Corsica-Sardinia, Day 8

Friday, May 4th

We’re woken up at 6:30 by the annoucement that entry procedure into the harbor has been prepared. We’re not supposed to disembark before 7:30 so their unnecessarily early warning has its intended effect of causing slight stress to shower and pack up.

On the parking deck, the bikes are fortunately still parked on their sidestands. We untie them and ride into the center of Livorno. After a bit of riding around the Fortezza Nuova, apparently the newest fort they have, and a short walk we find Café Kalura, which has a good breakfast and WiFi.

We decide to ride a bit of motorway to shorten the tedious bit from Livorno to where the Alpi Apuane begin, which will also give us a bit more margin to show up at the gates of Ducati in Bologna at 3:30pm. Never having been in this part of Italy, I assumed that the Alpi are an exaggerated name for a somewhat higher hill near Italy’s west coast that I naturally picked because of the squiggly lines on the map. When we ride up the winding roads towards the Passo Radici, I realize that I was wrong. The surroundings really turn alpine with green meadows that you don’t find on Mediterranean isles, an alpine smell and snowcapped mountains in the distance. A miniature version of the “real” Alps.

The road to the pass is long and enjoyable and takes us to above 1500m (5000ft). The way down through the hills to Bologna is also quite nice and equally devoid of traffic. But we’re both tired after eight continuous days of riding. We take a few extra breaks and still manage to arrive at Ducati an hour early.

We are allowed to park the bikes behind the factory’s fence (despite of what they told us when making the reservation) and report at the gate. Together with a dozen other visitors they let us wait in the sun until about 4:00pm. We’re the only ones here who came by motorcycle. We chat with a few Americans from Florida for a bit. One of them gave up motorcycling after he had an accident while not wearing a helmet, thereby jamming his glasses in his into eyebrows. Now he’s too scared to get on a bike again.

They finally let us in and divide us in two groups for the factory and the museum tour. We’re in the group that gets to visit the factory first. Today must be Panigale Day, as we recognize a rack with dozens of fresh Panigale rear rims and a general overwhelming presence of their latest superbike model on the factory’s conveyor belts. The Ducati Corse department remains closed, as expected, but we get treated to a wonderful scene in the final testing facility. Inside a small shack with a window towards the factory floor, they’re running a performance test on an 1199 Panigale and that is probably the coolest thing apart from riding it yourself. The sound is overwhelming and it’s interesting to see the chain strained during acceleration and bouncing around upon the quick gear changes. Some of the visitors in our group instantly forget the stay-within-the-yellow-lines rule and squeeze themselves between some parked bikes to press their noses against the window like children outside a candy store. Our guide has a difficult time to gather them again for the museum visit. Most of us have a look on our faces that seems to say: “Can we stay here for the rest of the day, pleeease?”

As a final treat I possibly get to see the white Monster 696 that Petra ordered. We were told that they only produce the bike after it’s been ordered and that it would take about three weeks to be delivered. The time frame matches and it’s the only white one, parked in the middle of about three dozen other new Monsters. There’s no way to check whether it’s really hers, so, for the joy of her and my anticipation, I just assume it is.

The museum visit is very interesting too, starting with early 20th-century radios, electric razors, and a post-war auxiliary bicycle engine. Then we’re shown the motorcycles made from the fifties to the late seventies and are reminded of the race successes of Mike Hailwood. The only modern street bikes are a Monster diesel at the museum shop entrance and a Multistrada that went around the world. At last, there is a line-up of MotoGP bikes that won at least one race. The last one is from Stoner and chances seem slim, that Hayden or Rossi can claim some space on the museum floor this year.

Then, the tour is over, and we’re told that they’re about to close the museum in a few minutes. Oh no! We had hoped to be able to look around for a bit and take some photos without anyones beer gut in the side of the frame. Markus and I split up to get pictures of the most appealing bikes before we need to leave. Top tip: don’t take the last Ducati museum tour of the day, or come back the next day for another visit. Factory tours are not available on the weekend, but the museum is open on Saturdays.

We’re staying in Hotel Borgo which is a stone’s throw from the factory and quite alright, with parking behind the hotel (unguarded; bring your lock). It is about 5km (3mi) from the center of town, which we ride in a familiar but pleasant Italian traffic chaos. The town is really nice, with impressive buildings that often feature large galleries instead of sidewalks. We walk around for a bit and find a good restaurant with a menu that is more like a word-for-word translation of the Italian original. After dinner, we ride back to our hotel room with parking lot view and have a deserved night’s rest.

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