Ducati Factory Italy

Text: Robert Smith • Photography: Robert Smith

I was struck dumb with amazement, and when Lord Carnarvon, unable to stand the suspense any longer, inquired anxiously "Can you see anything?" it was all I could do to get out the words "Yes, wonderful things." *

I remember feeling the kind of excitement Howard Carter experienced on seeing the contents of Tutankhamen's tomb when I first visited the Ducati Museum at the company's factory in Borgo Panigale, Bologna.

That first museum tour had been taken as a guest of Ducati at the press introduction for the GT1000 Sport Classic. We'd been expected, of course, and we were shown every courtesy. My second visit was less exalted. I arrived with three companions and had no reservation.

"Can we see the museum, per favore?" I asked the security guard.

"'Ave-a you book-ed a tour?" We hadn't. "No possi-bull."
It turns out that every weekday as many as 200 visitors are guided around the Borgo Panigale factory in parties of 20 and allowed to spend 15 minutes drooling in the museum. Tours for the next few days were fully booked but, fortunately, my factory contact, International Press manager Massimo Davoli was able to squeeze us into a tour later that afternoon. So, make sure you book ahead if you're planning a visit.

The Museum…

The brainchild of former Ducati president Federico Minoli, the Ducati museum project got underway shortly after Ducati's takeover by Texas Pacific Group in 1996. The new owners were keen to capitalize on Ducati's racing heritage as a way of creating a strong identity for the company's products. Minoli hired Marco Montemaggi, who had helped in the creation of Ferrari's museum, to be the first curator.

No mere assemblage of dusty bikes parked in an industrial warehouse, the Ducati Museum is more art exhibition than motorcycling mausoleum, and perhaps a little credit is due New York's Guggenheim Museum for its layout. The bikes are arranged in more-or-less chronological order around a curved theater, its walls paneled with giant heritage posters, and panels in the floor illuminate each machine in a subdued light.

The representative milestones in Ducati's history on display are: the Cucciolo moped; Fabio Taglioni's 100cc "Marianna" race bike and 125cc Gran Sport; Bruno Spaggiari's 500cc Desmo twin; and a long line of Superbike championship bikes ridden to countless victories by Marco "Lucky" Lucchinelli, Doug Polen, Carl Fogarty and Troy Bayliss. Nearby, the Moto GP machines ridden so successfully by Loris Capirossi and Casey Stoner are arranged. If Italian racing red is your favorite color, there's plenty here!

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For the complete article of the riding impression(s) and technical specifications, please purchase the May/June 2009 back issue.