There’s something truly special about Italian motorbike design. For those who’d like something a little outside the mainstream excellence of Honda, Yamaha or even BMW, Italian marques have always offered that little bit of extra character. For the most part, these are enthusiast’s machines. They’re motorbikes as individual as an Armani suit or a Lamborghini supercar. And in the Vespa, Italian for wasp, there’s the scooter that became a symbol of la dolce vita, the glamour of 1960s Italy. From championship winners to new electric challengers, there’s something for all in our pick of the 10 best Italian motorbike brands.

Best Italian motorbike brands

Moto Guzzi

Always at the forefront of technology and design - with the first motorcycle wind tunnel, for example, and a V8-engined bike in 1955 - Moto Guzzi hasn’t always had the financial stability to match. These are machines with cult status, however. Actor Ewan McGregor, renowned for his motorcycling exploits, is a Moto Guzzi fan, calling the latest V100  "truly an exhilarating experience, this is a very unique bike".


Lays claim to being the oldest Italian motorbike manufacturer, in business since 1911. Now controlled, through Qianjiang Motor Group, by the huge Chinese car-maker Geely, Benelli’s range today remains classic in design, drawing on the company’s long heritage.  Benelli's TRK 502 is, says the company, Italy’s best-selling adventure tourer. A real alternative to the ubiquitous BMWs and Hondas, then.


Renowned for their V-Twin engines, with sophisticated valve design, Ducati’s efforts are concentrated at the high-performance end of the market. Ownership today by Lamborghini illustrates just who these machines are aimed at. Ducati’s Monster models, in production since 1993, are revered and respected by those who own them. Some 300,000 have been made. Current Monster SP is perfect for track days.


Now as much a clothing brand as a scooter maker, Lambretta make much of their association with Mods, and with good reason since, along with Vespas, these were the chosen scooters of the Mod movement at its height in the 1960s. Current scooter range includes the powerful G350, referencing its past while very much a piece of 21st century Milanese design.


The name is Italian for “wasp” because of the highly distinctive buzz from the rear-mounted engine of the original Vespa scooter, first produced after the Second World War. This enduring classic design is still available today alongside updated models - as well as new electric scooters. Not just that, but there’s a Lego model of the original available: confirmation, as if it were needed, of legendary status.


Not many motorbike manufacturers are in the collection of New York’s Museum of Modern Art. Aprilia’s 1995 Motò, with design by Philippe Starck, is proudly one of them. Highly distinctive range today includes scooters as well as high-end superbikes such as the Aprilia RS660, which aims to bring the company’s recent MotoGP success to road users. It’s a formidable piece of machinery.

MV Agusta

One of the best Italian motorbike brands in the world, MV Agusta made their name on track, particularly as the choice of the legendary Giacomo Agostini, who won multiple world championships on MV Agusta machinery in the 1950s and 1960s. “We craft emotions,” says the company today. Top-of-the-range models dubbed Brutale - clue is in the name - with a potential top speed of 185 mph, vividly make that point.


Celebrated racer Leopoldo Tartarini founded Italjet on his retirement from competition, going on to release a wide variety of often-advanced two-wheeled urban transport over the years that followed. Current range centres around Italjet's remarkable Dragster models, with skeletal frame fully exposed to form a unique super-scooter. Engines are a choice of 125 cc and 200 cc, with impressive performance to match the avant-garde looks.


Strictly limited, handmade production methods make each Bimota motorcycle effectively bespoke, drawing on the company’s 50-year history. Bimota has had its ups and downs in terms of financial viability - but has always concentrated on the high-end market, with the added bonus of significant racing success. Carbon fibre and milled aluminium feature in striking top-of-the-range KB4. 


Is this the future of motorcycling? Ambitious Modena-based Energica offer an all-electric range of high performance bikes that have attracted overwhelmingly positive reviews. Energica Ego is billed as the world’s fastest electric motorbike with a 150 mph top speed, and a blistering 0 - 60 mph time of  2.6 seconds. Pioneering Italian engineering at its finest.

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