Category Archives: Art/Fashion

Moto Guzzi – an Italian Story

Moto Guzzi Breva

Moto Guzzi Breva

As promised, I will now tell you the story of Moto Guzzi.  This is the motorcycle that I love and ride at every opportunity (fair weather and minimal luggage.)  It is a Breva 1100 of 2007 vintage, an absolutely gorgeous bike, maneuverable, fast and oozing quality and Italian flair.  It is made in a small town called Mandello, on the shore of the Lago di Como.  The manufacturing facilities were established there in the 1920′ and they have remained there ever since.  In fact, Moto Guzzi is the oldest European motorcycle manufacturer that has maintained uninterrupted production until now.  The company has had many financial ups and downs in its nearly 90 years of existence, and it is now owned by Piaggio, which also makes the Ducati motorcycle and an array of scooters, including the fabled Vespa.

Moto Guzzi was the brainchild of two aircraft pilots and their mechanic, Carlo Guzzi, Giovanni Ravelli, and Giorgio Parodi.   Guzzi was a gifted automotive engineer, Parodi came from a wealthy family able to finance the venture, and Ravelli was already a famous motorcycle race driver who could publicize the new marque through his victories.  This is in fact what happened: Moto Guzzi participated  in Grand Prix racing until 1957, by which time it had logged 3329 official races, 8 World Championships, 6 Constructors’ Championships, and 11 Isle of Man TT victories.

Little-known Italy – RAVENNA

Coat of Arms of the City of Ravenna

Coat of Arms of Ravenna

A few miles south of Venice, in Emilia Romagna, the enterprising traveler will find the city of Ravenna. This city is easily bypassed, it is not on most tourist itineraries nor does it generally host internationally advertised events such La Biennale di Venezia or La Fiera di Milano. It is nevertheless a city of capital importance both artistically and historically. And it offers a glimpse of that urbanely unhurried Italian lifestyle that most people seek when they visit the country.

The beginnings of Ravenna are uncertain, though scholarly opinion inclines towards an Etruscan origin. The city was never conquered by the Romans, rather, it was accepted into the Republic as a federated town. Ravenna was an important outpost during the period of ascendancy of the Western Empire, becoming its capital in its twilight, just before the Empire’s fall to the German foederati chieftain, Odoacer. It was then the capital of the first Kingdom of Italy, and continued in this role after Theodoric slew Odoacer and took over his kingdom. Retaken eventually by the Byzantines, Ravenna became the seat of Byzantine power in Italy (the Exarchate of Ravenna), until the Byzantines’ final expulsion by the Longobards. Ravenna’s distinguished history continued under the popes, until its unification with the newly-minted Kingdom of Italy in 1861.

Exclusivity Italian Style

Duomo di Milano

Duomo di Milano

So, what comes to your mind when you hear Gucci and Ferragamo? Furla and Armani? Yes, Italian fashion, elegance, exclusivity…and expensive, of course. Well, I wish to share with you a little story about what Italian exclusivity REALLY is. Every word of it is true.

I was in Milano several years ago and happened to mention to the Milanese friends with whom I was staying that I was looking for a particular gift for a friend back in the States. I wanted something elegantly Italian, for the home, perhaps a silver serving platter, or similar. Not to worry, said my Milanese friends, we know exactly where to take you, and we know you will find exactly what you want. We’ll go tomorrow, first thing.

The next day we took a taxi to a certain square and walked to a certain address. We were in an upscale residential area, with no indication whatsoever of any commercial activity within sight. But my friends were sure: unhesitatingly they walked me to the portone of a stately palazzo, and rang the bell for a particular apartment. There was no clue to identify the establishment we were interested in.

A matter-of-fact voice poured out of the citofono, wanting us to identify ourselves and state our business there. My friend spoke, giving his name and adding he was bringing a friend (me!), who wished to see the display. He also apologized for disturbing their tranquility, and expressed a hope that we were not inconveniencing them TOO much, and that we could come back some other time if that was more convenient. At this we heard the click of the portone opening and we went in directly.