The first thing that comes to people’s mind when one mentions Italy? Everyone might have different answers to this question; but coming from devoted motorcyclists, it is definitely the gorgeous-looking, high-performing Italian motorcycles.
Indeed, numerous brands have made an impression on the public with their upgraded motorbike model lines. If you are looking for one to wow your fellow riders, the full list below is for you.
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What Are The Top Italian Motorcycle Manufacturers?
Aprilia, Benelli, Bimota, Ducati, MV Agusta, Lambretta, Laverda, Moto Guzzi, Moto Morini, Vespa, Beta Motor, Cagiva, and Fantic Motor are the most beloved Italian brands, besides other lesser-known names.
However, some fail to return to their old, golden 1900s fame due to a lack of compatibility with younger bikers’ interests.
Although Aprilla is a later comer compared to other brands in the market – as its motorbikes only started roaming the street in 1960 – this Italian manufacturer has already climbed to the top one decade later.
The AF1 125cc was the start of it all, whose positive feedback encouraged Aprilla to develop the classic 250cc and 125cc Grand Prix.
These days, the brand has been more obsessed with the Piaggio trend, but you can still find some gorgeous 1990-2000 models with future classic upgrades and new features.
As one of Italy’s oldest manufacturers (in general, not just within the motorcycle-related scope), the very first motorbike model of Benelli dates back to as far as 1919.
Some of its most reputed product lines, such as the 250cc supercharged four-cylinder race motorbikes – had been all produced during these earlier years. Benelli is also the mastermind behind Benelli Sei/Six – the very first six-cylinder motorbike in the world.
Sadly, with such a great start, it seems Benelli struggles to crawl back to its heyday. The flop of its Tornado Tre line has struck quite a huge blow on the brand, bringing it down from an international giant to a so-so label producing mid-range twin motorbikes.
Nevertheless, for people dying to own an exclusively Italian-branded bike, Benelli should still be at the top of the list, hence its second position in our compilation.
In 1973, Bimota started as a company specialized in bicycle frame building. Its name is a catchy combination of the two letters from each founder’s name (Bianchi, Morri, Tamburini).
Back then, power-engine sportbikes were all the rage – especially in Japan, considered the world’s most technologically innovative country then – yet little attention was paid to the chassis technology.
Bimota came up with the chassis for these engines for better performance on tracks and roads, marking an important milestone for their subsequent rise in reputation.
Stunning bodywork and innovative front ends have been the strongest point of Bimota – evident in their powered Tesi line during the 1990s. If you want one such classic, popular model for yourself, hurry, since these old beasts are not sold cheap around the aftermarket.
Bimota’s frame-building history is already bizarre considering its current position on the Italian market today – but Ducati‘s gets even funnier: do you know it used to be the sole manufacturer of radio components in 1920?
Only after the war did it move to the motorcycling industry. After the success of its first motorized bicycle – the Cucciolo – the team gained enough courage and confidence to start producing bigger bikes.
1960 was the turning point for the brand, thanks to the introduction of its famous valve train designs. The 90° V-twin engine came out ten years later to seal the deal, elevating their fame to even new heights.
Aside from the motorbike features themselves, racing has become a major marketing instrument for Ducati, too; the brand did not hesitate to show off its prowess in numerous worldwide superbike championships.
The 1994’s 916 series, under the skilled hand of rider Carl Fogarty, became the main selling point of Ducati and remains so until today.
5. MV Agusta
No 1950 and 1960 races could have been perfect without top-level MV Agusta motorcycles roaring on the roads. Indeed, back in the time, MV Agusta was considered the king of its game.
Its road bikes have helped many professional riders – such as John Surtees, Mike Hailwood, Phil Read, and Giacomo Agostini – on their paths to victory, being associated with 38 global titles and 270 Grand Prix.
After the death of its figurehead, Count Agusta, in 1970, the brand suffered 20 years of production decrease, failing to keep up with new-gen two-stroke models from Yamaha and Suzuki.
Thankfully, MV Agusta was revived in 1991 with the gorgeous F4 – a model that opened a new chapter for the brand and redirected its focus from racing motorcycles to mainstream sports motorcycles.
A company founded after WWII to get Italy’s economy moving, Lambretta quickly received positive reviews for its first Innocenti scooter line – so positive, in fact, that the brand even gained cult followings in England and America.
Although Innocenti production ended in the 1970s to give more production capacity to the brand’s car models, millions of fans worldwide are still hoping for a comeback.
And this expectation does not seem that far-fetched, either – as an Innocenti prototype scooter allegedly appeared on Milan/Lambretta’s motorbike show several years back. Let’s cross our fingers and pray for a miracle.
Like Lambretta, Laverda was also birthed after WW2 to diversify the country’s motorcycling market and cater to the increasing demands for personal vehicles.
Although the brand’s first exclusive motorcycle came around in 1949, its break-out moment did not arrive until 1970 – when its name popped up everywhere on media platforms thanks to high-performing bike lines like 750cc or 650cc parallel twin.
Their power even surpassed Triumphs and British Nortons – considered best of the best in the European market back then.
Although some complained about the bikes’ heaviness, Laverda made up for that with reliability; its SFC models managed to withstand all the toughest races, making them the most sought-after product by devoted racers and cyclists.
