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Talking Location With … author Tom Benjamin: BOLOGNA and environs

14th May 2024

#TalkingLocationWith … Tom Benjamin, author of Last Testament in Bologna.


Jeremy Clarkson and his jolly crew would find Emilia Romagna’s Motor Valley the perfect getaway writes author Tom Benjamin

Jeremy Clarkson has long been a sucker for Alfa Romeos, despite – or possibly because of – their much-publicised shortcomings. On that front, he might be a little disappointed with Emilia Romagna’s Motor Valley because Alfa Romeo – now owned by a Fiat off-shoot – is based in Milan. However, just about every other Italian ‘marque’ beloved by petrolheads hails from the lush farming – and motoring – land between Bologna and Modena.

Tom Benjamin

Imola, Minardi Day

Ferrari, Maserati, Lamborghini, and (for a two-wheeled bonus) Ducati are all based within half-an-hour’s limit-defying roar along the backroads, which is why before Emilia became well known for the splendour of her cities and kitchens, she was a mecca for car fanatics. I’m almost certain I spotted the late great novelist and motoring enthusiast Iain Banks on my flight to Bologna when I was commuting back and forth in the early Noughties, possibly visiting to check out – or even buy? I suspect his advances were a little larger than mine – a fast car (I think he realised he had been clocked because he lifted a car magazine to cover his face).

Head out Maranello way and it is not unusual to find yourself sandwiched between a pair of Ferraris being taken for a spin, or on the fringes of Bologna get buzzed by a Ducati motorbike fresh off the assembly line. Naturally, the recent Ferrari biopic was shot on his home turf, while the Ferruccio Lamborghini drama-doc on Prime is set at his base down the road. The (probably apocryphal) story is that, dissatisfied by the clutch on his new Ferrari, the then tractor maker drove down the road to call on Enzo, who told him where to go. Which is what Ferruccio did – and created his famous supercar brand.

Add to this Maserati (the truly grand old man of Motor Valley, founded by five brothers in Bologna in 1914) and De Tomaso, and you have the most romantic region in the world for motoring enthusiasts complete with museums, factory tours and track visits – a great way to distract one’s petrolhead partner while you sample the cuisine and culture of the region.

Tom Benjamin

Imola, Minardi Day

It was inevitable as part of my Daniel Leicester series, the roar of the V8 would attract my attention. Last Testament in Bologna tells of an old man’s final wish to investigate the suspicious death of his racing driver son – the prime suspect being his former collaborator who heads up a supercar firm. Daniel, Dolores and the Comandante dive into a world of fast cars, feuding families, and fiery egos. Writing Last Testament was a blast, researching even better – alongside the usual reading list, I visited museums, factories, and even the Imola race track on one of its best open days.


Jump in your two-seater to explore Motor Valley


Everything in Maranello is Ferrari and there’s no trouble finding the museum, which also boasts an appropriately ample carpark. I booked our tickets for a timed visit and felt the entry price for the basic exhibition was reasonable. But like a luxury car, it’s extras that stack up: the photo in the Ferrari, simulator, etc, and you’ll be lucky to find change from €100. But if you’re a fan you’ll probably consider it worthwhile. There is also the Enzo Ferrari Museum in Modena, which focuses more on the life and work of Ferrari’s founder where the cars are displayed more like ‘objet d’art’ than the Maranello museum, which concentrates on the technical aspects. There’s also a factory tour by bus (only customers are allowed an exclusive ‘shop floor’ tour).

Motor Valley


The Museo Lamborghini is close to the HQ in Sant’Agata Bolognese. It does what it says on the can – the two-storey museum covers all major milestones in the supercar maker’s history. You can also book a tour of the production line, which shares the same building and takes about an hour.

Tom BenjaminDucati

Although motorbikes don’t feature much in Last Testament, when fellow author Heleen Kist offered me a pair of free tickets when she had to cancel, my nephew and I spent an enjoyable time at the museum and factory on the outskirts of Bologna. The real highlight of the trip was the factory, where you get to walk the floor and see the machines being put together and tested.


A key scene in Last Testament occurs at the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix where we follow our characters into the pits and VIP areas. I was able to glean my ‘insider knowledge’ partly thanks to ‘Historic Minardi Day’ when I experienced a real taste of the F1 experience.  Visitors can admire F1 cars on the track and in the pits, and have access to the paddock, terrace and garage. This year Minardi Day is being held on August 24-25. When it is not hosting Grand Prix’s and other races, the legendary circuit is often open to visitors – when the heat begins to die down, you can even walk or cycle the track!

Motor Valley Fest, the free event celebrating Italian motoring excellence, will return to Emilia Romagna from 2-5 May, 2024. The event attracts thousands of classic car and motor enthusiasts and includes public events throughout the city, with parades, car and motorbike rallies, alongside cultural, food, and wine events. www.motorvalley.it

Pagani Museum and factory tour. Visit the museum of the legendary ‘hypercar’ manufacturer Horacio Pagani in San Cesario sul Panaro, near Modena, and tour the factory.

Maserati factory tour at the plant on Viale Ciro Menotti in Modena. Lasting about an hour, the tour includes an introduction to the showroom which includes Maserati models past and present prior to a guided walk around the powertrain department.

Last Testament in Bologna, the fifth novel in Tom Benjamin’s critically-acclaimed series, is out now.

Tom Benjamin

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