Last summer we spent a week in Italy. Our first stop was Venice, and then on to Italy’s Motor Valley. My, at-the-time, seven-year-old son loves cars. And since we were going to Italy, we figured this was a good “theme” for the trip.
If you’re also looking for travel tips stick around to the end of the post. It’s loaded with details about the car-related things we did, a hotel review, and information about non-car things to do for the other parts of your trip. However, first I want to focus on more information about the area the children’s books that enhance a trip to Italy’s Motor Valley.
A Brief Introduction to Italy’s Motor Valley
The motor valley is an area outside of Bologna, Italy that is home to Italian fast car makers Ferrari (Maranello), Maserati (Modena), Lamborghini (Sant’Agata Bolognese), and motorcycle maker, Ducati (Bologna). Because of the proximity of these super vehicle companies to each other, the combined history of the original founders, the factories, and the museums dedicated to them, this area is known as the Motor Valley.
Prepping for a trip to this area of Italy includes brushing up on Italian and these automobile and motorcycle makers.
Now, on to the books.
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Children’s books for a trip to Italy’s Motor Valley
There are not any books specificially about Italy’s Motor Valley for kids. Instead, I recommend books about Italy as a whole and then books about the super vehicles that will make up the trip. We have a whole section of this website dedicated to children’s books set in Italy. I encourage you to go to that section, though, to find things that interest your family and apply to other aspects of your trip.
Click on image to find out more about the book or to purchase it.
Learning Italian with children’s books
Every trip to a new country should start with a brief introduction to the language. The Teach Me Everyday series is my favorite for kids. It’s approachable, includes a CD, and has simple phrases to keep it fun.
Kids may also appreciate the Italian Picture Dictionary as the try to decipher the world around them.
Learning about Italian cars with children’s books
My son knows cars. He doesn’t NEED books, but he sure would like them. My daughter’s not as big of a fan, but she plays along.
Getting books about the cars the family will see is a good idea. But, even if your kids are like my son and know everything, the books are still great. If your kids are like my daughter, they’ll appreciate the information. You can also consider it a souvenir to give them at the end of the day to remember the museums. The gift shops were expensive and I’m not even sure if they all had books anyway. So, with that in mind – here are some books about cars for kids.
These books are all geared for children in early elementary school. The Ducati book has very limited availability and the prices that I see are probably more than people would want to pay, but I’m including it just in case something pops up between now and your search.
Tips for visiting the Italy Motor Valley with kids.
As I mentioned above, finding a way to do the Italy Motor Valley seemed expensive. I’ve always heard that driving in Italy is not a good idea, and my own previous experiences in Florence and Rome backed that idea up. Bus tours felt like the best option, but at $400 on the low-end and up per person, I didn’t think it would happen. Not for a one-day tour.
So, instead of doing a bus tour, we rented a car in Bologna and headed to Maranello and did the tour ourselves. It worked out because the hotel we found was Ferrari-themed (reviewed below), but not close to public transportation. A car was a necessity.
Renting the car in Bologna was relatively easy. We just scheduled a pick-up at the place closest to the train station and planned to drop it off at the airport a few days later.
One of my favorite vendors for booking car rentals in Europe is AutoEurope. I used them when I was a travel agent, too. I appreciate the ease of communication. Especially when the trip has any kind of complications.
While I worried that the cost of the museums was going to be expensive because of how expensive the day tours were, we gave it a go anyway. It was a very affordable trip.
Below you’ll find tips for the three of the car sites we visited. We didn’t make it to Ducati.
Visiting the Museo Ferrari Maranello with Kids
What I didn’t know booking all of this is that there is more than one Ferrari museum to choose from. We reserved our Ferrari Museum tickets with the hotel, so we ended up at this museum. (There’s another museum in Modena
This is an easy drive from the Hotel Maranello Village hotel. It was our first stop of the day, so we were there early and had plenty of parking. The parking lot filled up by the time we left.
Because the tours to the area were so expensive, I figured it was because the entrances were expensive. This was not the case at the Ferrari Museum. Tickets were less than 20 Euros per adult and less than 10 EUR for children. There are also combination tickets available for this and the museum in Modena. And as always, check with the official website before budgeting for this museum for the most up-to-date information.
The exhibits were hands-off, but my kids both enjoyed them. Even my daughter, who is not as big of a car fan, had fun. My favorite area was the Formula One cars. Along with showing us the cars, we got to see the scaled-down versions (think Hot Wheels sized) for every year and listen to various engines roar.
We sat in a Ferrari at the end of the tour. Visitors can sit behind the wheel and get their picture taken. Purchasing the photo is optional. I felt the photo prices were a bit high, but we did get one.
Once you leave the official museum part, there’s a small game area. Again, I thought these prices were higher than they should be. Since we had the Lamborghini Museum next, it was easy to convince the kids to head out.
Gift Shop and Cafe
The Ferrari Museum Maranello has a huge gift shop. A Ferrari-lovers dream. Most of the branded items were ridiculously expensive, so we left with some simple magnets and pencils.
There was a small cafe, but we decided to wait until we got to Modena.
Visiting the Museo Lamborghini with kids
The Lamborghini Museum is actually quite a bit outside of Modena if you’re really hungry. There were some logistical “nightmares” visiting this spot, which I’ll mention below.
The museum is on a long, quiet street between Modena and the much smaller town of San Giovanni in Persiceto.
There wasn’t an obvious place to park, just a place that seemed to be for employees. We asked someone at the gate and they basically told us to find a place on the street.