We also cannot forget about its V6 racers, either. Sadly, after 6-cylinder bikes were officially banned from all endurance races, Laverda seemed to toss this model aside; you can still spot one from aftermarket dealers if scouring hard enough.
8. Moto Guzzi
Moto Guzzi is a non-skip name when talking about Italy’s first-gen manufacturer of motorcycles. It used to be extremely active in 1950 races, winning five world championships (for 350cc) from 1953 to 1957 and entering the 1955-1957 500cc championship with its iconic V8 streamliner.
But V-twin engines are probably the brand’s most recognized product, though. Shaft-driven and transversely mounted, these models make their way to numerous vehicle models, from commuters and Californian cruisers to sleek sports bikes and, of course, every single motorcycle in the Moto Guzzi line.
9. Moto Morini
Another old-age giant striving to make a comeback for younger generations, Moto Morini deserves a spot in this tribute list. It rose from a small company making moderate sporty bikes before WW2 to one of the most luxurious Italian labels with its diverse 175cc machine model range.
The golden Morini years were around 1970 when a string of iconic adventure bike lines was introduced – the 3.5 models, the V-twins 350cc, and the 500cc versions being a few outstanding examples.
Despite being more expensive than their powerful and bigger rivals, these Morinis managed to leave an impression with their great handling and hence, stayed on the best-seller charts for several decades.
After several financial scandals that resulted in a shocking bankruptcy strike in 2004, Morini is now attempting to enter the picture again with its latest 650cc model. Everyone growing up with Morini’s beautiful bikes is anticipating its big return; let’s see how it turns out.
Despite being the most acclaimed Italian two-wheel brand, Vespa bikes are not the sexy, aggressive beasts some people might hope for; they are just some humble mopeds and scooters.
After years of stalled sales since its debut in 1946, the brand eventually picked up and sold more than 16 million models worldwide.
Due to its small dimensions and modest designs, Vespa was originally aimed for short-distance trips for the elites.
Nevertheless, it soon became a household name for motorcyclists of all classes – partly thanks to actress Audrey Hepburn and actor Gregory Peck, who rode around Rome on a Vespa scooter in the 1952 rom-com classic Roman Holiday.
Even when new, modern models keep coming out each year, Vespa does not forget about the classic models that have contributed to its current fame; you can find a lot of 1940-styled models in Vespa branches across Italy and other countries that incorporate new technology and upgrades.
11. Beta Motor
Beta Motor has made a name for itself for the trials and off-road bikes that garnered lots of critics and customer praise alike. Their motorbikes have been accompanied by worldwide champions like Brad Freeman, Steve Holcombe, Albert Cabestany, and Dougie Lampkin in lots of trial championships.
Some notable models to keep in mind:
- Enduro motorbike (2005), which uses KTM engine types.
- RR series (2010), with new made-in-house, powerful engines
- Mainstream motorcycles (2018) from 50cc to 480cc for a wider demographic
Founded by Castiglioni in 1950 in Varese, Cagiva was not originally a motorcycle label. It had produced metal components for nearly 30 years since its foundation and only entered the racing scene in 1978 with two new Italian brands motorcycle models.
Just one year after that, Cagiva already tasted the early fruit of victory with more than 40,000 bikes sold worldwide; most were fueled by two-stroke engines from 125cc to 350cc.
And in 1980, the brand gave dirt bikes a try, too – which turned out to be another successful production of bicycles after the North American branching.
13. Fantic Motor
Wrapping up our list is Fantic Motor, a 1968-founded Italian company. It excelled in exporting and manufacturing go-karts, mini-bikes, and motorcycles.
Today, Fantic Motor still retained its old-day goal, though with several twists. For one, some bike models have changed their titles to Supermoto/Motard and Dual-Sport to cater to modern-gen motorcyclists.
Electric bikes have become a major focus of this Italian motorcycles brand, too, with its Fat Bike and eMTB lines in continuous motorcycle production and upgrades.
What Is The Oldest Italian Bike Company Still In Business?
It’s Benelli; as mentioned above, the brand has been around since 1919 and – unlike lots of other companies around the same time that had either stopped their production of motorcycles or gone bankrupt – is still in operation by the time of this writing.
The brand no longer dominates the Italian motorcycle industry as it used to, but many motorcycle enthusiasts are still waiting for its second breakthrough.
What Is The Best Selling Motorcycle in Italy?
By March 2023, these BMW GS R 1250, Honda Twin Africa, and Benelli 502 TRK top the best-selling charts. Two of them are not exactly Italian motorcycles, but that is to be expected; all countries are crazy about BMW and Honda, after all. Italy has no reason to stay out of the trend.
Why Are Motorcycles So Popular in Italy?
Italy is the only country in the world (aside from Spain) with large training systems for motorcycle riders. There are even full-fledged academies and curriculums for learners as young as 5 and 6 years old.
With such a supportive educational program, it is unsurprising that while most developed European countries stick to cars, Italy still offers ample room for road motorcycles to thrive – both on regular streets and in professional races.
Indeed, worldwide racing championships have been throned by Spanish or Italian riders since as early as 1950.
Italian people have been obsessed with motorbike riding since forever – especially post WW2 – which serves as the major motivation for a wide range of reputed Italian motorbike brands to enter the global scene and make a name for themselves.
Choose your personal favorites from the Italian motorcycle brands list we have just provided you, and write to us if you still have questions about these Italian motorcycle companies.
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