In Italy it seems everything is a work of art: cars, scooters... and the museums that celebrate them. Here are five of the most stylish.
Is there any other marque that captures Italy’s ability to translate art and performance on four wheels that the prancing horse of Ferrari? Right from the very first model in 1929, Ferraris have combined style and a thoroughbred racing pedigree that look as stunning on the street or race track. Or in a poster on a bedroom wall, for that matter.
Inside the Ferrari Museum at Maranello (Ferrari.com)
It should come as no surprise then that there are not one, but two, Ferrari Museums. The Museo Ferrari in Maranello focuses on the marques present and future, with an emphasis on its Formula 1 achievements (including Formula 1 simulators and an interactive “pit stop wall”). The Museo Enzo Ferrari in Modena focuses on the story of the founder of Ferrari, set in the original factory, and a collection of Ferraris in the futuristic building beside it.
Want to visit both? Ferrari provide a shuttle bus between the two.
If a Ferrari was the car all young boys aspired to own, chances are it was an Alfa Romeo that was their more affordable, but equally stylish, entry into the world of red-blooded Italian motoring. For the same price of a Vauxhall you could convince yourself you were an Italian playboy. Sure, you’d spend most of your time with your head under the bonnet, but hey, you’d look good doing it.
1955 Giulietta Spider (museoalfaromeo.com)
This recently refurbished museum in Arese, near Milan, is a fitting home to this workaday Lothario. There is an automotive timeline, showcasing most of the models made. And a gallery dedicated to the marque’s most ‘beautiful’ models. Finally, finish your visit with a turbo-charged Italian espresso in the Alfa Romeo café.
With its stylish lines and exuberant sense of freedom and fun, Vespas are the Italian spirit on two wheels. In movies and magazines they have become shorthand for la dolce vita, the sweet life. The Italians know it too. Every new model is greeted with fevered debate on whether it has captured Vespa ‘soul.’
Main hall, Piaggio Museum (museopiaggio.it)
Produced by Piaggio, a museum dedicated to all things Vespa has been established in the former toolshop, next to the factory in Pontedera, half way between Pisa and Florence. You’ll find examples of every model of Vespa made, as well as special models that include a Vespa sporting bazookas, used by the French army in Indochina, a Vespa fire engine, and a Vespa that was ridden – and decorated – by Salvador Dali.
The staggering success of the new Fiat 500, mimicking as it does the shape of the 1957 original, is positive proof of the affection people hold for the cars made by this quirkiest of Italian car designers. A Fiat is the everyday car you buy to show the world you’re not afraid to take chances.
Centro Storico Fiat (facgroup.com)
Established in 1963 and housed in an Art Deco building in an unassuming street in Turin, the Centro Storico Fiat has only just been opened to the pubic and even then, only on Sundays. It is the archive for the company’s most important treasures and a stylish showcase for it’s most important models. There is also a cool selection of advertising posters from the 50s and 60s.
Favoured by the discerning sports car driver who felt that Ferrari was a little too gauche – that red! – Lamborghinis are at once more beautiful and brutal. The Miura, produced between 1966 and 1973, had ‘eyelashes’ (distinctive grills around the headlights) but was the fastest production car on the road.
A Miura in the Lamborghini Museum (Lamborghini.com)
Attached to the Lamborghini factory, the two-storey museum covers all the major milestones in the marque's history, with a gallery that includes the Miura S and its iconic “eyelashes”, the 350 GT, the Countach S, the Jalpa, the Espada, the Sesto Elemento, and the Reventón. Fans of the Raging Bull marque will also love the large number of prototypes and exclusive models on display.
Main image: The Enzo Ferrari museum in Modena (Ferrari.com)