When I think of Italy I picture glorious landscapes festooned with vineyards, olive groves and pizzerias. My mind paints a picture of heavenly rays beaming down on quaint bistros serving pasta and salad with passionate people relishing fine wine on a striking Tuesday afternoon. I have not yet been fortunate enough to visit but I get the impression that simply stepping foot in Italy would make me a fashion guru, rather than the woefully dressed individual that I presently am – with a somewhat perverse addiction to check shirts (I should have been a lumberjack, although I’m not a fan of wearing high heels*).
The Italians exude style. World renowned labels like Gucci, Armani and Prada all hail from Italy and whilst it’s a brutally abrupt segue, vehicle manufacturers like Alfa Romeo, Fiat and Maserati all call Italy home. These companies build arguably some of the most chic vehicles on the market today and whilst some may say they have more style than substance (Alfa having a particularly bad reputation for reliability) there is no disputing their splendour.
The same is true of motorbikes. Amongst the 2 wheel fraternity, Ducati is legendary for designing some of the most beautifully crafted instruments ever conceived. Their latest masterpiece is no exception; the crowning jewel that is the Ducati 1199 Panigale. With more technology than your average space station and a somewhat Da Vinci Code design, the result is a weight reduction of 10kg (down to 164kg) and a power increase of 25hp (up to 195hp) – no wonder it’s one of the most expensive production bikes in the world (UK price is £23,405 for the top spec “S Tricolore” model).
The question now is what will the future hold for Ducati since its purchase by Audi for £708m? I’m not one to perpetuate stereotypes but when it comes to German engineering – style and emotion are not really the words that spring to mind. Certainly precision, meticulousness and efficiency are synonymous with brands like Mercedes, Audi and Porsche – but what about soul, flare and borderline absurdity? Granted the German influence has worked well for the likes of Lamborghini (who were struggling until they were purchased by Audi in 1998), but their more recent offerings like the Aventador are conspicuously precise and seem to lack the more handbag orientated designs of the Countach or Diablo of days gone by.
Ultimately, time will tell. My hope is that the research and development capabilities of Audi coupled with their strong financials will result in motorcycle engineering and technologies being advanced to bring a more immersive, exhilarating and enthralling riding experience.
*Monty Python reference rather than an inappropriate medium to discuss my personal lifestyle choices.