Sunday, June 29, 2014

Rimini Afternoons - Faenza

Faience Plate Garofano.jpg
"Faience Plate Garofano". Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons.

Diane, before we left made a tiny little post-it with side trips.  One of them was the town of Faenza, which is known for ceramics.  There are over 40 ceramics workshops in Faenza and some big production houses as well.  Through the power of the internet we sifted through workshops and settled on two that looked like they would have some fun stuff.

The first shop that we stopped at: was run by an Italian woman with really pretty fantastic English.  When we first walked through the door, it was a pure workshop and I was really wondering whether we were going to be successful in our hunt for artifacts. That was until she walked us upstairs, where she had a massive collection of bowls - score!

Ms. Vignoli's art centers around two techniques: copper reduction, and hand painting with both a fine liquid slip as well as with glaze.  She showed us her kiln which was covered in jet black residue and explained that in order to reduce copper, you add sugar and alcohol when the kiln is very hot.  The reduction turns blue-green copper (right plate) to beautiful hues of iridescent red and orange (left plate). You can also see the very thin slip on the right plate that they pipe onto the surface to create texture.

Ms. Vignoli was happy to say that her designs were about to come to the US market, which she was quite excited about.  She wondered if we knew of a store called Home Goods......she also told us that she produced some place settings for Dior, which was an interesting dichotomy.  Our wallets a little lighter, we left to find the other workshop which was only a short walk away.

Side Note - Never use google maps in Italy, it sucks.  Waze = the shit.

We got over to this random industrial park and tried knocking on the door, and no one seemed to answer, we were a little disappointed until we saw the small bell next to the door.  We rang, and another warm Italian woman with great English came to the door.

She works in porcelain (rare in Faenza) and creates work inspired by creatures of the sea (and other delightfully creepy stuff).  We found lots of stuff that we wanted to bring home, and were happy for our emergency checking duffle for extra clothes :-)

There was a small fiasco when she realized she had forgotten her credit card reader at home, so we had to go and find an ATM, but it all worked out in the end.

We were definitely very happy that we had rented the car because otherwise we would have never made it on any of these great side trips.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Afternoons in Italy - Rimini and San Marino

In the afternoons, we ventured out into and around Rimini, as well as visting the nearby republic of San Marino, and a 2 hour drive to see the Ducati factory and museum, a visit to San Marino (the world's oldest republic), and a visit to a nearby town known for ceramics.  We also worked on eating lots of gelato.

Rimini is an Italian, Russian, and Croatian tourist destination.  It's the central town along 9 miles of beach.  The entire stretch of beach is developed with little lots of bagno (translates to bathroom).  Each bagno has activities like beach volleyball, private rooms, restaurants, bars, tons and tons of umbrellas, and of course bathrooms.  They go on forever as far as you can see.

There was a vespa get together one of the days, which made for some fun photos.  Near the center of town, there's a harbor and a pier that you can walk out along with a huge ferris wheel and cool statue at the end.

One afternoon we spent visiting San Marino which is the world's oldest republic.  Even today, it's considered it's own country which is enclosed within Italy.  They have a separate postal service, different license plates and are permitted to mint Euros with their own designs.  The old town of San Marino has a history that dates back to medieval times and it's known for it's three watchtowers, two of which serve as museums today.

San Marino is on top of a giant hill, so the views are spectacular all the way around.

More fabulous views no #instagram filters required.

The second San Marino Guard tower in the background.

Beautiful private homes along the road to the old town.

Views of Rimini and the Ocean in the background behind my beautiful travel partners.  More side trip info coming in our next post!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Ferretti Beach Hotel

We flew from Indy to JFK, which we voted US's most 3rd world airport.  Seriously, it's embarrassing when you have to walk outside to catch an international flight, WTH NYC?  Then we went from JFK to Milan.  Our flights went well and we rented a car for the drive to Rimini.  It turns out that with 3 people, renting a car was actually quite a bit cheaper than our trains would have been.  This was especially true once we took all of our side-trips.

After about a 4 hour drive, we arrived at the clean, modern Feretti Beach Hotel and checked in.  We were to stay in the same hotel of the whole trip, which turned out being pretty nice since we didn't need to repack our bags every night.  The hotel was full board, which we didn't expect to like as it's kind of against our general principles.  However, the hotel actually had decent food, and a rotating menu so we didn't get bored.

One of the highlights was the nightly salad bar which was filled, not with fake bacon bits, but with fresh roasted veggies, yummy mushrooms and several different leaves (arugula, endive, fennel, etc).  They also had these magical packaged breadsticks which were really yummy.  Instead of the ubiquitous container of ranch dressing here, there were oils and vinegars to choose from.

At dinner, first courses were nearly always some kind of pasta.  The favorite was a spinach cheese ravioli that Lisa had for dinner one night.

Secundi (second course) was usually some type of protein: fresh fish bar that you could chose from, sometimes beef, or pork, and a veggie entree that was usually OK but not great.

One of the best things about the small hotel, and nightly dining was getting to know the staff.  One of the front desk staff was particularly sweet and helpful.  The waiters were all great and it was fun to get to know their personalities throughout the week.

