Factory visits are at or near the top of my list in terms of destinations. Call me crazy, but I truly appreciate witnessing how things are made. Be it boots, bags, cars, anything that requires production and assembly is o.k. in my book. And regardless of the product, each factory packs a different punch. Over the years, I’ve been fortunate enough to see a lot of different factories, making a lot of different things. Boots, bags, cars, chocolate bars, pipes, sweaters, bicycles, stationery, watches, among others have all made the list, and never does it get old.
As a change-up to the typical factory tour, I paid a visit to the Museo Piaggio which is housed in one company’s former factories. Located in Pontedera, about an hour outside of Florence, the museum stands in what is Piaggio’s birthplace and home to some of their most important creations. Founded in 1884, Piaggo’s roots lay in the maritime industry where they were considered one of the premier ship-fitting companies in Italy. They would later carry the same reputation in the railroad and aeronautics industries. Not until 1946 would the creation of the Vespa, change the face of Piaggo forever (with a little help from Gregory Peck).
Opened in 2000, and envisioned by the former chairman Giovanni Alberto Agnelli, the museum is a tribute to one of Italy’s most important mechanical companies. On display you’ll find a terrific timeline of Piaggio’s history alongside some of the rarest vehicles they’ve produced in their nearly 130 year history. While there’s clearly an emphasis on the Vespa, examples of Piaggio’s origins in the railroad and aeronautic industry stand present. A 1936 Treno locomotive occupies the entrance, an example of the first stainless steel trains made in Italy. And not far away sits a 1951 Aero P149, one of the first training planes developed by Piaggio in the late 40’s.
Obviously not a typical factory with production having long been discontinued, there’s no lack of creativity remaining in the building. The museum is the perfect example of how to appropriately convert a former industrial space for use today, integrity intact. And while you won’t necessarily bare witness to anything produced per se, you’re still offered the privilege to see the origins of where the ideas were started. [Museo Piaggio]