The collection of Umberto Panini
What's the ultimate Panini collection? We think we've found it.
It’s unlikely you’ve ever heard of Umberto Panini.
Ok, perhaps the surname rings a bell. After all, the Panini publishing company is rather famous, Giuseppe – our friend Umberto’s brother – founded the company that is renowned mostly for producing collectable sticker books. Umberto isn’t famous though, instead of pursuing publishing fame he bought a farm just outside of Modena and produces the best organic Parmesan cheese your local Euros can get you.
His farm is called ‘Hombre’ – a reference to Venezuelan travels from his earlier life – and you can visit it. Aside from picking up some fantastic cheese though, why would you? Well, towards the rear of the farm there’s a building chock full of beautiful cars and motorbikes – and Umberto has left it open to the public.
Approaching the building you’re greeted by two reflective doors that prevent you from seeing anything inside until you open them. Then, you gaze upon a real treasure trove of beautiful machines. It’s not often you can visit a farm and walk into a room with a 1957 Maserati 250F parked up infront of you. Umberto’s 250F was a prototype used in Practice at Monaco in the 1957 Grand Prix – a race its driver – a certain Juan Manuel Fangio – would go onto win.
Maserati is the dominant brand in Mr. Panini’s collection, and there’s a connection to Britain through them too in the form of the 1958 420M that our hero Sir Stirling Moss raced at the 500 Miles of Monza, a race also known as ‘The Race of Two Worlds’ as it was a competition entered by both Formula 1 teams, and American oval racers. Respectfully, Moss managed a 4th and a 5th in two of the heats – don’t ask, it was a weird race and scrapped after just two years. Significantly, this very car was the first car in Europe to be sponsored completely by a company outside of Motor Racing. The sponsor? ElDorado – an ice cream firm. If Kimi had been around in 1958…
In total, 22 gorgeous Maserati creations grace the collection, a mixture of racing cars and road cars. There’s a Bora, a Khamsin, a Mistral and the absolutely stunning AG6 ‘54 and a 3500 GT from the road department of Italy’s most charming manufacturer, but also a Tipo 61 ‘Birdcage’ racing car, and Tazio Nuovolari’s 6C Grand Prix car that took victory in Naples, and also in Panini’s back garden of Modena. Make no mistake, if you love Maserati this is an absolute must-visit here in Northern Italy.
In the upper floors of the collection there’s a staggering array of motorcycles – admittedly, motorcycles are not something I can claim to know lots about.
Cars have always been my love, and though the motorcycles interest me, I simply couldn’t tell you what’s special and what isn’t, but what I can tell you is that there’s a lot of beautiful and historical machines up there, and quite a few from the UK. Being a history nerd, I was drawn to the bicycle at the end of the collection that saw action in the First World War – original rifle still securely attached to the frame should action break out.
I could go on forever about how good this small but perfectly formed Panini collection is, but it’s really something you should go along and see for yourself. The collection is free to visit, and you can even have a tour of the organic cheese farm that it’s situated on if you’re into that. As classic cars are increasingly hoovered up by wealthy collectors with no intention of letting them see daylight until they’re next sold, Umberto Panini’s collection, preserved as part of the region’s heritage and culture is a refreshing reminder that some people really do want future generations to be able to see and fall in love with these cars.
‘Hombre’ – write it down, tell your friends, and make sure you visit next time you’re in Northern Italy.
CLICK TO ENLARGE