We spent a little more $$ than what was included in our package to upgrade our room to an ocean view with a balcony and a hot tub, which turned out to have a great view.  The hot tub wasn't all that hot, but we suffered in silence.

The hotel was a great home base for our rides, stay tuned.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Riding in Rimini

Diane and I rode 6 days straight, Lisa rode 5 days with a single day off in the middle.  By far the most that any of us had ridden over a short period of time, and it was fantastic.

The rides would take most of the morning, starting between 8:30 and 9:00 and finishing between 1:00 and 2:00.  Each day started leaving Rimini, peaked with a big climb in the middle of the ride, and hanging out with the locals at a hilltop cafe followed by a fast downhill and ride back to Rimini.

Salvatore (our main guide) earned his nickname - Pinocchio as he couldn't tell the truth about the number of km or climbs for any given day.  In reality he was telling us what we needed to hear to get out on the road.  In the end, the rides were challenging but within our ability.

He also did a great job of making the rides progressively harder throughout the week with more climbing and more k.

The exception was our last ride which was easy and fun, (except for one super-steep climb).  Instead of stopping in a small town we stopped at a local winery for a wine tasting.

The small winery was family owned, completely organic, and even made their own liqueurs.

Overall, it was a really fantastic week and we all agreed that we want to go and do it again.  Hopefully you'll come with us next time :-)

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Visit to the Ducati Museum and Factory

As the museum is small, it focuses only on racing bikes and doesn’t include street machines. You can read between the lines and understand how important racing is in Ducati heritage--it’s everything.

Most of the machines admitted into the museum are those that have won at least one race.

It was really amazing to see the 888 and 916 side-by-side to see what kind of revolutionary jump was made in design by just one year.  See how much slimmer the bodywork is?  The undertail exhaust and the single-sided swingarm?

Another thing to notice from the museum is how dominant and important WSBK has been to Ducati corse. Troy Bayliss (superman) was featured prominently.

My favorite bike from the museum was one that I hadn’t seen before: the supermono. It was a contemporary of the 888 and was built for a specific racing series featuring single-cylinder machines. It is super rare (only 65 were built) and sports a single cylinder 500 cc engine. The bike also had several other technologies like carbon fiber body work, subframe, gas tank, etc.

Finally, near the end you get to the GP bikes.  One of the most interesting bits of trivia is that the new bikes aren't really red, they're more orange, like the superleggera.  It turns out that this orange color called rosso corsa and is intended to ensure that Ducati bikes look red on HDTV broadcasts, rather than the brown color that a true red has in HD.  It's hard to see in the photo above, but was apparent in person.

On to the factory. They don’t allow photos in here so this is what you get from memory.

Ducati machines the camshafts and crankshafts in-house, and everything else on the bike comes from another supplier. The engines are assembled on-site in Borgo Panigale for every Ducati around the world. There are, however, two other motorcycle assembly facilities: Brazil and Thailand. Bikes assembled in Brazil are sold only in Brazil.  Those assembled in Thailand are sold throughout Southeast Asia.  Our guide said that these are both seen as growth markets that have high import tariffs so it makes sense to put a factory there in order to avoid excessive taxation (Thailand has up to 300% tax).  Every other Ducati sold around the world is made in Borgo Panigale.

There are two machines that start engine assembly, but other than that the engines and motorcycles are assembled by hand. It takes two different engineers 90 minutes to build a regular motor, and 120 minutes to build a super bike (899/1198) motor. After assembly, every motor gets dry tested before it’s built into a bike. Dry testing looks for excess friction and fluid pressure leaks; once a motor passes the dry testing, it joins the other parts for its particular destiny in a supermarket.  All of the assembly lines are fed just-in-time from these supermarkets depending on what they are building.  

There is dedicated assembly line for most models, although some are shared. They were building mostly hypers and diavels on the day when I was there.  It takes two half-days to build a complete bike, split up so that tasks don't become to repetitive. 

Every motorcycle and every engine have a build sheet where the technicians sign off on the tasks that they have performed.  If there's a problem with one of the QC steps, the technician is informed so that they can learn from their mistakes. This process has dropped errors from 5% to 1%.  Speaking of people there are 500 that work on site. Three hundred of those work in motorcycle or engine assembly, with 30% females. There are about 100 that work in the racing devision (separate area on the factory floor, with tight access control). There are 100 more that work in offices.

After assembly, each bike is tested: ABS, DTC, basic dyno performance, braking, acceleration, etc.   After testing it goes to emission tuning based on the destination country. The final check is aesthetics, making sure that the bike is visually perfect. Some farings are added at the time of shipping, and a few final assembly bits (mirrors, seats, etc) are added when they arrive at the dealership.

There’s a little store in the museum where you finish the tour, but if you’re looking for a souvenir or a piece of apparel, the factory store is just a bit away from the factory. They were giving out 5 Euro coupons to everyone who went to the museum.  There was quite a bit of apparel, and some of it was even discounted!

All in all, it was a really fantastic visit that fostered new respect for not only my SF848, but also for the superbikes. It’s clear that through the entire process that they are in a league of their own.