I literally grew up in a motor vehicle factory. Day after day, from my earliest childhood, I lived amid the production lines of all sorts of two-, three- and four-wheel vehicles. The factory churned out quantities of motorcycles, mini-vans and, later, the famous Isetta-an egg-shaped city vehicle whose front door opened in such a way as to allow entry without ever having to bend down. We then moved to building sports cars (the various IsoRivolta models), snowmobiles, and a series of Formula 1 racers (the IsoRivolta Marlboro)-to name a few of our sexiest products.
The factory, our home and the extensive tree-covered grounds were all surrounded by the same wall, and life there was a kind of symbiosis of these three elements. The entire complex occupied most of downtown Bresso, a small town outside Milan, Italy. Inside that little world, successes and problems united people, animals and things.
Two well-defined classes of people gravitated round the facilities. There were those who were part of the factory organization, who either spent their days at the plant or worked beyond the gates to defend the firm's colors in other parts of Italy and abroad; and there were those from the outside world who came to us-customers, visitors and journalists. The former felt as if they belonged to one big family-a feeling that most of them retained even after moving on (myself included). The "outsiders," who often hailed from far and wide, were always thought of as friends of the business and the family and were treated accordingly.
With them, they brought a variety of customs, as well as problems that needed solving, and most of all, a boundless store of enthusiasm which, indeed, proved contagious. You see, at our factory we produced some very special, unique objects that men often fell in love with-perhaps because they had wheels and could be driven; perhaps because they went fast and never talked back. My father had a magnetic personality and was extremely generous. He died in 1966 at the age of 57, during a slump in the business. I was 25 at the time, a newlywed with a degree in mechanical engineering that I'd received less than a year before from the Milan Polytechnic. I had to shift into high gear while still mourning the loss of my dad, whose passing left a scar in me that has never completely vanished.
Luckily, during my university years I had only attended those afternoon application sessions in which attendance was mandatory, while my mornings were spent at the plant. Even as a youngster, my favorite after-school activity had always been hanging round the factory. I still have warm memories of the friendships I made there. Though I never got the highest grades, I breezed through my engineering studies thanks to the rich human and practical experience I had gained inside my father's factory. Upon his passing I took the helm and was caught up by the same frenzy that had marked his life. I burned with the desire to create, take risks; I had inherited a credo of seeking out new experiences, knowledge, and sensations. Joy came in making new and beautiful things that procured happiness for us as well as for others. Most of all, my father had transmitted to me the longing to always be a free man, to be the master, as far as it is possible, of one's own destiny, able to assume life's responsibilities without being overly influenced by boards of directors, committees, religions and, especially, political ideologies and politics in general. His lifestyle had shown me that one could ignore geographical and cultural boundaries artificially set up by men, and look at the world with a much broader perspective. This vision of life, which he handed down to me, has led me along paths that at times have been quite difficult, paths where one is sometimes left standing powerless and looking on as positive human power is squandered and lost. After experiences in different parts of Italy and the world, I literally dropped anchor-I arrived via sailboat-to the beautiful and cultured city of Sarasota, which lies on Florida's west coast, looking out across the Gulf of Mexico. It is here I hope to remain, until one day my ashes are dispersed by the waters of the Gulf.
I still keep that memory of the big yellow villa, my home in the green, wooded estate outside Milan, and of my life in that busy industrial city of northern Italy. My family still owns an apartment on the ground floor of the old villa, with a bit of yard just for ourselves, amid what has become Renzo Rivolta Park. I return every so often, when I can manage a break from my hectic schedule, and the place is like a safe, quiet oasis for me, where I am soothed by the house's thick walls, the trees I know one by one because I have watched them grow; some I even planted myself.
The need for open space and freedom inculcated in me by my father, along with his own strange physical need for adrenaline, have driven me to seek out a life brimming experiences and changes. To begin with, I brushed aside all the rules which people usually adhere to if they want to make a successful career for themselves or simply become rich. The first of these rules is build yourself a resume, a business card that clearly identifies who you are, what you do and how you do it. You work to make this resume more and more credible until you reach a point where the system itself just drags you along. As long as you don't make any huge blunders, you've passed the test-you don't have to be first in the class any more, or prove that you yourself actually ever attained all that you set out to.
A publisher once asked me to write the story of my life. Who knows whether I'll ever have the time, or even whether it's been interesting enough to entertain readers? For now, I'd be stuck as to finding a fil rouge to make the whole thing comprehensible. All I can put on my business card is my name and the name of the company I work for, which are one and the same. There is one single constant in my life, though: the straightforwardness and stubbornness with which I cope with life's daily challenges.
On the work front, I've built sports cars, snowmobiles and Formula 1 racers; I've raised horses in the country and managed a riding stable; I've designed and developed a variety of transport vehicles, including quadricycles, electric cars and buses. I've even organized music festivals, one of which I am particularly proud: La Musica, the International Chamber Music Festival in Sarasota. Over the years, I have constructed factories, directed a large textile mill; I have built office and apartment buildings, fairly large-sized communities, shopping centers, marinas; I have co-founded a bank. For many years I served as president of a prestigious golf club with a 36-hole course, designed and built by my firm (despite the fact that I don't actually play golf-I had to put up quite a front before various committees and at governors' meetings!). My latest madness involved the design and construction of yachts. I'm no longer a young fellow, but I still have plenty of projects in the hopper.
All of this surely runs against the grain when it comes to the cultural and economic trends of our times. Today, success is measured more in terms of quantity than quality. And it seems that only a precise, repetitive and unrelenting marketing image can succeed in reaching sought-after sales results. This way of thinking doesn't bother me in the slightest, it's just that, unfortunately, I can't apply it-I can't live it. I consider this one of my limitations. Sometimes I ask myself how I've been able to survive, keep my own company going (which, even though it is small, continues to enjoy excellent health) and to progress. I think that while quantity may mean business, passion and quality are protected by the spirit that makes the world go round. I look out and gaze upon the city lights in the distance, and listen to the far-off hum, entranced.
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