Sometimes you find the most amazing things in the most surprising of places – and so it proved this morning when I stumbled across a tiny museum that proved to be an absolute treasure trove of Italian cycling history.
From Bartali to Coppi, Saronno to Pantani and many, many more, the museum in Busto Arsizio, north west of Milan close to Malpensa airport, usually only opens for a few hours on a Saturday and Sunday.
Earlier this week, however, it was open to coincide with the town hosting the start of the Tre Valli Varesine men’s and women’s one-day races – the former in its 101st edition, the latter being raced for only the second time, and won respectively by two of the biggest names in the sport, Tadej Pogacar of UAE Team Emirates, and Trek-Segafredo’s Elisa Longo Borghini.
I almost missed it – only the vintage Bianchi on show outside gave a clue of what lay upstairs in a room forming part of the town’s textile museum, il Museo del Tessile.
But a guy who saw my interest piqued by the Bianchi urged me to go inside and take a look upstairs – and before long, one of the custodians of the collection, of an age perhaps to have childhood memories of Coppi if not perhaps Bartali, showed me around.
Earlier this month, the museum was officially named after Luigi Celora, who died a few months ago, and who donated his collection of cycling memorabilia to the town and wanted it to be accessible to youngsters so they could learn about the great Italian riders of the past.
It’s definitely worth a trip out of Milan on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon if you are in the area – although you may wish to keep your fingers crossed it will be open on the day, given it is run by volunteers and the very limited opening hours.
Another option for a day trip out of Milan is the much more well-known – and bigger – Museo del Ghisallo, next to the Madonna del Ghisallo church on top of the climb that the riders will tackle this Saturday towards the end of the final Monument of the season, Il Lombardia, with past winners Alejandro Valverde of Movistar and Astana’s Vicenzo Nibali among the favourites in what will for both be the final race of their careers.
It’s a slog by public transport, though – you need to get a train from Milano Cadorna to Canzo-Asso, then a bus the rest of the way, for a minimum journey time of 2 hours each way.
Here’s some more pictures of the collection at the Museo Storico del Ciclismo Bustese.
Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.