter suspended from the ceiling in the center of the building, one of only two existing prototypes for a Lamborghini product that never made it to the production line.
Website at Centro Studi e Ricerche Ferrucio Lamborghini
3. Ferrari Museum – Galleria Ferrari – Maranello, Italy
The Galleria Ferrari is Ferrari's official museum, and
the main focus is, of course, showing off their beautiful cars, with an exhibit
dedicated to Michael Schumacher era cars like the Scuderia Ferrari F2002 which
he used to dominate the 2002 French Grand Prix. However, the museum also serves
as a full course on Italian racing, with several exhibits being devoted to
prizes won by Ferrari drivers, and various artefacts to explore the entire
culture of Italian autos in the form of photographs and posters.
I will warn you that it's a great collection but surprisingly small. Plus you can walk about the cars unhindered by rails or barriers - peering in as far as you can reach - they just ask that you never actually TOUCH!
Maybe the most interesting exhibition for gearheads would be the one devoted to technological breakthroughs first implemented in Ferrari F1s, mapping out how many of them have made their way into road cars, such as porting the dynamic F1 suspension system over to their F50s. They even used the same wind tunnels for testing!
In the place where the museum sits, the test track and othr nearby buildings create a mini village atmosphere and press and afficionadoes are almost permanently camped out, hoping for a glimpse of something new. You never know what weird prototype that never sees the light of day again might come out of the magic gates and drive past.
Website at Galleria Ferrari
2. Automotive History Museum – Museo Dell’Automobile “Carlo Biscaretti di Ruffia” – Torino, Italy
The Museum was named for Carlo Biscaretti di Ruffia, the artist and Italian car enthusiast who had been crucial in the first Italian races and the Torino Automobile Club. di Ruffia donated his collection to the museum to be put on display after his death in 1960. A lot of the star attractions of the museum, like the Lancia Thema and Fiat 131, are from this collection amidst the hundred fifty odd vehicles on display, but the museum is generally devoted to the entire history of the automobile from the late nineteenth century to the nineteen eighties.
1. The Alfa Romeo Museum – AlfaWorld - Arese, Italy
Is it any surprise we'd put the Alfa Romeo Museum at
the top of the list? It may as well be the Louvre of auto museums.
The six floors of the museum contain four sections. The first section alone is more than you can fully explore in a single trip, with over one hundred models on display, showing every road model Alfa created from 1910 to the present day, along with some of Alexandre Darracq's pre-Alfa models dating back to the turn of the century, and most of these cars are fully functioning, so please, resist the temptation to hotwire the 33 TT 12, even if you think a short prison stint is a fair price to pay for the privilege.
The next section shows a number of prototypes and dream car models like the 8C Competizione, offering a glimpse at the painstaking design process that goes into creating a new model, as well as teasing the visitor with the possibilities of what might have been. The next exhibit shows aircraft and aeronautical projects, while the fourth explores the cultural aspect of the brand, displaying awards won by prominent Alfa Romeo drivers along with scale models of various Alfas.
If you have a single petrolhead bone in your body, The Alfa Romeo Museum will prove to be an exhilirating and exhausting experience. Just don't try to take the full tour all at once.
Website at AlfaWorld
Taken at 2009 Mille Miglia
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