After some high-level negotiations between the girls in our party, our wives, the choice of going to Florence and Bologna nearly became as big the Paris Peace Accords in the 70’s.
We were going to Florence to look at more buildings, statues and possibly churches. I like looking at those types of things but you can get overloaded in a country such as Italy with all its history. There was possibly some nice shopping in Florence as well, but we had done plenty of that already. So what’s left to do in Italy on your last day, there must be something to do?
Well there is, it’s called visit the Ducati Motorcycle factory at Bologna.
The types of negotiations required to arrange this type of visit with the girls must be diplomatic, need the highest calibre of skill and the delicacy of appealing to the opportunities of something different that our wives would be interested in doing, another place to shop.
On the negotiation front, well, this counted Keith out as his negotiation skills can be for want of a better phrase, hard-line. Consensus models of negotiation sometimes don’t exist in his vocabulary, however there was a better way.
So what we did is called a round table and laid the options on table such as The Ducati Factory option, oops I meant a day in Bologna option, and it became a reality.
It didn’t seem to far to get from Venice to Bologna by train, the difficulty being the connection of boats in Venice to the train station. I’ve been informed that the trains run on time in Italy due to the efforts of Mussolini back in the early 30s so all going well we would be in Bologna for some sight seeing, shopping and a tour of the Ducati Factory.
We started out early in the morning, the ferry service in Venice runs on time, nice. Then we got on our train for a wonderful ride through the Italian countryside enjoying the scenery. I am so surprised of how much agricultural farming takes place in this country. It may explain their love for quality food.
It took us around an hour and fifty minutes to get to Bologna. Once there we purchased a map, got our bearings and headed for the centre of the city.
Bologna (Italian pronunciation: [boˈloɲɲa] is the largest city (and the capital) of Emilia-Romagna Region in Northern Italy. It is the seventh most populated in Italy, heart of a metropolitan area of about one million.
The walk from the station to the centre of the city in interesting, we found a statue dedicated to Garibaldi. Garibaldi was a central figure in the Italian Risorgimento, since he personally commanded and fought in many military campaigns that led eventually to the formation of a unified Italy in the 1800s.
We eventually made our way to main square we found the Statue to Neptune and the restoration work being undertaken on San Petronio Basilica.
After a spot of lunch in this great little cafe, called “Caffee Mercato”, the girls went shopping and Keith and I caught a taxi to the Ducati factory.
We arrived early and went and spent time at the Ducati Factory shop across the roundabout till our tour began.
When we arrived at the gate for the tour, we were met by some other Aussies from Tasmania who arrived for the factory tour without making a booking. We thought they might not get as they did not have a prior booking which you needed, however, it was their lucky day.
The first part of the tour was through the Ducati Museum, where we taken through history of the Ducati. The company first produced radios and capacitors before the WW2 and seemed to continue that on till the Americans bombed the factory during the war. The bombed out plant remains there with bomb damage, however the outside wall has become a feature wall of history to people passing by along the side street outside of the factory.
Post war, personal transport was an issue, so Ducati found an itch that needed to be scratched by creating a motorised bicycle called in English, “the puppy”. For those who know the Honda story, Mr Honda did the same thing in Japan after the war.
From there we went through their design, production and racing history of their motorcycles. The museum is built on a 360 degree model of walking through a circle with small rooms off the circle/ timeline to describe an important event in their history, kudos to Ducati for such a wonderful display and presentation.
From there it was time to have a seal put on our cameras and walk through the production line. Here we saw the production of the Panigale, Multistrada and Monster models, which probably doesn’t mean much to anyone outside of Motorcycling.
I originally had spent my apprenticeship in a production environment similar to the Ducati plant, however since my time (back in the 70s) the equipment has changed to a lot to Computer Numerically Controlled (CNC) Machinery that was just coming out back in the day.
Ducati rely on the use CNC equipment in the machining of their engines, however, prefer to use people to assemble the engines and motorcycles. Each assembler is responsible for an engine and will follow it to completion, likewise each assembly team will do the same with a motorcycle. Assembly parts are supplied on a “Just in Time” basis.
It was interesting to note that 11% of their own production stays in Italy the rest is for foreign export.
After our tour it was back to Bologna to meet the girls and head back to Venice.
Do the trains run on time in Italy?
Well, they may do, but today we had a little issue. Our train seemed be getting delayed,10 minutes, 20 minutes, 30 minutes now 40 minutes. To make matters more interesting, the platform number disappeared on the board.
We kept our eye on the staff who were about to board the train to see what was happening along with talking to a number of people on the platform. Everything seemed to OK till we saw the staff disappear which was our cue to check the board and realise the arrival platform had changed for the train.
From Platform 4 to Platform 7 we made the swap. A couple of minutes later a Very Fast Train arrived.
We headed for the first class cabin, settled in where I have been writing this post for the day.
We should be arriving in Venice in the next 20 minutes, we’ve been sitting on speeds up to 180kmh.
By the way, we came across this street market selling anything from Valve radios, World War 2 Nazi Party medals and pictures of Mussolini. No prizes for guessing where the picture came from, this was in honour of the trains running nearly on time in Italy.