We tried parking in one area, but there were no spots left. Then we noticed that a parking meter was needed to put on the dashboard. Our rental car didn’t come with one. We drove into San Giovanni in Persiceto to find a place to get one and thought we’d grab lunch, too.
The guy at one of the shops happened to have one of those parking meters, but he said the restaurants were closed. So we went back to the museum and crossed our fingers that we’d find parking. Somehow we did, and it was right next to a small cafe across from the museum.
This was another affordable motor valley museum. We also had the option to view the production line at a higher price point but decided not to.
Like the Ferrari Museum, everything was pretty much hands-off. No problem. This was also a much smaller museum. The second floor was dedicated to Lamborghinis in Hollywood films. So, in a way, it appeals to both the car lover and film fans.
The Lamborghini gift shop was right next door to the museum. It was small but had a lot more affordable souvenirs and fun trinkets. We ended up with a pencil case and more pencils.
Visiting the Maserati Showroom with Kids
I was done with all the cars, but my husband and son insisted we visit the Maserati showroom, too. Since it was in Modena, it was a quick stop.
Or… it was supposed to be a quick stop. We got so lost trying to find it we almost quit. At the last minute, we saw the sign. This was also another place with no dedicated parking, but it was in town and there was ample street parking.
This is a showroom, so there was no fee to enter.
This was a showroom, so there wasn’t really an exhibit area. There were a few Maserati cars, information about the history, and samples of interior options.
I think they offered a tour to those interested, but we did not join in.
The Maserati gift shop was both the smallest and the most expensive gift shop of the three places we visited. The items were so expensive, I didn’t even leave with a small souvenir.
Hotel Maranello Village, aka the Ferrari Hotel – a review
We were initially drawn to this hotel because of the Ferrari theme, but we stayed because of the value.
Our Italy trip was just a one-week section of a larger, five-week trip that included Germany and Greece. This meant we had very specific needs for both space and laundry facilities.
The Hotel Maranello Village offered apartment-style living at hotel-convenience and great pricing. Our room was a two-bedroom efficiency with a small kitchen and a washing machine. We purchased the breakfast option and had dinner at the hotel at least twice. We were pleasantly surprised with the low-cost meal, however, please note that that the restaurant is cafeteria-style.
The Ferrari theme means that the logo, images of Ferraris, and the color red is used throughout the hotel. It is not necessarily how Disney World themes out hotels, but I think most Ferrari fans will enjoy it.
Please note: There are other Ferrari hotels in the area. Some have similar names, are more centrally located, or offer views of Ferraris on the street. This particular hotel, however, has space for a family to spread out a little.
Non-car things to do in when based in Italy’s Motor Valley
We stayed in Maranello for four nights, but only dedicated the first day to the Motor Valley sites. We filled out the rest of our time with:
Road trip to Cinque Terre
Roadtripping to La Spezia on Italy’s west coast to take the train to Cinque Terre and relax on the beach. I loved this area so much that I wish we could’ve stayed longer. It was a last-minute decision because the weather in our original destination (Lake Garda) was rainy that day. While in Cinque Terre we rented beach chairs on Monterosso al Mare and ate the most amazing pesto dish in Vernazza. (Kids impression: This is the best day ever!)
Note: If you do not have tickets to take the local train, pre-purchase tickets here. The line gets long and while it’s worth the wait, why wait if you don’t have to.
If you don’t want to wing it and prefer to have a tour, there are tours that leave from La Spezia.
Compare balsamic vinegar types in Modena
Finding out what the difference is between traditional balsamic vinegar is and the stuff we typically use for salad dressing in a tour in Modena. We did a tour at the Acetaia Villa Donnino. The kids loved trying the different types of vinegar, playing in the fields, and becoming huge fans of balsamic vinegar from that day forward. (Kids impression: Ice cream with traditional balsamic vinegar is delicious and the cats are fun.)
Beach day in Rimini
Our beach day in Monterosso al Mare left us wanting more time in the sun, so we decided to visit Italy’s Adriatic Coast and Rimini. The long beach is filled with individual Bagni which are basically privately owned sections of the beach where you can rent loungers. Each bagno typically includes a snack place, restroom facilities, and changing facilities. We went to Bagno 45, which had a South Beach, Miami vibe. It was nice and not too crowded, but I’m sure there were more child-focused options in Rimini. (Kids impression: Love the sand and calm water here.)
If you’re looking for a more formal tour of Rimini, here is one I found for small groups.
If you’re going to Rimini, you may consider a trip to San Marino. It’s a tiny country completely within Italy and only a short drive away. We got a late start and ended up partially rained in, so we had to skip it. But, there are tours available there, too.
So many possibilities!
I strongly feel that the prices we paid for the car rental, gas, three nights hotel, and entrance fees to the museums were still lower than what a one day tour would have cost us.
However, I can see the appeal to the one-day tour. Many of them leave from Florence, and Florence is an amazing tourist destination. Plus, the bus probably drops people off right in front of the Lamborghini Museum and helps them find places for lunch. They probably mentioned many things along the road that we never learned.
There were many things we didn’t do, and maybe some of those things are included in the higher-priced tours. We didn’t go to Ferrari’s home, didn’t do any test drives, nor do the factory tours.
As a base for visiting the Motor Valley, Maranello is nice. It does not have the same feel as other areas of Italy. It has a more suburban feel instead of the cobblestone walkways and plazas we tend to associate with some of Italy’s more visited towns. However, we were able to do a lot of things we might not have had we stayed somewhere else.
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