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June 04, 2023

Adventures in Italy – Visit to the Collezione Umberto Panini Motor Museum in Modena

While traveling, did you ever have one of those days where you have to pinch yourself, just to make sure that this is reality and you are not dreaming?  Did you ever have one of those days, where you plan something, and it does not turn out at all like you planned?

I mean: really!  And then, something completely unexpected happened?

This was one of those days.  For quite some time we had planned this trip to Italy.  Being Italian Automobile enthusiasts, our aim was to visit automobile museums to discover the history of classic Italian cars.  My husband had kept an old magazine article which featured a number of automobile museums and their contact information.

We called and emailed the museums before departing on our trip.  We inquired about opening days and times, cost, and accessibility.  Then, once we were in Italy, we emailed again to reconfirm everything and to receive the exact address and driving directions.

So, we got up early this particular morning, because we had wanted to fit several museums in Modena into our schedule.  The Panini museum was to be our first stop.  

While still in our hotel’s parking lot, I entered the address the museum staff had given me into the GPS of our rental car.  As a side note I must admit that over the years, we did not have the best of experiences with this kind of device.  In fact, you may have heard that Hertz branded their version the “Never Lost”.  News flash: we renamed such devices “Always Lost!” or “AL” for short.

Might I preface this, that we did not bring a road map of Modena and its surroundings with us?  However, being the eternal optimist that I am, I lay my trust in “AL” that day.  As we left the hotel parking lot, Al directed us to head out of town.  We left the residential and industrial sector of town and followed Al’s instructions. 

Soon we were in a beautiful countryside of cow pastures to the left of us and cow pastures to the right.  We were in farm country!  My husband kept commenting that there is no way this is correct.  There was no town in sight.  There were no “Museum” looking buildings in sight.  There was just the occasional farmhouse here and there.  The farmers were on their tractors and farm machinery cutting hay.  Huge round hay bales dotted the fields.  Suddenly, Al instructed us to turn right on Via Corletto.  It turned out to be another country road leading through hay fields.  A bit later, Al announced, “You have arrived at your destination.”  No way!  We were in the middle of nowhere! 

We turned around, had headed back to the main road.  I re-input the address once more, as my husband was getting annoyed, that I probably screwed up the address.  Al recalculated and gave us the same directions.  We drove really, really slowly. 

Finally, I spotted a sign indicating, that AL after all was sending us to the right place:


We followed the road.  Again, Al announced: “You have arrived at your destination.”  We stopped and saw a very narrow private one-lane road, lined with trees on either side. 

Off in the distance, we saw what looked like just another farmhouse with its various barns, etc. 


Reluctantly, we turned into the one-lane road and slowly drove towards a cluster of buildings.  As we drove on, we spied a garden with whimsical characters:

Dancers doing the Cancan:

This was actually a wind vane.

What kind of place did we stumble upon?

Finally, we had confirmation that we in fact we were at the right place

Outside, on the left side of the museum building, I spotted farm machinery.  To our surprise, they were a collection of ancient tractors. 

This one is a 1929 Fiat 702A!

Everywhere you looked there were surprises!  Have you ever heard of a Lamborghini tractor?

And nobody would just park these beauties just anywhere!


The inside of the museum was also amazing, check out these beautiful Maseratis:

How about this 3 wheeler!


There was also an incredible collection of engines on display.

There was also a display of the De Dion suspension.  My husband was so excited about this discovery, as it is still being used today in most cars.

The collection of cars is displayed on the ground floor.  In addition, on the second level which is only is accessible by stairs, there is also a collection of motorbikes.   A guided tour lasting about one hour had to be booked and confirmed in advance at a cost of €85.00.  For a self-guided tour, however, no booking was necessary for 5 to 6 people, and there was no charge for a self-guided tour! 

The collection was absolutely breathtaking.  On the day we went at the end of June, we had the museum all to ourselves as we were the only visitors to this gem! 

