After the 2003 biopic starring Sergio Castellitto in the role of the great Modenese entrepreneur and racing driver Enzo Ferrari, the figure of the great Italian engineer comes back to fascinate cinema-lovers with Ferrari, Michael Mann’s new movie (The Last of the Mohicans, Heat, Ali, Collateral) presented to the public at the 80th edition of the Venice Film Festival.
Based on an adaptation of a book by Brock Yates entitled “Enzo Ferrari – The man and the machine” – and thanks an autobiography written in the 1960s (“Le mie gioie terribili. Storia della mia vita”, lit. “My terrible joys. Story of my life”), rediscovered by editor Beppe Montanari – the movie reconstructs the facts and events that marked 1957, recognised by many as one of the most difficult years in the life of the ‘Drake’.
While witnessing the personal life of Enzo (Adam Driver) overwhelmed by the difficult marriage with his wife Laura (Penelope Cruz), the loss of their son Dino, the affair with Lina Lardi (Shailene Woodley) and economic crises for his company, the great engineer attempts redemption for his Ferrari through participation in the 24th Mille Miglia.
In the background shines the city of Modena, whose places co-star in Mann’s feature film. Ferrari was born here back in 1898 and spent his teenage years here. In Modena he also founded the Auto Avio Costruzioni, which then officially became the Ferrari Factory in Maranello after World War II.
Let’s follow the roar of the engines and set off to the most significant places of movie, where the entrepreneur spent much of his life.
Stazione “Piccola” in Modena
Shrouded in a blanket of fog, at the beginning of the film appears the “Stazione Piccola” (lit. small railway station) of the provincial railways of Modena (Piazza Manzoni), so called to differentiate it from the one of Ferrovie dello Stato, located north of the city in Piazza Dante Alighieri, captured in turn in some scenes of the movie.
Built in 1932 at the height of the fascist period to serve the countryside and the suburbs, for the filming the hands of time were brought back to the 1950s, accompanied by furnishings of the period and steam trains.
The first scenes of the movie are filmed in this very station. It is 1957 and the racers Jean Behra and Alfonso de Portago – the first one for Maserati, the other one for Ferrari – arrive in Modena: they will be the characters in the film who Mann will rely on to narrate the historical track challenge between the two racing teams.
Casa Ferrari in Modena
With the monumental Fontana dei Due Fiumi, Largo Garibaldi was one of Modena’s main sets of Michael Mann’s movie. It was here at number 11 that Enzo Ferrari lived with his wife Laura and mother Adalgisa.
During the filming, this public space was completely transformed to provide a suitable backdrop for the story, with billboards and furniture of the 1950s. The scenes outside the Storchi Theatre, which was located a few metres from Casa Ferrari, were also filmed here.
The scenes inside the apartment of Casa Ferrari were instead shot in a building in the historical centre of Reggio Emilia, in Via Emilia San Pietro 22.
The monumental Cemetery of San Cataldo
The Monumental Cemetery of San Cataldo is a very strong and constant background in the film, capturing the intimate and profound sadness running through the Ferrari family – especially Enzo and Laura – because of the death of their beloved son Dino, brilliant pioneer of engineering.
We are precisely inside the historical section of Modena’s monumental cemetery, built by architect Cesare Costa in the second half of the 19th century.
It is here, in the family tomb, that Ferrari and his wife – whose marriage is already going through a crisis – go at different times of the day to pay respects to their son, who died only a year earlier (1956) due to a muscular dystrophy.
In front of the cold marble, the parents speak to Dino’s spirit, seeking refuge in memories between regrets and emotional outbursts of touching empathy.
The church of San Pietro Apostolo in Modena
There is a particular moment in Mann’s movie when a holy mass is staged in honour of Scuderia Ferrari.
Between the benches of the church of San Pietro in Modena are mechanics, engineers, workmen, and all the family of the car factory, listening to a sermon celebrating with proud their activity and achievements.
We are in one of the city’s oldest monastic complexes. In the scenes we can clearly see the interior of the church enriched by the terracotta statues of Antonio Begarelli; outside, on the parvis, a series of vintage cars – Lancia, Topolino, Balilla – are waiting with their drivers in their costumes.
The historical centre of Modena
Against the backdrop of the 1957 Mille Miglia, some of the most adrenalin-fuelled scenes of Mann’s movie were shot right in the heart of Modena, in the shadow of his main monuments and best-known streets.
It is here, in Piazza Roma, that the legendary Cavallino restaurant of Maranello – located in the 1950s opposite the historic entrance to the Ferrari factory – has been set for stage requirements.
