The Motor Valley’s main attractions are roughly located in a circular area between Bologna and Modena. For that reason, coming from Rome, it somehow makes sense to have Bologna as the focal point.
You can reach Bologna from Rome by high-speed train or by car. However, keep in mind that Bologna is about 380 km from Rome. That means a drive of about 4 h 30 minutes, not considering possible unexpected events like road works. Instead, the journey by high-speed train only takes 2 h 25 minutes, and if you plan your getaway to Emilia Romagna in advance, you can buy discounted tickets.
There are pros and cons in both cases. Traveling by car allows you to easily reach towns like Maranello, Ferrari’s headquarters, and the two Lamborghini Museums, in-between Bologna and Modena. The trip by train is shorter and more comfortable. Still, while you’ll have no difficulties visiting the Museums in Bologna and Modena, you’ll need to rely on public transportation or a taxi to reach the ones in the outskirts.
Another option would be to combine the high-speed train from Rome to Bologna, and then rent a car for one or two days if you want to explore the surrounding areas.
The choice depends on you, as well as on your itinerary. I’ll suggest one further on, but there are many possible variations. Take into account that Modena is about 50 km from Bologna, a 50-minute drive or a 30-minute journey by regional train.