Alex’s Blog: Toto, We’re Not in Oregon Any More

Espresso bars, cigarettes and the telephone greeting “Pronto!” surrounded me. It was official: I had just stepped off the plane into Italy with the promise of driving restored classic Ferraris on the horizon. It was the quickest 48 hours of my life.

A week ago my father, publisher Keith Martin, and I received an invitation to a press conference for a vintage car restorer called Modena Classic Works. It was to be held in the Museo Casa Enzo Ferrari in Modena, Italy. The schedule included tours of two Ferrari museums and test laps at the Modena Circuit. My response? Ciao, Oregon!

We arrived at our hotel in Italy with just enough time to let it sink in that we were really there before we were on our way to the museum. Pierangelo Masselli, chairman of Modena Classic Works, led the press conference. The concept of his business was to deliver restored classic cars — mainly Ferraris — in six months. Even having never yet restored a classic car of my own, I do know that the average restoration time for an Italian car is approximately your age plus your first-born child’s lifetime, give or take a few years.The silence before the storm of questions about Masselli’s ambitious business plan proved he had the journalists’ attention.

After the press launch and tour of the Enzo Ferrari Museum, it was on to the Modena Circuit. The garage door opened, and there they were: a 512 carbureted Boxer, a 328 GTS and a Daytona Spyder Conversion. Manuela Cantarelli, who helped put on the event, came up next to me and uttered my favorite sentence — “Pick whichever one you want.” The Daytona didn’t need much persuasion to become the most expensive car I have ever driven. We also rode passenger for some hot laps in a Carrera RS — some very  hot laps, as you’ll see in the video below.

An Italian track day was concluded with a dinner at the restaurant Montana, which seemed to be a favorite of Formula 1 racing participants. There, Massimo Zanasi taught me that the perfect bite consisted of five tortellinis. One should always follow an Italian’s advice about food.

Saturday began with a tour of the Ferrari Museum, with director Antonio Ghini as our guide. After the tour, I understood why all Italians seem born with a passion for Ferrari.

With only 12 hours left in Italy, long-time friend, contributor and subscriber Joe Tomasetti picked us up for lunch. And by lunch, I mean a three-hour extravaganza at the restaurant Hostaria da Ivan. We ate in the cantina, drank with the Chef Ivan himself and enjoyed an aperitif of a 1960 Armagnac. When my airplane lunch was put in front of me the next day, I knew reality was approaching.

Looking back, the weekend still seems surreal. Modena Classic Works offered us a spontaneous adventure that’s one for the books. Don’t worry, Italy — I’m not leaving your racetracks for long.

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