The other day I went on the web to find out why italians are so passionate about pretty much..well.. everything. I asked every question under the sun. “why are Italians so passionate?” “What makes an Italian passionate?” “where does Italy get it’s passion?” I wanted a scientific breakdown that explained the historical and metaphysical reasons for this phenomena. In fact, where we are all made of 3?4 water, the Italians are 75% pure passion. Passion flows through everything they do, from throwing a dish together, constructing an argument to building a motorcycle.
MV Agusta 860
And the difference between Italians and the rest of their European brethren is starkly apparent when you trawl through media for BMW motorcycles. Here, you’ll be efficiently bombarded with fact after German fact, number after number, dry weight, rake angle, torque curves… The spiel from a Japanese manufacturer will consist meanwhile of mind- bending new technology and nano- scale efficiency improvements, although admittedly with much talk of spirit. Honda is always particularly keen to remind we hacks of the spirit within their machines?–?albeit in a Zen kind of way. In the UK it’s all engineering and tradition.
But then you go to Italy, where there are small, almost cottage industry, manufacturers tucked away in the rolling countryside releasing their latest machines?–?machines designed with passion, powered by desire.
Moto Guzzi’s beautiful Falcone of 1950
Outside the gates of the Moto Guzzi factory, in the tiny little picture postcard village of Mandello del Lario, the company’s slogan reads: The Winds of Passion (in Italian). Hah! Hah! Snigger, snigger. But that was before you go inside and are stunned silent with awe as when led around the museum filled with historic Guzzi’s. The only winds of passion came from the mouths of each employee we spoke to about their life dedicated to the town’s iconic marque. This was the factory their father dutifully toiled for, and his father before him. For each of them, it genuinely appeared to be an honour to work there.
The Germans and Japanese, also of course, have museums of motorcycle development. But in each case it feels just that?–?a pristine display of their ever forward marching progression. Inside the Italian factories on the other hand, it feels more like the scribbled pages of Da Vinci’s notebook, a scrapbook of ideas and family memories, faded pages and curled corners to boot. The history envelops you and, despite their current bikes’ modern technology, you still feel the weight of the history of the marque riding pillion with you. You get a feel for this inexplicable quality that is this ‘passion’, the joy. You experience it as you ride a Guzzi, Ducati, Aprilia, MV Agusta or even a Vespa.
New Vespa 946
Italian’s don’t make food, cars or motorcycles; they make love.
And it’s no coincidence the greatest motorcycle racer the world has seen is Italian. No one celebrates a win, engages the public or showboats like Vale. He doesn’t like easy wins and he respects, not hates, anyone who can beat him. He’d do it if he didn’t get paid. Because of the passion.
If only the classic Italian automobilia were as reliable and consistent as Rossi. Which is a point that seems to prove the indubitable power of passion?–?if vintage, and even not- so- vintage Alfas or Ducatis, are renowned for breaking down, or suffering problems, which they are, then what is the attraction if a Jap machine will run and run and run?
The difference is, the ‘gli appassionati’ (enthusiasts) of the rich and frustrating world of Italian machinery know full well that to keep a beautiful motorcycle, or car, in good order, they must dedicate time, affection and constant maintenance to her. There are, of course, those Aprilia, Vespa and Motoguzzi that will also run and run and run. I have a 2003 Aprilia Tuono which seems to run on nothing but love and Vespas which are perennial workhorses despite being beautiful as well. Ducati and indeed MV Augusta and Bimoto, just like the young Sophie Loren?–?are beautiful but highly- strung. Most importantly, like her they require regular, attentive, passionate, extensive, joyous and expert servicing. Give her these things and she will make you feel like God.
So after an exhaustive search into the academia I found nothing. Just wine, travel, food, women, cars and motorcycles. Then I thought… well that sounds like a perfect life really..doesn’t it? Perhaps that answers it..they have them all, so why wouldn’t they be passionate!