You’ve probably heard that Italy is a fascinating country filled with architecture, history, art, and beautiful scenery in every direction. And you’ve no doubt heard of “La Dolce Vita”, (the phrase and also the Fellini film) which literally means “the sweet life”, and serves as the mantra in which Italians seem to embrace in their daily lives. It quickly becomes apparent that this heritage and national pride of the former has a direct correlation to the latter.
Italians highly value their culture and family and are very passionate, some might say over-emphatically so, in politics, football (soccer), food and of course, wine. It is a spectacle to behold watching several Italians talking over each other and gesturing during what some might see as a heated discussion, or to participate in a multi-course vino-and-cigarette-fueled 3-hour dinner.
I had been fortunate enough to visit Italy several times since my initial post-college backpacking and train-hopping tour of Europe, some 20-odd years ago. Today, amusingly reflecting on this providence while I scribe this narrative, I find myself coming back annually to visit the family of my Italian-born wife.
My quest to find a Harley to ride while visiting Italy didn’t start until I arrived with my wife and kiddies during the summer to visit my in-laws, who reside on the northern coast of Toscana (Tuscany). On prior visits I had seen a few Milwaukee tractors around and there was even an authorized H-D dealer in the town I was staying, but they unfortunately did not have rentals.
The Harley and custom scene in Italy has seen a huge upswing in recent years, and I intently grab all the Italian language motorcycle magazines I can from the newsstand, including several excellent H-D custom and lifestyle magazines such as LowRide and Bikers Life. It is here that I saw an amazing machine built by a custom bike builder named Marco Cinquini. His shop, Garage 65, is based in Viareggio, a city on the coast of Tuscany famous for yacht building, and rather close in proximity to where I was staying with my family in Marina di Carrara. I sent an email requesting to visit his shop and meet him, more or less as an ambassador and fellow biker from America, but also as a staffer of Baggers and sister publications, Street Chopper and Hot Bike. At the very least, perhaps I’d get the scoop on his custom works not yet known in the U.S.
Marco had kindly accepted to meet me and my translator (my lovely wife) to visit his storefront accessories shop in Viareggio, where he sells everything from helmets and handlebars, to air cleaners and t-shirts. He then invited us to follow him a few kilometers to his Garage 65 headquarters/museum, where his bikes are built and is surely inspired by the meticulous wall displays hung with vintage H-D parts and other classic Americana of all sorts, including a built-in Coca-Cola bar. Little did I expect my timing in meeting Marco, and seeing his extraterrestrial-looking and AMD European Championship winning build, named Kosmo Drive, would soon be destined for the first-ever qualified Italian entry at the AMD Championship in Sturgis the following month. (He went on to win 4th place in the Freestyle class).
Marco’s Inglese (English) is as limited as my Italiano (Italian), so it was great to have my better half understand his invitation to his weekly gathering of biker friends and H.O.G. members at his open-air compound adjacent to his shop the Wednesday of that week. Replete with birra alla spina (beer on tap), classic biker movies projected on a wall, billiard table, ping-pong, foosball, and a huge stage (no band that night), it reminded me of a mini Buffalo Chip that we’d all like to have in our own backyard to entertain friends.
I left the party at Garage 65 that night impressed by the showing of 40 or so friends and their bikes, as well as the enthusiastic discussion and passion these guys have for their American freedom machines. And, astounded by the generosity of Marco Cinquini, who called us the following day offering his CVO Electra Glide for us to ride and keep for a couple of days of touring!