Turning onto A26, I left the coast behind me and began the steady ascent inland. More tunnels, and in the distance, craggy mountain peaks covered with clouds. I asked myself if I would hit rain. I had been climbing about 30 minutes northwards when I realized that my visor seemed blurry. I lightly touched it with my left hand; my finger left a trace of clear vision. It was definitely misting, but not too serious…yet. Ten minutes later however, water was streaming in tracks down my visor, I was getting cold, and I regretted not having stopped earlier to put on my rain suit. Suddenly, I saw a welcome sight on the right: ‘service 2500 meters’. I breathed a sigh of relief. Not far at all!
The rest stop was a Godsend. I took the last covered spot so I could keep my seat nice and dry, unfastened my luggage, and headed into the very crowded Autogrille. I threaded my way through the crowd, trying not to knock people with my helmet or my bag…with occasional success. I made my way towards the coffee counter where I was told (in excellent English) that I needed to pay first, and that the cashier was on the other side of the building. Thus I again made my way through the crowd to pay for the beverage (1 euro) and then again back to where it was served, proudly waving my receipt. The cappuccino warmed me right up. It was nearly 1:00 by now, yet, as is usually the case, I wasn’t hungry at all. I never am when I ride- until the moment I stop. Then I am ravenous! Once I had completely thawed out, I headed back outside to don my rain suit and switch my gloves to the model my brother gifted me with several years back; equipped with a handy squeegee for the visor. It was still misting as I struggled into the suit, and I received curious glances from the French couple eating in their car next to my Griso. Once suited up, I headed back on the road, and after a mere ten minutes, the rain ended. I was too impatient to arrive to take it off again however, so I waited until I needed to gas up again just south of Milan, and called the manager of the apartment to tell her I’d be there in an hour.
The last hiccup on the trip was when I finally resorted to my GPS instead of my written directions to go from Milan to the hotel. Up until then, I had programmed directions to the museum at Moto Guzzi, which was 2 kilometers north of my studio. If your final destination is the museum, you bypass Milan on it’s western side. However, I had now programmed the destination as the town of Abbadia Lariana, which Apple’s “Maps” application saw as only possible by bypassing Milan on the eastern edge. I wandered a good 15 minutes in some unsavory parts of Milan before I realized my error. Once I reprogrammed Mandello as the end point, I got out of Milan and back on the road.
The final 45 minutes of the journey were pure pleasure. After nearly 5 hours of being buffeted by wind at 80 mph on the autostrada (without a wind screen), turning onto Strada Statale 36 towards Lecco was a breath of fresh air. A two-lane separated highway, the surface is mostly smooth blacktop in excellent condition, with some nice wide sweepers. As I drew closer to my destination, I could feel my excitement mounting. I was almost to “il Nido” (the nest) as Italian Guzzisti call it- bearing reference to Moto Guzzi’s symbol, the always-facing-forwards Eagle. This was a journey that I had longed to take for 5 long years– and I was nearly there! As I took the exit to Abbadia Lariana, I could hardly contain myself. And… I began to see Guzzis. Southbound motorcyclists all happily waving at me. I wasn’t even to Mandello yet, and I had already seen more Moto Guzzis in 3 kilometers than I had seen in my life. Because of my Milan detour, I was late and the manager was waiting for me with the keys to my room, I zipped into the driveway, dumped my tail bag in my room, and headed north the final few kilometers to Mandello.
I turned into the large parking lot in front of the factory with it’s iconic red door: Motorcycles. Motorcycles everywhere! And smiling people. I felt like a 6-year-old on her first trip to Disneyland. And everyone else looked like they felt exactly the same way. I parked the Griso, took off my helmet, and was pleasantly surprised when the food truck owner a few meters away came out and handed me a glass of wine (one of the perks of being a woman on a motorcycle?). It was Friday night, and there were quite a few people there, but many more were yet to arrive. I resolved to return to the room, have a nice dinner, and be in front of the factory bright and early in the morning.
Saturday morning on my return to the same parking lot, I was shocked to see it full to overflowing. There were literally thousands of Guzzis, parked three bikes deep, or on the lawn, or in the alleys. I squeezed my Griso between a few others, blocking the entrance to a (thankfully closed) small business. And there I ran into the only person I knew in Mandello: Luigi. While we had until then only communicated on Facebook, we hit it off in person right away. He had made the journey with his beautiful SP1000. I ended up having lunch with some of his friends, Marco on his beautiful Griso “Diablo Negro”, and Erich, who had ridden his 750-S3 from Germany for the second time (see links below for that very interesting story).
Frankly, it’s difficult to include all the wonderful things you can do on the Motoraduno weekend. While most of us think of it as “Open House” at Moto Guzzi, it’s much more. The external events are managed by an independent organization, The Comitato Motoraduno Internazionale Mandello del Lario. You can find them here: http://www.motoradunomandello.com/ The committee hosts the weekend, offering free camping in the park on the lake, rock bands, and other events that change yearly. Moto Guzzi opens the doors of the factory and the museum all weekend. It is also the only time you can get a look at their famous wind tunnel, initially used for testing their race bikes before being used to design production models as well. Plus….there are usually some pretty nice discounts in the Guzzi store that weekend!
That first trip I made a video of the experience to commemorate it- for me. If you have never been, here is a glimpse. Oh, and it’s before I learned to pronounce “Guzzi” correctly- I hope you won’t judge me too harshly.
Links to Erich’s story: https://theclan.motoguzzi.com/en/journey-in-italy-on-a-750-s3-the-guzzi-of-a-lifetime/