Jul 10, 2008

On July 6th, I left Chicago O’Hare airport by a beautiful summer day. After accepting an offer from the Italian brands Dainese and AGV I was invited to join a sales-training trip to Italy. Our little tour will get us to Dainese’s headquarters in Vicenza in the North East, about 40 miles from the eternal romantic city of Venice; Molvena a few miles North for a day at the company’s R&D’s center and the Alessandria, the siege of AGV helmets, in the province of Piedmont, not far from Milano.
Flight O’Hare-Milano, 3 hours drive to Vicenzia. 3 hours to Alessandria, then to Milano for our return flight. While I was waiting for my turn at check-in I hear someone calling my name, a bit surprise I turn and Shelly from the D-Store in San Francisco introduces herself and says, “well, it was obvious, I don’t think they are other passengers in this plane who are traveling with Ogio and Fox bags”. Funny, but true.

We fly Air One, an Italian airline owned by Lufthansa who flies directly ORD-Milano since late June. Brand new Airbus A330 plane, 278 seating capacity and we are… about 15 passengers!! Awe-so-me!!
Great flight for me with my 5 seats-row available; good entertainment; not so sexy food. I watched 10,000 B.C. by the way. Well… no real comment to make on that movie. Definitely made by Hollywood purely for brainless entertainment.

Monday morning, July 7th and I have not slept at all on the plane. Paolo is at the airport in Milano waiting for us. We jump in an ugly, but very ugly, Renault Espace and hop we go, direction Vicenza. After 1 hr, driving out of the Milano area we stop for our first European café and croissant. It is very enjoyable after 6 years away from the Old Continent. Delightful I have to say.

The day went fast. Still without sleep, we drove directly to Dainese’s headquarter. We met a lot of people, walked (a lot) around, listened to very interesting presentations. Had a “real” pizza in a small restaurant downtown. Good, still very good. Better after all these years. Getting more and more excited about the job and about joining such a prestigious and historical brand. There are a lot of beautiful things around here and some exciting projects in the future. Imagine Italian style married to the love of motorcycles and speed.

We had dinner at a great restaurant tonight. The owner was actually featured in the last Robb Report Motorcycle as he organize bike tours around the region, using Ducati bikes. Pretty cool.

Tuesday 8th.
I woke up feeling much rested and without leftovers of jetlag. Early we drove to the small town of Molvena where Dainese was born. It’s the R&D and production center and also where Lino Dainese has his office. We spent a very interesting time in the R&D center. Of course I ended up talking for hours with the body protection guys and debating EC standard testing and all. I defended RXR’s ASA technology but after more tests (of course a company like Dainese has all the machines on site to do the tests before the products are sent to EC testing) it really looked like the Dainese back protector is really not that far at all from the RXR. We’re talking of about 1.3 to 2 KJ. The difference was really small which really puzzled me. Really? That much? Although there was no possibility of errors, the machine wasn’t tuned differently between products. Damn!
Before leaving Molvena, I was treated to an amazing treat: I was allowed to enter “the Vault”… Imagine a huge warehouse filled with every racing leather suit, downhill full body –armor suit, ski suits, all worn by Dainese’s athletes since the creation of the firm and all collected right after being used. Thousands of leather suits, hundreds of name inked in History. I was surrounded by names like Freddy Spencer, Giacomo Agostini, Nieto, Eddie Lawson, Sheene, Luchinelli, Biaggi, and so many more, old and modern riders, lead by The Doctor and all of his leathers.
Incredible. Amazing feeling to find myself lost in the middle of motorcycling history.

Returned to Vicenza. Lunch at the showroom restaurant. Lots of salads and Parma ham. A few dealers are here from around the world making their purchases and orders. The showroom is beautiful. We spent a lot of time on the new collection. This is information overload at its best and has been very enriching.

By the way, we visited the warehouse and shipping department: all robotized with crazy robot fork-lifts running around; it is impressive and the result of a $20 million investment which shows that the company is looking ahead.

We very briefly met Lino Dainese this evening when we were leaving the office.

It was beautiful driving today. Although my memory is full of these trips through France and Italy with my parents as a kid, it was great looking out of the window at the Italian countryside. I am not really good with descriptive words sometime, but my photos below should help 

Off to bed. More work and learning tomorrow.

Wednesday 9th - Visit to Mavet, marketing meeting at Dainese and dinner in la Cita Eterna, Venezia! By the way, Elton John must hae known we were on the way because he had a live concert Piazza San Marco. Isn’t that cool.

At Mavet (one of our helmet factories) we were introduced to the full helmet manufacturing process. Mavet produces for Dainese, BMW and some of the AGV’s including a few automotive and ski helmets. Pretty interesting to see this swarm of women working on the helmets. It’s a real labor. Very tiring, very tedious; requiring lots of human labor still. But eh, the result is very cool.