After the visit, I spotted this beautiful hand-carved emblem on the exterior wall of the building just across from the museum.

My husband was exhausted from the summer heat and decided to wait in the car parked in the shade, while I checked things out.

Curious about the sign, I asked a young lady about its significance.  She smiled and invited me to follow her inside the building.  I was flabbergasted.  It turned out to be a storage room.  Not just any storage room!

It was a storage room where wheels of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese were aging and ripening.  Each wheel requires 500 liters of milk.  There were wheels of cheese as far as the eye could see.  Oh, and the aroma was heavenly.

Afterward, the young lady and I walked over to the on-site cheese shop.  She invited me to taste the different offerings.  “This is the most delicious cheese I had ever tasted!” I told her.  “Regretfully, I won’t be able to buy some to take home with us.  I do not have a cooler with us, nor do we have a refrigerator in our hotel room.”  She noticed that I had kept a few morsels wrapped in a napkin.  “I was saving these to share with my husband.  He’s exhausted from traveling and is resting up in the car.”  She smiled, handed me a picnic plate full of cheese samples, “Please, we’ll give these to your husband”, and walked back to the car with me.

My husband was in heaven.  First, he got to enjoy the beautiful car exhibit, then receive a plate of the most delicious cheese handed to him by a beautiful Italian young lady!  After his cheese snack, it was time to head home (the hotel).

Admittedly, when we originally entered the property, looking for the museum, we had “tunnel vision”.  We were only focused on finding the museum, and ignored everything else around us that did not check off “museum”.  However, when we departed, we drove back ever so slowly down the long driveway of the property.  This time we paid close attention to the various “support” buildings. 

They were the barns for the milking cows:

We were so impressed.  This was the cleanest farming operation we had ever encountered!  It was spotless.  You could eat off the floor, it was so clean!  There was no “manure smell”.  All you could smell was the sweet smell of the hay and the grass of the fields opposite of the barns.  We were flabbergasted.  To be honest, in our past experiences (from visiting working farms in the US), you could smell the American farms from miles away.  Here there was not even an olfactory hint of cow dung! 

Hats off!  Leave it to the Italians to not only create the most aesthetically beautiful cars in the world, heavenly cheeses, and the happiest cows we’ve ever seen.  I really could not say it any better than what their website states: “Umberto Panini had the idea of designing a closed cycle organic farm, completely independent of external factors, where everything is grown, created, and developed within. This point is essential: it is the only way to achieve a totally safe organic product since the success of the cheese depends 100 % on the cows’ diet. It might just be my impression, but thanks to this closed organic cycle, the animals seem to live a much more relaxed life.”

After our visit to the Umberto Panini Collection on the Hombre organic farm, we stopped at a Gelateria (ice cream shop) for the BEST ice cream ever!  The shopkeeper engaged me in a conversation to practice his English.  He shared with me that Luciano Pavarotti, the world-renowned tenor, used to stop by the shop when he came home.  “Pavarotti told me, there is nothing in the world that compares to the food, the wine, the people, the artisans of my homeland, my Emilia-Romagna region.  It nourishes my body and my soul!”   - - Truer words have never been spoken.

Several times during this day with all of its wonderful surprises, we had to pinch ourselves to make sure we were not dreaming. 

It was a most magical day!


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  1. What a day of surprises! Der Bericht hat mich total mitgerissen! So macht das Reisen durch die Welt Spaß und jeder Tag bietet etwas unvergessliches Glück. Übrigens gibt es in Neu Seeland einen ähnlichen Ort und in England einen Campingplatz, der gleichzeitig ein Traktormuseum ist.
    Please tell more stories like this.

    1. Emelie - Danke fuer Deinen Kommentar. Ich war noch nie in Neu Seeland, und auch nicht in England. Viel Spass beim Camping! (Thanks for your comment. I've never been to New Zealand, nor England. Have fun camping!)


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