Lieback’s Lounge – Ducati Museum & Italy Tour Via Multistrada
Are you kidding me? Four days into our 14-day honeymoon, and pop goes the mirror in my Nikon D2H. There was a spec showing on the 1000+ images I had already captured, and, fueled on a bottle or two of Chianti from Italy’s inland, I was about to get this right.
But success wasn’t in focus, and around midnight in Venice on the second day of the honeymoon, I was left without my beloved SLR. The problem? The train was leaving in the early a.m. for Bologna, and our schedule was tight, allowing no time to purchase a new camera body.
Thirty minutes after our train would arrive in Bologna, we needed to be at Ducati in Borgo Panigale for a tour of the factory and Museo, and pick up a Multistrada. Yep, what would a honeymoon be without Italy, Ducati and some touring? It’s easy to see one of the reasons why I married Pam…
This left us with only the iPhone during what would become the highlight of our honeymoon. But was the camera breakdown a “benedizione” – blessing – in disguise? With the SLR down, I wasn’t too absorbed in taking pictures every minute, and actually enjoyed the surroundings through the most amazing camera of the mind, the eyes.
And so the camera-less part of the honeymoon, which turned out to be the most enjoyable, began.
Touring the Ducati Factory & Museo with Genius Livio Lodi
Months before our September honeymoon, Ducati North America’s former PR Manager set up our visit to Ducati Motor Holdings.
When we arrived at the grounds, there was a bit of miscommunication with the security guards, mostly due to a language barrier, but soon Ducati’s former International Press Manager David James – now the Marketing Director of Ducati Asia – greeted us. It was great to speak with a man from the UK, his English obviously perfect.
We grabbed some lunch in one of the most amazing cafeterias, and then visited the on-site Espresso bar for some jolt – a regime that followed me home, replacing my afternoon doses of Earl Grey.
Sitting in Ducati’s offices where some geniuses such as Monster designer Miguel Galluzzi and my hero Massimo Tamburini – the father of Ducati’s desmo – once sat, we were introduced to one of the most intelligent men residing in Italy – Livio Lodi. He is the curator of Ducati Museo who knows just about everything Ducati.
But Lodi is not just the “living archive” of everything Ducati – he is also well versed on the history of the world with emphasis on Italy. Intense researcher? This is the man who tracked down images from the US flight that bombed the Ducati factory in World War II. Around the Ducati grounds Lodi is known as “the Bear.”
Lodi joined Ducati in 1987, working on the assembly line for a year before moving to accounting for 10 more. Due to his depth deep knowledge of history, and ability to speak French, Italian and American, he became assistant curator of the Museo in 1998. He then progressed to curator in 2001 – a position many at Ducati say was made for Lodi.
From the first handshake to the end of the tour at the Museo where a line of six MotoGP bikes resided – including Casey Stoner’s GP7 that took the 2007 MotoGP title – Lodi passionately provided explanation.
Since I witnessed a 916 in the early part of this century, my love for the Ducati brand began. Why? The bike is pure sex, along with an engine character that can only arrive from Italian engineering. And this love carries on to an almost religious-like study of everything Ducati. So I had loads of questions, and Lodi patiently answered all, correcting many things I had falsely read. And the wife, who is subjected to daily motorcycle talk, equally had as many questions.
The Ducati Factory’s layout rolls smoothly from operation to operation, from Monster-engine assembly to complete 899 “Supermids” awaiting final inspections. And where these new 899s waited final inspection was where my 1198 once sat completed, creating new emotions for my beloved super bike. This Ducatisti wanted to grab a picture, but they were forbidden here.
Then the muffled sound of a Desmo directed my attention to a small, window-encased room near the end of the assembly line. An employee was there, cranking up the 899, checking all the preliminaries before the bike ventures to final inspections. From there, it’s crated and shipped to the dealers, who dress it in fairings. Maybe, just maybe, the bike I viewed will make its way towards Pennsylvania. I will own an 899 likely for strictly street riding, it’s just a matter of when…
Lodi then took us to the Museo Ducati, which I have dreamed of visiting since my love of Ducati began. I was about to witness and learn things I had never knew existed.
