Between Modena, Cognento, Fiorano and Maranello, you can find a certain creative energy that is not so different from the US state that pulls the world along towards the new. Matteo Panini and Alessandra Cagliari are an example of how passion, commitment and success combined can open wide the windows on the world
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Should we wish to see just how taste and design evolve, then observing a specific category of products over a 100-year time frame is an unequivocal way of understanding how the world around us changes.
Today, Panini stickers are found in more than 110 countries and have not lost their fascination as objects to collect and swap. The family has not betrayed its rural origins, however, and has continued to work breeding livestock and producing wholly organic Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. It is also a Modenese family that has a great passion for cars and can boast a truly unique collection.
When former Maserati owners De Tomaso decided to auction off a number of cars when the company was being sold to Fiat in 1993, Umberto Panini, Matteo’s father, made a generous offer to buy them all, thus ensuring that an automotive treasure trove was kept in its native Modena. Two characters such as Panini and Cagliari deserve to be better known. They truly are an example of just what it means to be Italian in Modena and its surrounding region. As this issue of The Official Ferrari Magazine is devoted to the California, it’s the perfect opportunity to explore just how much of the US is present in Italian design. Panini and Cagliari’s extraordinary collections of cars and coffee machines cover a rich and varied timescale.
There is, for instance, an amazing Maserati created for Stirling Moss on the occasion of the 1958 500 Miles of Monza, which was a kind of Indianapolis 500 run on the oval of the Autodromo to provide a challenge for US cars that had arrived in Europe for the first time. This shows just how Modena’s innate creativity was further stimulated by US-made racing cars. It’s even there in the showy advertising on the Maserati Eldorado for an ice cream of the same name from the years when racing cars in Europe bore the national colours and race numbers and nothing else. It’s a skilful interpretation of American iconography.
The Maserati Eldorado had offset steering, a pronounced tailfin and that white colour scheme, much closer to US codes than the traditional Italian styles, which were usually red.
We have that same sensation of American design – stainless steel and as stately as 1930s skyscrapers – when we look at many of the strictly “made in Italy” coffee machines of the 1950s that are in the Cagliari collection. Even if the design is Italian, as is the cremoso-style coffee (with a foam on the surface created with technologies that made it possible to operate with ultra-high water pressure so as not to scald the powder), the influence of the great designers who contributed to producing such a distinctive American style is obvious. One thinks of Studebaker cars, iconic Coca-Cola bottles, William Van Alen’s Chrysler Building in New York, or William Eppelsheimer’s fabled cable cars on the streets of San Francisco.
Above all, wandering through the various rooms where the machines are proudly exhibited feels like walking back in time: from the stately filter machines of the pre-war period to those more reminiscent of skyscrapers or the glorious radiator grilles of 1950s US cars, and then on to designs inspired by the curves of television sets from that decade and, later, to machines taking their design cues from the epic space race between the then USSR and US. From all of them – and this says everything about “Italianness” – comes an excellent coffee that is now famous the world over. California versus America, Modena versus Italy. Specificity within specificity. If California brings out what America represents, the same happens in Modena and its surrounding region (which, of course, includes Maranello and Fiorano) in relation to Italianness.