I have been looking forward to this day, both on the trip and to write about it.
My friend Ben, who lives nearby back in Wales, went on his solo bike trip to Croatia this summer and we’ve been trying to get together for a beer as he was crossing Slovenia. Somehow the days and timings haven’t really worked out. However, the new plan was even better than the original one.
Ben mentioned he is going to do the Ducati factory tour in Bologna on the Monday and that seemed like the perfect opportunity for a catch up and since I hadn’t even considered going to Bologna this was a nice detour. It meant I would be travelling further south than intended but this didn’t matter as I never really had a plan as such.
The morning started with a bit of a drizzle and I was debating whether to put on my waterproofs or not while I was saying goodbye to Špela and Matej. They drove off in their cars and I sat down with the phone to work out the best route to Bologna.
It had to be motorways to make sure I got to the hotel in time to then get to the factory for the 3.30 pm tour. North Italy is terribly boring in terms of motorways, I wasn’t looking forward to that, many straight miles of flatness around, nothing much to see. As the miles (or should I say kilometres) sped by I was getting colder and the skies were closing in.
The journey was long and boring so I’ve made several stops at the services to keep awake.
I’ve booked in the same hotel Ben was staying at and luckily it was easy to find. After checking in I’ve spent a while drying my clothes with a hairdryer while looking out of the window at the ever heavier and relentless rain.
Ben and I met at the reception and he decided to get a taxi to Ducati. I contemplated doing the same then had words with myself. I’ve ridden in much worse rain and colder weather and the factory was less than 10 miles away. How could I not ride there if I’ve brought my girl all the way to Bologna and then fail getting her to the place where she was made.
So I put my big girl knickers on, my waterproofs and set the sat nav to manoeuvre and navigate around Bologna traffic.
The factory only permits people arriving on Ducatis to park on site, the others must leave their bikes on the street. I won’t lie. I felt quite smug being let in to the car park and I had difficulties getting my helmet off because I had such a big grin on my face.
Ben was already there and we got our tickets, had a mooch around the shop and eat a stale muffin from the vending machine because I was starving. Then our tour began.
Firstly they put stickers on the front and rear cameras of our phones as no photography inside the factory was allowed. Then we walked around the corner to the factory. I was impressed. A clean and very organised factory floor, all staff wearing the unmistakable red Ducati t-shirts and dark blue shorts. I was very impressed with the large number of women staff, too. They were all working away, looking cool and proud to be there.
It was interesting to learn about the build process, how long each section takes and that some lines were stationary and some moving continuously while the people worked on assembling that particular part.
Our tour guide was brilliant, spoke great English and talked about the history of the brand, the process of building the bikes and the people behind it all. I could have stayed twice as long just taking it all in!
After the tour we checked out the museum next door where photography was permitted so here are a few snaps from there.
I was happy with my decision to ride there and not take a taxi. I would have regretted it had I not brought Bella to her birthplace. Luckily the rain eased off a lot on the way back but I still had no negotiate Bologna rush hour traffic.
Back at the hotel Ben and I decided to eat there and were the first in the restaurant. In fact, they weren’t serving food yet so we’ve ordered a bottle of red wine and sat in the bar waiting for when the restaurant opened and our table. We’ve polished off two bottles of wine and had a really good catch up.
Ben toured on Triumph Tiger and had packed to fill the two panniers and the top box for a week’s adventure but he turned up to dinner in smart clothes and proper shoes while the Ducati lady that likes to travel light rocked up to dinner in a t-shirt, a pair of leggings and flip flops. Poor Ben!
The total journey came to 251.91 miles. 251.91 or boring motorway miles. But so bloody worth it!