Sleepless in Maranello

| 31 Jan 2012

I've just lived out a dream by peering excitedly through Ferrari's legendary Maranello factory gates, before (over)eating at the Ristorante Cavallino across the road, where the Ferrari mechanics have their lunch. It's my first visit here and it's a very special moment.

So why is it that, after just a couple of hours in a place that I have always wanted to see, I’m already a little bit Ferrari’d out?

We left the evocative Cavallino (lined with helmets, signed photos and pit-boards), peeked into the Official Ferrari Store – sited just next door to the V8 Hotel (308-430) – ambled past a couple of unofficial Ferrari stores and got into our hire car, which was parked next to the front end of a 360 Modena, poking out of the ground as if it has grown up from the Modenese soil.

Then we drove back to our home for the night, the Maranello Village Hotel – which, incidentally, is quite a long way out of central Maranello – and felt the allure of the brand being diluted before our very eyes as celebration spilled into overkill.

What does the Prancing Horse mean to you? To me it's pedigree, passion, beauty, technical brilliance, integrity and a certain indefinable, but understated class.

What is does not mean is some sort of cheap 'n' nasty blend of a car showroom, a Travelodge and EuroDisney.

Yet that's what this seems to be, this red-painted cartoon hotel created with the full support of a marque that's hugely protective of its brand identity. 'You will live in the Ferrari world... Furnished in the Ferrari style... You will imagine the sound of motors right swooshing by in the track,' proclaims the Cavallino-clad welcome pack.

But bathing in the glow of the red light from my bathroom (hoping no one without sees it), listening not to 'swooshing' engines but, thanks to the wafer-thin walls, the sound of my neighbour peeing, and contemplating having the worryingly titled 'Intimate wash' that promises to make me 'feel Ferrari'.

Actually, it isn't all naff: I'm staying in 'Monza' block (there's also Suzuka, Le Mans and Daytona) and I quite like the info panels created in collaboration with Museo Ferrari on the likes of Ascari, or the huge profile artworks of Maranello greats plastered on the walls.

But I had to get out of the theme park and into the town itself to immerse myself in the true Ferrari atmosphere, rather than the chintzy Paddock restaurant, Pit Lane pizzeria or the Stop & Go café on the hotel site.

I still love Ferrari, still dream of owning one, still have a passion for the romance of its past, but am starting to question whether such recent overstretching of the brand, such ubiquity – along with the endless options list of unsubtly logo’d bolt-on bits – might not tarnish it very slightly.

I wonder what Il Commendatore Enzo, with his famous commitment to motor sport and reluctance to embrace the commercial realities of his growing firm, would have made of seeing his signature woven into the corridor carpets of a €50-a-night battery-farm B&B.