The Giro del Mondo (World Tour)
Sixty thousand kilometres in one year, riding a Ducati 175, for the adventure, for the challenge, to discover. In 1957, Leopoldo Tartarini set off for this unique adventure around the world in agreement with Ducati, for which he was an official rider at the time.
In fact, the opportunity to set off to discover the world arose from the convergence of a series of coincidences that Tartarini recalls: “I was competing as a rider for Ducati in top competitions like the Milano-Taranto. For a few years, everything worked out great. Then I had a bad accident and I was forced to stop racing. I still had a year left on my contract with Borgo Panigale, so we thought we could run it down with some propaganda initiatives, perhaps with an adventurous background. My first thought was a circumnavigation of African, then I thought: why not the world tour?”
The idea was accepted and so Tartarini, who had to find a travel companion, got in touch with his childhood friend Giorgio Monetti, a great fan of motorcycles. Who immediately accepted with great enthusiasm.
Preparing for a trip is a complex thing. We must establish a route, taking into account the geography, but also the different political situations. “First of all – says Tartarini – it was not possible to cross the iron curtain, or go to China. In short, it took us six months to plan the route. Despite this careful planning, we could not help but stumble across three revolutions: in Iraq, where they hanged King Feisal, in Syria and in Indonesia”.
The two intrepid motorcyclists were able to start their discovery of the world on 30 September 1957. From Bologna they headed to Trieste, then Belgrade (Yugoslavia), Thessaloniki (Greece), Istanbul (Turkey), Teheran (Iran), Karachi (Pakistan), Bombay and Delhi (India), Jakarta (Sumatra). In the ship, the two got to Borneo, then passed through New Guinea and on to Australia, crossing it all its width, from Darwin to Sidney. Then back on the boat to New Zealand, then again crossing the sea to reach Venezuela. The journey then continues through South America: Caracas (Venezuela), Bogota (Colombia), Guayaquil (Ecuador), Santiago (Chile), Buenos Aires (Argentina), Montevideo (Uruguay), Porto Alegre and Rio de Janeiro (Brazil). Another stretch in boat and the two reached Dakar. Then, by motorbike, they went on to Casablanca, Tangier, Gibraltar. Through Spain and the French Riviera, they returned to Italy.
Tartarini and Monetti crossed 42 countries. At each stage, the two gained swathes of popularity, with press conferences and journalists ready to capture stories and details about their great adventure.
In Singapore, in a club, we got involved in a big fight. A few of the cadets of the Amerigo Vespucci school ship, who, in those days, were in the port of Singapore, intervened. It was like a scene from a Western – recalls Tartarini – with bottles, mirrors and tables flying everywhere. We were also robbed, the stage between Iran and Iraq. While we were sleeping in our tent, seven or eight desert raiders turned up, armed to the teeth. They rummaged through our suitcases, grabbed what they could and then, without saying a word, they left, riding their camels. In Indonesia, the locals thought we were Dutch, who had just been thrown out from the newly-established Sukarno government: the misunderstanding cost us three days in jail, just before Christmas, before we could clear up the misunderstanding”.
There were also weather-related problems. “In New Zealand we have faced a flood, flooded roads, cold polar winds – it is the memory of the future founder of Italjet – On the other hand in Australia we suffered an atrocious heat. As we moved into the desert, the temperature went up to 52 degrees. Along the trail, we came across the remains of animals that had died from the heat. It was impossible to travel with those temperatures, so during the day we rested and we travelled at night. But in the darkness, we went very slowly. One night, we got a flat tire, I tried to repair it in the dark, but when I stretched out my hand, instead of the key I grabbed the tail of a lizard that tried to bite me. In Latin America we encountered marshes that were not particularly pleasant to cross with caimans and leeches, both eager for a taste of our blood!”
But the difficulties never stopped them. The journey, which lasted twelve months, ended in Bologna, to the cheers of an exultant crowd, on 5 September 1958. A year later, Leopoldo Tartarini would find Italjet.