Autodromo Nazionale Monza
Home race of Ferrari and their passionate Tifosi, perhaps no circuit is as evocative as Monza. Staged in a royal park north of Milan, it held the Italian Grand Prix at the start of the F1 World Championship in 1950. It has hosted nearly every Italian Grand Prix in the years since.
In the modern, Herman Tilke designed F1, the temple of speed is something of a throwback to a bygone era. Long, fast straights cut through the woods, connected to form an L-shaped track.
Though attempts have been made to dull it down with chicanes, historic Monza remains a high speed, thrilling sprint. Perhaps the only negative for spectators is the brevity — it’s the fastest race on the calendar, the race’s 53 laps are over in about an hour and 20 minutes.
For many F1 spectators, Monza is top of their bucket list. It charms visitors with sun-dappled walks through the woods, the aroma of Italian coffee and its raucous atmosphere.
Whether you’re taking a seat in the 1930s Centrale Grandstand or exploring the old banking, the history of F1 is tangible.
Forty-year-old graffitied messages to the sport’s heroes and villains of yesteryear adorn grandstands and walls. From messages of support for Gilles Villeneuve to crude comments for Bernie Ecclestone, the parkland is filled with historical easter eggs that you’ll have fun discovering. It all serves to make Monza an absolute must for any fans of motorsport.
Italian Grand Prix F1 Spectator Tips
- Bring a water bottle and refill at the numerous drinking water fountains around the circuit.
- The circuit was once known for DIY, makeshift grandstands. These are now banned but many Monza regulars in general admission bring step ladders to get some elevation and see over the crowd.
Things to do near Monza – Attractions away from the circuit
Milan is the industrial core of Italy and not culturally blessed in the same way as many other cities and towns in the country. Visitors and Milanese bemoan the fast pace of life and the busy streets but the city is not without charm. Highlights of the city are the near 600 years in the making Duomo, the elegant and stylish Galleria Vittorio Emanuele shopping mall and the humbling and much underrated Milano Centrale train station.
Further afield there are a wealth of attractions in the automotive vein, a number of which are described below and to the north lies the Italian lake district and the foothills of the alps, making for the possibility of some interesting and varied side-trips.
Maranello, the Ferrari Museum and the Enzo Ferrari Museum
If you’ve been to the Grand Prix and a visited the Ferrari Store (worth a visit if you’re in the market for a €50 key chain or just to ogle at a Ferrari F1 car up close and personal) and you’ve still not had your fill of the legendary team, two hours south of Milan by rail or road is the city of Modena and nearby town, Maranello, where the Enzo Ferrari Museum and the Ferrari Museum are located.
The Museo Enzo Ferrari (MEF) is dedicated to the life and times of ‘Il Commendatore’ and features classic cars, thoughtfully displayed and an immersive multimedia experience where images and video of Ferrari’s life are projected onto the walls of the state of the art exhibition space. The collection consists of not just Ferrari’s but also other manufacturers which Enzo was involved with in his 90 years. A separate structure of the same museum that makes an interesting juxtaposition is the building that served as Ferrari’s father’s workshop and the house Enzo grew up in.
Mecca for Ferrari fans, Maranello is the historical home of Ferrari and location of the factories that give birth to the Ferrari road cars and F1 cars as well as the manufacturers own Fiorano test track.
It’s very much worth the pilgrimage to Ferrari’s home town and a visit to the Ferrari Museum. Look out for the 1988 Ferrari signed inside the cockpit by Gerhard Burger, Michael Schumacher’s trophy from the 2000 Japanese Grand Prix where he took his first of 5 titles for the prancing horse and the used tyre from his car that won the 2003 world championship.
If you intend to be around for at least a couple of weeks either side of the Grand Prix you could even watch the preceding or following race at the Enzo Ferrari auditorium in Maranello town centre where if you’re a Ferrari fan the experience will be second only to watching the race at Monza. Entrance is free, just walk in and take a seat.
Getting to Maranello by public transport is relatively straight forward and inexpensive with frequent buses departing Modena’s main bus station for the 20km trip. A bit pricy but a small bit more convenient is a shuttle bus connecting the Enzo Ferrari Museum and the Ferrari Museum.
If you’re pushed for time or think going to two Ferrari museums might be overkill you may be wondering which one is best to visit. They’re both excellent museums, though the Enzo Ferrari Museum is more about understanding the man behind the name and the appeal of the brand.
The Maranello facility is geared more towards Ferrari’s racing heritage and F1 and is more likely to be of interest to F1 and motorsport fans, and has the additional appeal of the Maranello setting.
Other Automotive Attractions in Northern Italy
Some of the world’s most iconic and let’s face it, downright sexy cars have heralded from the north of Italy. You could see a different auto museum each day of your trip and still not see them all in a fortnight.
Most of the major motor manufacturers have a museum dedicated to their history and achievements in engineering and design; Lamborghini (Modena), Alfa Romeo (Milan), Maserati (Modena), Ducati, Pagani; and some have factory tours available. Some of the smaller and less well known collections are well worth a visit too.
Museo Mille Miglia in Brescia is dedicated to the world famous 1000 mile race that took place between 1927 and 1957. It’s almost as much a part of the culture as the Italian Grand Prix and following the ‘red road’ through the converted monastery to see the rotating stock of vintage cars which took part and to learn about the historic race is a pleasant way to while away the time. Signage is mostly in Italian but with enough English to gain an insight, while the stunning cars themselves transcend any language barrier.
In Torino (Turin) the world class Museo dell’ Automobile is a more general motoring museum featuring some 200 automobiles as well as thousands of photographs and an extensive library of motoring related publications.
The breadth and significance of the exhibits makes it one of the absolute must see car museums, not just in Italy but internationally as well. Exhibits of particular note are a 1916 Model T, an example of a Peugeot, a Benz and a Fiat from the 19th century and a number of F1 cars including some Ferrari and Alfa Romeo.
Vehicles are wonderfully displayed in the spacious, strikingly designed building – itself a fine showcase of 1960’s modernist architecture. Each lovingly cared for car occupies its own pedestal and invites you to walk around the exhibit admiring the car’s design from every angle. Visiting in person is highly recommended but if you can’t make it there Google offers a virtual ‘street-view style’ tour of the museum.
Monza mornings are cool and crisp but the weather soon heats up, hitting the mid twenties during the hottest part of the day and sunny is the norm.
I’m Danny, an incurable Formula 1 fan for over 30 years and founder of The F1 Spectator. My aim is to inform and inspire, arming you with helpful tips and advice for your next F1 trip.