If you fly into Milan-Malpensa Airport and start driving south on the E35, past Parma – the home of prosciutto – past the undulating waves of Calatrava’s Reggio Emilia Railway Station, you’ll coast right into Italy’s Motor Valley, the unassuming countryside where legends are born.

Photography: Christian Cipriani

Looks Can Be Deceiving

Motor Valley Italy

The valley looks ordinary, even a bit austere. As you drive through, it’s almost impossible to imagine that some of the world’s most flamboyant automobiles – beacons of design and engineering that capture the imagination – emerged from this same terroir like the fine grapes of Champagne and Bordeaux. Yet four definitive supercar marques operate right here within 40 km of one another.

Ferraris of course are manufactured on Via Abetone Inferiore in Maranello, a small hamlet in the province of Modena. Just across the border, in Bologna, longtime rival Lamborghini sits tucked into the little town of Sant’Agata Bolognese, and a stone’s throw south, Horacio Pagani tinkers away in San Cesario sul Panaro like a modern-day Willie Wonka. The valley is also the birthplace of Maserati and Ducati, as well as legendary coachbuilders Zagato, Bertone and Pininfarina, among others.

Respect Where it is Due

Ferrari F12tdf owned by Horacio Pagani

Ferrari F12tdf owned by Horacio Pagani

In early summer 2017, I was driving to Pagani on an empty stomach and stopped at a one-man petrol station with no air conditioning in search of food. As I stood in the sun gnawing on warm Parma ham and mozzarella on day-old ciabatta, I reflected on how close I was to Pagani, yet so far from a world of million-dollar hypercars. It’s almost poetic how unglamorous a trip to these factories can be. Whether you’re carrying a camera or a checkbook, it’s an equally humble pilgrimage.

Beyond the gossip and rivalries, the automakers of Motor Valley share the kind of respect one finds between elite athletes. I saw this for myself firsthand when Horacio Pagani arrived for work. He wasn’t driving the latest version of his own namesake hypercar, but rather a tailor-made Ferrari F12tdf painted metallic burgundy with gold-and-white stripes, bronze wheels and a creamy Alcantara interior.

“When I uncovered the car and saw the Ferrari logo, I had the urge to kiss it,” he once said. “Even telling the story now makes me emotional.”

This isn’t just him checking in on the competition. Pagani arriving to his factory in a Ferrari is mutual admiration. It is respect. It is love…

A King in His Own Castle

Pagani Museum Italy

As much as this column and the world of ROSSO focuses on Ferrari, I highly recommend a visit to Pagani. Outside of perhaps dropping in on Christian von Koenigsegg in Sweden, it’s a rare chance to see an energetic founder walking the floor of his workshop, eagerly greeting tourists and holding court with the world’s top collectors vying to take home one of his outlandish creations. Today, Ferrari and Lamborghini factory visits are more controlled, museum-like experiences (unless you’re an owner), but Pagani still feels open to curious onlookers.

If you love cars and you’re ever in Italy, take a day-trip to Motor Valley. Enjoy its green fields, soft rolling hills and the endless straightaways perfect for testing supercars fresh off the assembly line. From Maranello to Sant’Agata to San Cesario, the pride, love and joy of motoring is everywhere you look.

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