In my home country, the passion for engines and motorcycles is part of the culture. Some say it’s a religion, a way of life, something to live and die for. Tradition, engineering, and design are often combined in Italy to create machines that conquered not only the local market but that are sold and recognized all over the world.
“The Boot” has been home to some of the most popular motorcycles brands on the planet. Ducati, Aprilia, MV Agusta, Moto Guzzi, Piaggio, Benelli, Gilera, Malaguti, Bimota, Aermacchi, Cagiva, Moto Morini and Laverda are just some of the brands that were born in Italy and exported all over the world.
I was born a few kilometers from the little lake town of Mandello del Lario, home of Moto Guzzi, so I pretty much couldn’t escape my fate of falling for two wheels.
Moto Guzzi is one of Italy’s great historic brands. It has been making motorcycles since right after the first World War. Its legendary transverse V-Twin engine makes the brand hard to mistake. The beautiful Lake Como is the perfect frame for such classic motorcycles, and in the near vicinity another giant of the industry, MV Agusta, built its home. (Editors note: The author suggested I visit Lake Como region when I was last in Italy and it is indeed absolutely beautiful.)
Agusta produced aero engines and helicopters before it began to build motorcycles under the name MV Agusta. It wasn’t long before the marque started to gain popularity in the professional racing circuit, making fast and groundbreaking machines. It was aided by one of the most legendary riders of all times, Giacomo Agostini (who still holds the record of most world championships won in the top class).
In the east of the country, close to Venice, another strong manufacturer built its foundation. This is Aprilia.
Beginning as a bicycle producer, Aprilia started making motorcycles with great maneuverability and outsourced engines, at fairly low cost. Aprilia also became one of the most popular manufacturers in the country thanks to its history on the racing circuit. The brand kind of holds a special place in my heart since my very first bike was one of theirs, a Pegaso 50.
From the Italian heartland comes one of the most popular motorcycle brands in the world: Ducati.
In this region, motorcycle riding and building are revered as art, and passion associated with it is considered sacred. Most of our famous professional riders also come from this region. For instance, this is where Valentino Rossi, one of the most dominant professional motorcyclists of the past 20 years, grew up and started racing.
Also from this part of the country comes another motorcycle company is known worldwide: Piaggio.
The brand started in the early years after WWII to produce small commercial motorcycles, using its military experience in building aircraft and motorboats. Success came with a bulletproof, reliable and affordable machine named after its shape: Vespa, the Italian word for ‘wasp’. The rest is history.
As you can imagine, growing up with such a big motorcycle industry all around, Italians don’t have much of a choice other than loving these machines and naturally developing a passion for two wheels.
La dolce vita, the stereotypical way to “live the sweet life” in Italy, can be pictured as being lived atop of two wheels… swirling through those beautiful Tuscan hills, during a beautiful sunny summer day.
(Image: a postcard)