IAN KERR MBE takes a museum road trip on some classic Italian machinery
If you are heading for Bologna, the Ducati museum will probably be one of your destinations of choice.
And, as you wind your way through the superb motorcycling roads of Italy, it is possible you may also want to visit a number of other two-wheeled museums and private collections that lie but a gentle cruise along the coast at Pesaro, once a bike manufacturing stalwart of Italy.
Now, while museums are good, enjoyable days out, they are passive. You walk around, becoming imbued with a healthy dose of enthusiasm and walk out the doors on a high. Only to ride away on a machine that is, to put it bluntly, a little mundane.
Well help is now at hand from a Milan-based company called Mototouring, that was founded by multi-lingual, motorcycling enthusiast Eligio Arturi some 25 years ago.
During this time Mototouring has successfully run motorcycle tours in Europe, Africa, Central and South America, carving out an enviable reputation for themselves.
Whilst the business has been focused on modern motorcycles, providing rental machines and riding gear, as well a host of related ancillary services, Eligio always had a passion for classic machines.
And this year, he has teamed up with Moto Club Pesaro, who run the official Benelli Museum, housing 150 fully restored motorcycles.
The Moto Club was formed by enthusiasts whose main interest was the preservation of Benelli motorcycles and some of the other now extinct brands from Pesaro and the surrounding region.
The group managed to buy one of the old buildings from the original Benelli factory and set about restoring it to form a museum and clubhouse
On one side is a well-appointed venue for enthusiasts, complete with a large flat screen TV to watch Moto GP (Valentino Rossi is a club member!) and surrounded by engines and trophies in glass cabinets. While in the centre is the large museum area, where the members have created a superb display showing the history of Benelli.
Another larger area houses motorcycles awaiting restoration and is also available for use by club members and those on tour!
However, unlike more conventional museums the Moto Club is not only interested in providing a static museum, but even keener on taking it outside to a wider audience and participating in numerous ‘classic’ events.
And as part of this ideal they see the continued use of the machines as paramount to helping convert other enthusiasts, in order to preserve not only their chosen marque, but classic bikes in general.
The desire to use the machines, and a chance meeting with Eligio, led to the formation of an idea to run a tour using member’s bikes and those from the museum, taking in some of the best motorcycling roads in the area.
As well as riding, the tour was designed to trace some of Italy’s motorcycle history and turn it into a classic festival of riding and discovery.
To find out if such an enterprise could work, I jumped on a plane to join a group of very knowledgeable American collectors and enthusiasts for the inaugural Benelli Vintage Tour.
Having started in Bologna, with a visit to the Ducati Museum and tour round the factory, my group then hopped on a train down the coast to Pesaro where we unpacked out belongings at a high quality hotel on the sea front, which was to be our base for the week.
The following day we paraded at the Moto Club museum/clubhouse to be allocated our machines for the week – although it was stressed that we could swap around in order to get the full flavour and diversity of the brand.
Most of the loan bikes were from the seventies, as they are more capable of dealing with modern traffic as well as covering a few miles without problem.
So the ‘fleet’ included sixes and fours with electric starters, as well as some of the two-strokes from the De Tomaso era.
Route-finding was ably handled by club members acting as out-riders. And they even stopped traffic to let us through. On occasions the local traffic police also assisted in getting us out of town – something that is only likely to be experienced in Italy!
Having become accustomed to riding our classic machines on local Italian highways, we travelled north towards Rimini and an appointment for a guided tour around the Bimota factory.
Lunch was then taken at the Republic of San Mario before another breath-taking ride through the hills back to the hotel.
Tuesday was set aside for a ride inland to Tavuilla for a peek (from the hillside) of Rossi’s practice track, followed by a spot of lunch at his restaurant.
That afternoon we headed to Coriano for a look around the Marco Simoncelli museum and ended the day with a tour round the stunning Morbidelli Museum in Pesaro.
This turned out to be one of the longer days riding up into the hills. Unfortunately it also coincided with a turn in the weather.
This left most of the mountains cloaked in clouds with little in the way of views and we got somewhat wet on our ride back!
Due to the heavy rain which had now set in, we had little option but to utilise a coach service, which took us first to see a natural phenomenon in the shape of the Frasassi underground grotto system.
This is Europe’s largest group of caves, and it has to be said, a magnificent example of the wonders of nature.
A quick bite to eat and we headed back to Pesaro for a visit to the TM factory where competition bikes are designed, engineered and hand built.
This was followed by a trip to see former 50cc World Champion Eugenio Lazzarini and his collection of racing machines.
Although slightly damp, the weather did not stop us riding out to view a private collection of over 200 machines, including Kel Caruther’s Benelli, which was started up for our benefit.
The day concluded with a farewell meal in the evening at the clubhouse, before catching a plane home the following day.
All-in-all, the tour had certainly delivered a good mix of modern and classic motorcycling, with a taste of Italian culture thrown in for good measure.
Mototouring has now announced a series of classic bike events for 2015, which includes a repetition of the inaugural event, as well as a different museum tour that uses modern bikes to cover a larger area.
So the Piaggio museum near Pisa and the Moto Guzzi museum at Como can be seen, as well as some of those included in the classic tour.
If you like Italy, Italian bikes and good riding, in good company with like-minded individual’s, book now to avoid disappointment!