When we were there in fall of 2013, 33 Ducatis representing the company’s history wrapped around an illuminated race track along the Museo’s walls, beginning with Ducati’s first two-wheeled creation, the post-WWII Cucciolo (Puppy in Italian) to Carlos Checa’s 2011 SBK-Championship winning 1198R. In the middle of the Museo is a circular red room shaped like a helmet; the room holds 38 theater seats and is used for conferences and lectures.
Surrounding this track of Ducati history are seven-themed rooms that represent vital history. Each room also features loads of memorabilia, such as leathers, Taglioni’s drawings, and historical videos highlighting each room’s theme.
- Room 1 – Cucciolo: an engine that easily strapped to bicycles for ease of travel in post WWII Europe. These were built from 1946-1958, and over a million were produced.
- Room 2 – Marianna & Siluro 100: The Taglioni-designed 100 and 125 Gran Sports, known as the Marianna, were the first machines that gave Ducati racing success. The Siluro 100 (Torpedo) – one of Lodi’s favorites – is also in Room 2; it took 46 World Records at the banked circuit of Monza.
- Room 3 – Singles & Twins: This room is highlighted by Mike Hailwood’s #24 250 Twin Desmo. This is a Mark 3D – Ducati’s first machine – and first production motorcycle ever – to feature the Taglioni-designed desmodromic valve system. Though many think it, Taglioni did not invent desmodromics; patents go back to the late 1800s, and Mercedes-Benz used desmodromics in its W196 Formula One (1954-1955) and 300SLR (1955) cars.
- Room 4 – Bevel-Drive Engines: This room highlights Ducati’s first multi-cylinder engine, including the bevel-drive 90-degree V-twin, also created by Taglioni. Due to it’s 90-degree layout in the chassis, the engine earns the name L-twin. Paul Smart’s #16 Imola 750 Desmo (1972) resides here.
- Room 5 – Pantah Family: In 1979, things were about to change at Ducati due to the release of the Pantah-era of engines, which used a toothed-belt camshaft drive instead of the bevel-gear drive. This design was also created by Taglioni, along with Gian Luigi Mengoli. A highlight of this room is the 500cc Grand Prix Champion Marco Lucchinelli’s BOT 750 F1, which took wins at Daytona and Laguna Seca and influenced the later 851 design. This would be the final machine that Taglioni would work on, and the first that would be released by Ducati’s then-owner, Cagiva.
- Room 6 – Ducati in World Superbike Championship: This room is dedicated to Ducati’s success in World Superbike, which earned the nickname “The Ducati Championship” due to its success in the 1990s (think Doug Polen and Carl Fogarty). From 1988 – 2013, Ducati would earn 17 manufacturer’s titles, and 14 rider’s titles.
- Room 7 – The Desmosedici and the Return to MotoGP: When MotoGP changed rules in 2002, bringing in the modern four-stroke era of MotoGp, Ducati entered in 2003 with its GP3, a Desmosedici (shortened Italian for desmodromic distribution with sixteen valves). In that first year (2003), Ducati finished second in the manufacturer’s standings behind Yamaha. To date, it would garner one title in 2007 with Casey Stoner at the controls of the GP7.
Following an elaborate tour with Lodi, we wanted more. But like other special moments in life when interests are at their peak, time throttled by. We said ciao to Lodi, and met once again with James, who set us up with some gear and a Mutlistrada 1200 S, which we had to bring back the following night due to our honeymoon itinerary that had us traveling to Florence Monday morning.
Verona via Mutlistrada on a Honeymoon…the Epitome of Romance?
