Adventure Report: Museo Ducati, Bologna, Italy, March, 2013
The most important thing to know about taking the Ducati factory tour is that there is no free Ducati at the end of it. Instead, you’ll receive a 5 Euro coupon towards purchases of 25 Euro or more in the company store, the location of which they do not tell you. (Note: the factory store is NOT the gift shop in the museum.) It’s a whole ‘nother building, about a quarter of a mile away from the museum and factory compound. We missed it because we had no idea it existed, but based solely on the size of the building as we passed it in the taxi on the way back to the train station, I would recommend you stop and spend some money there.
The tour of the museum itself is guided, fast, and you must stay with your guide, who doesn’t care that you want to read the placards or information on the walls explaining the history of Ducati and the bikes. My solution was to take as many pictures of the bikes (and the placards) to take a slower tour via iPhoto later.
As any good museum would, Museo Ducati covers its humble beginnings, from two guys manufacturing razors and radios, to fitting a motor on a bicycle, to starting a factory to mass produce the idea, to the factory being bombed to the ground in WWII, its resurrection and entree into racing. In the 1990s, history hurtles forward into the present-day mechanics. Judging from the real estate in the museum, Ducati is most proud of their work from the 1980′s forward, and the penultimate time period is the oughts. Every single Ducati that has won a race is lined up at the end of the tour.
I am not a mechanic. That fact, plus the fact that I am seduced by exquisite machinery equals why I bought a Ducati. However, even to the mechanical idiot, a few things stuck out on the tour.
|The invention of the desmodromic engine.|
|Ducati’s first attempt at a more powerful demodromic engine – a four-cylinder desmo that proved too heavy for Ducati frames. They vertically sliced the engine in half, to the two cylinder desmodromic engine that made Ducati famous.|
|The first 916 is a machine of utter beauty, and looks like a massive leap in the mechanics in Ducati history. After this point, Ducati started winning all sorts of awards.|
Right now, the most popular bike in production is the Panigale 1199. By the looks of the factory floor, the Diavel is close behind. We watched the birth of a Panigale 1199 in our brief moments on the floor.
The racing division is behind a blue door inside the factory. It has a porthole, presumably to prevent someone from opening the door into a forklift in the yellow-lined lane. It is definitely not made for peeking through for fun. We were each treated to a peek into the super-secret world of the racing division, which employes over a hundred of the factory’s 1000 workers. I saw prototype engines on pillars and a bunch of guys standing around talking. Everyone seemed so serious. As each of our heads popped up into the porthole, I imagined that to them, we looked like squirrels who hadn’t eaten all winter and the nuts and berries were on their side of the door. Here, we squirrels were reminded that we could not take pictures, were re-instructed to leave our cell phones in our pockets, and, by the way, not even regular employees of Ducati are allowed behind the blue door. Only about a hundred are, and they are all inside, doing really important work.
|My favorite era: ’70s Paul Smart Ducati. The yellow stripe down the center of the tank is a window which allowed mechanics to see how much fuel needed to be added at pit stops.|
My tips for visiting:
- The tour (as of March, 2013) costs 10 Euro and gains you access to both the museum and the factory.
- Book the tour by calling to reach a live person. Don’t use the Ducati website. My impression was that there is usually someone who speaks English in the Ducati office, but our situation improved dramatically when my friend, who speaks Italian, called.
- Book the tour as early as you can so you can arrange your travel to Bologna. The high speed train from Rome the day of costs around 80 Euro ($110). We managed 56 ($75) Euro tickets. If you’re driving, even better, although you’d be crazy to drive in Italy. It’s like driving in Los Angeles but everyone’s wired on coffee. No, wait. It’s exactly like that.
- Overall: This is one of those “nice to check the box” things to do in life. As a Ducati owner, I’ve now seen where the babies are born, but the tour wasn’t mind blowing by any definition. However, if you are in the area, it’s definitely worth the trip.