I guessed that it was possible that if I’d waited, someone would have come to open it but my cheap-o phone plan doesn’t offer European service at all, so I had no way to get a cab to come back. I told the cabbie to take me straight back to the train station. He spoke no English at all, but my Italian’s good enough to understand his suggestion, which was that there was a bigger and better aviation museum nearby that would be open. I told him, No.
Again, as we got close to the train station, he pointed out Galarate’s modern art museum. My Italian’s not quite good enough, any more, to communicate that for me, it’s motorcycles or nothing.
40 Euros lighter, I got back on a train to Varese. At that point I opened by backpack for the first time, and realized that while my umbrella had been keeping the rain off me, the backpack and its contents were soaked. Luckily I’d pulled almost everything—especially my passport—out of it. Damage report: a half-filled Moleskine and the Italian-English dictionary I bought way back when I was writing ‘Searching for Spadino’.
I had another long walk from the train station back up to the hotel, at which point I was happy to take a long hot shower and install myself in the hotel bar.
The next day while I waited for my interview appointment with Castiglioni, I told MV Agusta’s PR director, Alessia Riboni, my ‘museum was closed’ story. After my talk with the boss, Alessia came back to show me out and said, "Our driver will take you to Gallarate, drop you at a roundabout where Giovanni Magni will pick you up and take you to the museum"
Me: "It's closed Monday."
Alessia: "They're opening it for you."
Giovanni parked, and called someone on his mobile. An old gentleman, Cesare Tobaldo, appeared at the door, recognizing Giovanni, he unlocked it and let us in, then locked it again behind us. Perhaps I’m too Canadian, because that kind of special treatment is a little embarrassing to me.
Tobaldo apologized; the museum should have been open when I’d arrived on the previous Sunday afternoon. But that morning, the museum had a big group come through, and the staff were not able to shoo them out in time to close for lunch at noon. Since no Italian can properly eat a Sunday lunch in less than two hours, they decided to reopen the museum at 2:30. I had arrived in the interim.
I got over my embarrassment when I realized that the museum has a much bigger collection of bikes than I expected, and I was getting the ultimate private tour, accompanied by Giovanni Magni (whose dad Arturo had been Giacomo Agostini’s lead mechanic, and who is himself a leading restorer of MV Agustas) and guided by Cesare, who it turns out is the museum’s own restorer. He came in just for me, on his day off.
Cesare worked as a fabricator in the helicopter factory for decades. The motorcycle race shop was also located there in Cascina Costa, not at the nearby motorcycle factory in Verghera, for several reasons: the Count’s office was at the helicopter plant, and he liked to keep an eye on the race bikes in development; Arturo Magni, the race team manager could take advantage of the plant’s advanced fabrication capabilities; and the layout of the plant made it possible to move race bikes on and off the property even if the factory was being picketed by strikers, which was a common problem in Italy in the 1960s!