Last but not least, added to these locations is the imposing Palazzo del Foro Boario, built in 1833, which was used in its turn as a scenic backdrop to one of the moments of the race that saw actor Patrick Dempsey take on the role of Ferrari driver Piero Taruffi, winner of that year’s Mille Miglia.
The Ferrari Factory in Maranello
Our journey continues with the Ferrari Factory, the core of Enzo Ferrari’s working life. Founded in the 1930s in Modena, the factory represented by the legendary Prancing Horse was moved to the nearby Maranello in 1943 and here began its mythical history.
But why did Ferrari choose Maranello for his factory? Certainly because of its proximity to Modena, but also for another reason: Enzo kew the town well, because it was here that he owned a farmhouse and a plot of land.
The factory in via Abetone – where Ferrari is still based – produced the team’s most famous cars, from Formula 1 to Sport Prototipi, from Granturismo to road cars, which can be admired inside the Ferrari Museum.
For the filming of the Ferrari movie, not being able to shoot in the factory in Maranello, the production team reconstructed the entrance of the factory – in via Bering, in the Madonnina district in Modena – with its gate and the yellow Ferrari sign.
Enzo Ferrari's barber in Modena
For Enzo Ferrari, the ritual of shaving was something indispensable. Every day he would go to the salon in Corso Canalgrande 73 in Modena and abandon himself in the hands of his faithful friend Antonio D’Elia, later joined by his nephew Massimo. From them, and only from them, would he have his face shaved, with the promise not to be disturbed in that daily wellness break.
His nephew Alessandro (the current owner) recounts that when the salon was closed, usually on Sundays and Mondays, it was his uncle and father who went to the engineer’s house, where a barber’s post had been specifically set up.
In the film “Ferrari”, the American director doesn’t leave out this aspects of the Drake’s life, and also shoots a scene inside the historical barber shop, which is still in operation today.
Storchi Theatre in Modena
There is a central, dreamlike and choral scene in the film: during a gala night at the theatre, Modena attends a premiere of Verdi’s La Traviata.
It is a moving moment in the script, which transports the protagonists through distant memories and regrets, creating a strongly emotional climax.
The scene in which Ferrari assists to the opera were shot inside Teatro Comunale Pavarotti-Freni, Modena’s main opera house. The exterior shots, on the other hand, were set in front of the Storchi Theatre in Largo Garibaldi, just a few steps away from where Enzo Ferrari once lived.
The proximity between Enzo Ferrari’s home and the theatre can also be perceived in the movie, so much so that Laura and the Drake’s mother Adalgisa Ferrari let themselves be carried away by the notes of Verdi simply by opening the windows of their home.
In addition to Modena and its historical centre, the production of the film “Ferrari” shot scenes in many other places in Emilia-Romagna:
- The hills between Castelvetro and Maranello = several shots were taken, including from above, in the hilly territory around Castelvetro di Modena, in particular near Puianello;
- Imola Circuit = some of the initial scenes of the film were shot inside the great Imola Circuit, named after Enzo Ferrari and his son Dino;
- Strada della Vittoria = in Novellara (RE), along the straight stretch of the long Strada della Vittoria, was filmed the scene of the 1957 Mille Miglia accident – which saw the driver Alfonso De Portago on board his Ferrari 335S crash into nine spectators. In reality, the accident took place in Guidizzolo, in the province of Mantua;
- Lagoons of Comacchio = they appear as a backdrop in some scenes immortalising the passage of the Mille Miglia, in particular the Argine Agosta provincial road.
Some scenes of the film were also shot outside Emilia-Romagna, in particular at the Morano Po Circuit, Pontestura (AL).
It was here that Maserati and Ferrari challenged each other time after time, testing their engines and the skills of their drivers, and it was here that the young driver Castellotti crashed on 14 March 1957 on the grandstand reserved for Circolo della Biella. This event, captured in Mann’s film, was filmed at the Morano Po circuit in Pontestura, in the province of Alessandria.
A map of the places of the film “Ferrari”
On the occasion of the release of “Ferrari”, the places in Modena featured in the movie have been collected in a map drawn by illustrator Mert Bozkurt. The map can be consulted and downloaded from the website visitmodena.it and is also available at the tourist information office of the city.
Those who are still curious and interested in Ferrari’s history and the filming of the movie can also take part in a special guided tour to the discovery of the places in the historical centre of Modena.
Davide Marino was born archaeologist but ended up doing other things. Rational – but not methodic, slow – but passionate. A young enthusiast with grey hair
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