The birthplace of Enzo Ferrari and home to one of the world's best restaurants – Massimo Bottura's Osteria Francescana – Modena makes the perfect base to indulge in two of Italy's great passions: food and fast cars. Just 25 miles from Bologna, Modena is the place to savour artisanal balsamic vinegar, parmigiano reggiano, new-wave lambrusco wine, as well as Ferraris and Lamborghinis. Now, this prosperous city has a suitably chic bolthole. Set on the attic floor of an apartment building, Quartopiano is just a cobblestone's throw from the magnificent main square, lined with terracotta- and ochre-hued buildings.
The two rooms and cosy living space are decorated in a mix of re-upholstered vintage furniture, objets d'art and flea-market finds. A battered old leather suitcase doubles as a bedside table, there's a retro sign urging you not to smoke and a cut-glass decanter for your water. The bed is covered in linen sheets, slippers are tucked into a chest of drawers and vintage shoe stays sit in a wooden wardrobe. The bathroom has a powerful shower, fluffy towels and Argan lotions
Breakfast is served in the country-style kitchen. Feast on freshly baked pastries, home-made jams, cold cuts and fruit. Or make like a Modenesi and walk two minutes around the corner to the owners' restaurant Mon Café (00 39 059 223 257; mon-cafe.it). People watch over a double espresso, freshly squeezed juice and perhaps a roll filled with mortadella sausage, a regional speciality, .
Quartopiano has been a labour of love for Alessandro Bertoni and Antonio Di Resta, who met while Alessandro was working at Osteria Francescana. After fulfilling their dream of opening a restaurant, they bought the attic apartment three years ago and remodelled it, inspired by Provençal decor and their eclectic finds from French and Italian antique markets. Gracious hosts, they're never far away – their apartment sits across a flower-filled walkway – and they're always happy to recommend restaurants and arrange excursions.
The Piazza Grande is the heart of the historic centre, with its 12th-century Romanesque cathedral and imposing bell tower. Across the cobbles, the stalls of the Mercato Albinelli (mercatoalbinelli.it), are laden with hunks of culatello ham, handmade pasta and giant wheels of parmesan.
Enzo Ferrari's humble family home is now the site of a museum dedicted to the man and his work (00 39 059 439 7979; museocasaenzoferrari.it; €15/£12). To see more, head to Museo Ferrari in Marenello (00 39 053 694 9713; museo.ferrari.com; €15/£12 or €26/£21 combined). To explore more of the Motor Valley, including visits to the Pagani workshop and to get behind the wheel of your fantasy car, contact Via Emilia Tours (00 39 348 444 2435; viaemiliatours.it; half-day tours from €99/£80pp).
Combine cars and cheese at Hombre Organic Farm (00 39 059 510 660; hombre.it), owned by the Panini family, of the eponymous stickers. Learn how they make parmesan before admiring the rare Maseratis and more at the Collezione Umberto Panini Motor Museum (00 39 059 510 660; paninimotormuseum.it).
For some of the region's finest balsamic vinegar, head to family-run producer, Acetaia Boni (00 30 059 797 560; acetaiaboni.it), where you'll learn about the fermentation process and taste different varieties.
At L'Erba del Re (00 39 059 218 188; lerbadelre.it; six-course tasting menu €65/£53 without wine), Luca Marchini's sophisticated menu includes fava bean gnocchi with squid and green tagliatelle with a ragu of five meats.
At Franceschetta58 (00 39 059 309 1008; franceschetta58.it; dishes €8.50/£6.90) – the wallet-friendly little sister of Osteria Francescana – Marta Pulini adds whatever's inspired her at the market to the menu: calamari stewed in red wine, tomato and baby spinach.
Some of the best panini are served at Bar M Schiavoni (Via Luigi Albinelli 13), or newly opened Da Panino (00 39 059 875 4382; dapanino.it). For something more filling, Trattoria Aldina (00 39 059 236 106; three-course lunch around €17/£14) serves ricotta tortellini in butter and sage.
Quartopiano, Via Bonocurso 27, Modena, Emilia-Romagna, Italy (00 39 059 875 5487; bbquartopiano.it). Rooms from €130 (£106), B&B.Reuse content