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What happens when an army of bikers invades an Italian resort

Jonathan Hawkins, CNN

In the Emilia Romagna region, on Italy’s Adriatic coast, summers are languid, sultry, and full of opportunities to dine, drink, dance, swim, relax and replenish. For a few days at the end of July, however, this scenic corner of one of the world’s most beautiful countries experiences an invasion.

From all over the world, a red-clad army converges on the towns and villages around the famous racing circuit at Misano, most of them astride rumbling, rasping motorcycles. This is World Ducati Week, and this year some 80,000 enthusiasts were bringing the noise.

A Ducati is to motorcycle lovers what a Ferrari is to car aficionados. Like its four-wheeled compatriot, the two-wheeled Italian brand has made its name creating loud, fast, uncompromising, occasionally eccentric and often achingly elegant machines. But this gathering of Ducatisti, as Ducati enthusiasts are known, is about much more than just motorcycles; they are here to have a party, and the whole community is ready to welcome them.

Cappuccinos on the waterfront

This is not your typical “biker” crowd, either. An event on the scale of this in the United States might conjure up images of beards, tattoos, leather jackets and rock music, but this is a much more Italian affair.

As the sun rose over the Adriatic onto this year’s event, its rays glanced over luxury yachts in nearby Cattolica and Gabicce Mare, and found the Ducatisti sipping cappuccinos at waterfront cafes, before guiding their growling machines on a short and gentle cruise to the nearby Marco Simoncelli racing circuit.

At the track, literally thousands of Ducatis, old and new, glided into the parking lot and nestled alongside one another. One by one, their riders dismounted and gazed around them, grinning widely in the already scorching Italian sunshine at row after row after row of Italian motorcycles.

Male and female, young and not so young, perhaps the most striking thing about this group was just how far many had come to be here. Ducati claimed that visitors to the 2022 event, the 10th World Ducati Week, had traveled from 84 countries, a statistic that was easy to believe on the ground.

Rebekah, dressed in a bright pink t-shirt and a straw hat, had ridden all the way to Misano from Regensburg, a medieval city that sits on the banks of the Danube in Bavaria, Germany. Her club, which she told CNN is “the greatest group outside Italy,” had taken two days to make the trip. “It’s the great Ducati family, around the world,” she smiled.

‘Emozione’

Fellow Germans Stefan and Bianca had come from the city of Nuremburg. They had taken a more leisurely three days to ride down, and echoed their fellow Bavarian Rebekah: “We came down here because it’s fun, the people, the bikes, Italy, it’s very nice,” said Stefan. What was it about Ducati that made them do it? “Emozione!” he replied. “It’s… feeling.” Bianca agreed.

Ed, Patsy, and JT had flown all the way from the Philippines. “We go first to Berlin, then back to Milan, then from Milan we go all around Italy and France,” JT explained.

“We meet some people with the same passion, different riders from different clubs, and share some other cultures,” Patsy added. “We rode from France to here!” Ed told CNN proudly, before gesturing to the back of his t-shirt, which displayed the route along the Mediterranean coast and across northern Italy.

One of the attractions at the circuit itself was the presence of some of Ducati’s top racing talent, in particular its MotoGP stars. Pecco Bagnaia, at the time vying for the manufacturer’s first MotoGP title since 2007, was experiencing his first ever World Ducati Week, and was surprised to see its scale.

“It’s incredible,” he told CNN. “I’m already amazed to see all the people here.” Among a throng of fans gathering to see him, he seemed almost embarrassed at the fuss. “A lot of riders are the center of attention,” he said, “but I’m enjoying it a lot.”

Naturally, much of the activity at the circuit itself was focused on the bikes, with product demonstrations, workshops and displays of new motorcycles, as well as cars from Ducati’s sister companies Audi and Lamborghini. On the track there were special races, with star riders competing in the Race of Champions, on identical Ducati Panigale superbikes, and the chance to ride on the back of a specially adapted Ducati or in the passenger seat of a Lamborghini.

Beach party

But perhaps the most eye-catching activity of the festival was found elsewhere, back on the beach. On the Friday a long red chain of Ducatis, led by Ducati Corse CEO Claudio Domenicali alongside some of the event’s star racers, snaked its way to nearby Riccione, a renowned party destination and a summertime magnet on Italy’s eastern Riviera.

There a stylish beach party was laid out along the boardwalk to welcome the massed ranks of Ducatisti. Celebrated DJ Benny Benassi whipped the eager crowd into a frenzy as they bounced along to his pumping blend of house music.

At the heart of the festival, Claudio Domenicale was a whirl of energy as he moved around talking to fans, media and VIPs. He explained his impression of the appeal of World Ducati Week to CNN: “It keeps changing, every time you find something new,” he said, “All the people join here, so they have the passion of finding themselves together, and then they find their hero, the riders, the team boss, myself, and we are very available to them, so you can get close to the riders, you can get close to the people.”

Everyone at the same level

Sure enough, Saturday evening saw Domenicali, dressed as a waiter, along with MotoGP riders and other Ducati officials, serving the guests at a barbecue on the Marco Simoncelli circuit’s pit straight, with food prepared by chef, Riccardo Monco, from the three Michelin star restaurant Enoteca Pinchiorri.

“These are three days in which everyone is almost at the same level, and so they love it, they feel it,” Domenicali smiled.

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