Via Pepoli

Bologna Italy’s Coolest Little Garage

Everybody starts somewhere.   For Maserati, that beginning was epicentered at Via Pepoli 1 in Bologna, Italy, in December of 1914. 

Via Pepoli is a cobblestoned street that winds its way through the oldest sections of Bologna.  The buildings are a typical mix of storefronts, apartments, commercial and industrial uses, with the odd gallery, museum, or trattoria thrown in among the rest of it.  In other words: charming.

The Maserati brothers were Carlo, Bindo, Alfieri, Mario, Ettore, and Ernesto (say that all together fast and it could be the name of an Italian law firm).  All but one were deeply involved in the motor and racing trade even as youngsters, so it only made sense that the brothers would ultimately join forces and hang their own shingle. 

Via Pepoli entrance
Via Pepoli entrance

In that compact shop, which couldn’t be more than 2000 sq. ft., they modified and prepped a variety of different cars for racing.  Officine e Fabbrica Maserati only stayed in this tiny locale for about five years before moving to larger quarters, ultimately building its large factory in Modena in 1939, but Via Pepoli #1 is where what we today know as the carmaker Maserati was born. 

Via Pepoli painting
V Maserati factory in Modena
V Maserati factory in Modena

What is now brick steps leading into the space from the somewhat rustic street were originally a ramp that enabled cars to roll in and out of the shop, which sits a bit below street level. 

Via Pepoli - inside entrance
Via Pepoli – inside entrance

All of the original machine tools and workbenches are long gone, but the folks that currently own the building are friendly with Maserati; thus, the latter can lease and decorate the space for events and parties as and when they desire.

As with most residential and commercial spaces in Italy, the shop has its own small courtyard (plus a little kitchen space and a built-in bar).  The narrow street that is Via Pepoli has changed little in the ensuing 100 years, and looking at it today, you can easily imagine it full of race cars being tuned and fettled for record runs or some grand Prix or endurance event or another. 

Via Pepoli shop
Via Pepoli shop – every race shop needs a bar

Oh, by the way, it’s in Bologna, one of central Italy’s most charming and engaging cities.  So yes, I’d love to take this space over, fix it up into an automotive-themed apartment, fill it with some tools and an old Maserati or two, and live like an Italian, for oh say, the rest of my life. 

In as much as many great companies and just as many great rock bands were born in small shops, garages, and dorm rooms, so was Maserati. 

Luckily, this magical little gem of a place still exists, and anyone can drive or walk by and recognize the doorway and an address from which great automotive things sprang forth.

Photos by the author and courtesy Maserati