After James hooked us up with the Mutlistrada, we rode immediately to the Ducati Factory Store just outside factory’s grounds. This was my first time riding in Italy, and the passion immediately set in. Plus, I hadn’t ridden in a few days, and it just felt good.
While at the museum, we purchased whatever we could fit in our slim-luggage setup, and watched a Multistrada group that was departing from the store for a day’s long ride.
Though we got jumbled up with a few of them, and would have loved to follow along, we had other plans – make it to Verona before dark. We read that there’s somewhat of a language barrier in Verona, and this was absolutely correct. We wanted to roam the Italy back country, but knew we were loosing time. This brought us on the A14 to a few SP routes all the way to Verona, just under 150 kilometers of riding.
People warned us of Italian drivers being crazy, but we felt more comfortable than we do on American highways. We got lost a few times, making many U-turns on the beautiful cobble streets of Verona. We attempted asking a few passers-by for directions, but nobody was understanding us. Finally, we found a hotel – not ours – and wandered in, grabbing a map. We then somehow spotted a sign with an arrow pointing towards the street Via Don Basso, where our hotel was located.
After parking the bike just after sunset amid a bunch of compact cars, we had a roof-top diner at the Hotel Due Torri, which by far was the best sleeping quarter of the trip. Not so much the food, but being atop a moonlit roof in Verona, peering at the town were Shakespeare fictionalized some of his most romantic characters – Romeo and Juliet. Our best food would be at a mom and pop shop just on the outskirts of Bologna.
In Verona, the scene was set – newlyweds, the best hotel of our trip, and a desmo awaiting outside. This is just another reason Ducati will never leave the soul…
After some sleep, we walked the streets, crossing the Ponte Pietra over the Fiume Adige. We walked to the top of Castel San Pietro, taking in all that is Verona. From here, the city looked like one huge layout of red/orange rooftops that are all connected, pierced by dozens of church steeples. And when noon hit from the very top of the Castel San Pietro, zillions of church bells began ringing, a sound I’ll always associate with Verona. And, of course, the beating of the Multi’s Testastretta L-twin.
We went back to the Due Torri Hotel, and grabbed our luggage. The front desk kept the luggage locked up for us, though there was no threat of stealing here, or anywhere else we stayed in Italy those weeks. Dummy me forgot to charge my GoPro, so I only grabbed about a minute of footage on Verona’s roads. After the loss of my Nikon and the dead GoPro camera, I gave up all hope. I did, however, thank Apple for creating the iPhone.
Rolling back towards Borgo Panigale at around 130 kph on a similar route that took us to Verona, we experienced our first gas stop in Italy. Everything seemed awkward, but we quickly adapted.
We could have kept riding, but, again, we had to remember our schedule – something I am not too good at (another reason Pam is perfect for me – she’s very organized). We stopped at Ducati Security, and they opened the gate, allowing us to idle into the same spot where we began our adventure the previous day.
At that moment while parking thoughts rushed through my head. The aura of this part of the Italian landscape destroyed any thoughts of getting off the Multistrada, or traveling back to the states. But we had plans for visiting Florence, Assisi, and Rome.
In Florence I was able to purchase a cheaper SLR for the remainder of the trip, and the mad photo-taking continued. But unfortunately, the best part of that trip – the Ducati Factory, Museo and Verona – was only observed through the lens of my iPhone. But as stated earlier, maybe this was a blessing. Instead of worrying about capturing the memories on images, I had more time to absorb them into my soul – that’s inline with everything Ducati.
But now there’s one huge problem – the fact that a Multistrada must grace the garage next to the 1198 and my town-loving Monster 620. I mean, the Multistrada was one huge part of the honeymoon, and helped further unite two newlyweds during one of the best times of their lives. The decision is easy – I must own one! But before this happens, we should pay off that honeymoon…
All images from an iPhone
Lieback’s Lounge provides insight into the life of Ultimate MotorCycling’s Online Editor. Expect much more…