Today has been the final full day on this journey – and an impromptu plan has made it very wonderful.
To spend three full days in Milan proved to be slightly, though not terribly, a waste. I’ve had the chance to observe suburban life in what is the fashion, technical, and engineering capital of Italy (if not the world): I have confirmed my understanding that I no longer have the slightest interest in seeing famous sites. Last night I went to a wonderful piece of theatre that really pleased me immensely: and I did go to a specialist motorcycle shop here in Milan.
Today however I fulfilled something that perhaps I should have done years ago but never got round to it. Certainly since my 1997 trip I have wanted to go and buy parts for my various Italian motorcycles, partly due to my tight-arsed hatred of exorbitant postal rates. But for 22 years it never happened, quite to my frustration.
Today I went to Mandello del Lario, a town on Lake Como and the home of Moto Guzzi motorcycles since 1922. I knew there were vintage spare parts dealers in the town and had researched the addresses in advance. I also knew that Moto Guzzi had a museum at their factory. What I hadn’t realised is what a stunning place Mandello is – the lake, the beginning of The Alps and, very noticeably, all the dogs are nice and friendly. Mandello gives the impression that nothing bad could ever happen there; it felt a true earthly paradise – calm, friendly, embracing.
And then there is Carlo Guzzi the man, the main founder of the company that still flourishes and bears his name today. I understand that he was a very special human being, not because of his motorbikes but because of his humanity and style. Probably the favourite of my five Italian motorbikes is a model called Lodola, Italian for Lark (or maybe Skylark). This was the very last Guzzi model designed by Carlo himself, I like to think of it as the child of his last swan-song. No other Guzzi is quite like it, for it is the sweetest, kindest bike I have ever known. It has a sense of humour and doesn’t take itself seriously at all. It has transcended all the macho motorcycle nonsense.
And today I went to a beautiful shop run by Signora Cosca, a beautiful woman of about 70, and bought THE MOST BEAUTIFUL exhaust pipe and muffler for my most beautiful motorbike. I’m not joking – when I asked to check it before they packaged it for transport, I held this piece of chrome-plated tubing between my two hands and I almost wept with the beauty of it. The (surprising) weight of it, the sculpture of the design, the utter perfection of Italian manufacture.
And then I went to the Guzzi Museum. On a tip-off from Signora Cosca I went an hour earlier than the official 3pm opening because there was a private tour booked and she was sure I wouldn’t be noticed. Whilst waiting I hooked up wih a couple of French guys (really hilarious) and tipped them off too. We joined a group of maybe 10 German/Swiss/Austrian Guzzisti, said Guten tag a couple of times, and had an absolutely free run through the museum. As we finished at 3pm, we ran into hoi polloi tourists, hundreds of them jamming the entry. So lucky.