On Into Tuscany

We left Bologna today, heading south. Sometimes when I travel I have a plan that I mostly stick with, whereas other times I find unexpected things to do along the way. When I travel with friends, this happens more often, and in this case D had heard about the Ducati factory just outside of Bologna. Even so, it had been just a potential possibility, until we met an American attorney at the lunch counter yesterday. He had been to the museum, which he thoroughly enjoyed, and therefore was going on a factory tour as well.

So yesterday, just after lunch, D made arrangements for the tour.

This morning we rose, ate while taking in this view in the breakfast room at the hotel, and headed out to the Ducati factory and museum.

They wouldn’t allow photographs in the factory, leaving me to offer a few thoughts instead. My most direct comparison is the BMW factory in Munich. That factory was notable for the prominent robots everywhere. Humans did very little on that assembly line, other than maintaining the robots. Here we saw no robots at all, and instead the entire factory was run by people.

In Munich, the cars moved from station to station, where different steps in assembly took place. Where people did work the line, the car came to them, they installed whatever was needed, and then the car moved on. Here, people physically move the bike along the line, and a single individual does a number of different things.

Finally, at the end of the line BMW tests their cars. Here, at the end of the line Ducati also tests their bikes, but then they do something that BMW doesn’t – they tweak the performance.

The entire production process here is more artisanal, in a sense, than automobile production. It is certainly a much more personal process.

A stop in the museum afterward, where they showed off their many championship racing bikes, and we were on our way south toward Firenze.

As we sped south on the Autostrada, D and I were both ready for lunch. The Autogrill wasn’t calling either of us so I started searching online. Identifying a restaurant in the hills of Tuscany, we exited the highway someplace in the southern hills of the province of Emilia Romagna. The GPS, it turned out, was trying to take us on a closed road, but the countryside was idyllic, so we ignored instructions to turn around, and continued on in a vaguely southerly direction. 

We eventually found signs to the Taverna del Cacciatore (hunter), so decided it was time to stop. Perched upon a hill near the Tuscan border, we entered the restaurant to the silently suspicious stare of the locals eating there.

The waitress spoke no English, but my Italian was reasonable, and I let her direct me to her recommendations.

The pasta is made in house, with a delicate hand, and mine was served with butter and local mushrooms. My friends know that I almost never order mushrooms, as I’m picky about them. These were absolutely divine.

Our waitress also recommended the germano. I had no idea what exactly that was, but decided to trust her on this as well, because she seemed so confident in this. When it came, to the table, it was clearly a dark meat fowl. It was cooked with lardon and wine, in a style reminiscent of coq au vin. In the course of the meal, I pulled out three pieces of shot, and have since discovered that I had eaten mallard. Very fresh, outstanding, mallard.

Lunch had started late, and was not a fast meal. Adding in some time for getting lost, we finally found our hotel in the heart of Firenze just after sunset. We unloaded our luggage, then took the car to the airport to get rid of it, as we will have no further need for it.

 

Back in the city, I walked D through the aged streets, directing us toward the Duomo on our way to dinner. As the colorful marble facade of Santa Maria del Fiore and her belltower started to rise over the buildings around us, he exclaimed, “What is that?!” I smiled to myself and led him onward into the piazza. We were in Florence

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