Orson’s Travel Blog

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Posts Tagged ‘Emilia Romagna

2010 Central Italy

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After a long layoff, a plan was hatched for a team orson reunion tour. While Greece was originally considered as a focal point, with team orson still recovering from their injuries and, with the Goose having been in mothballs for almost two years, it was decided to play it safe and stay close to home in an attempt to rediscover sport touring. The team was reunited at team orson world headquarters in Parma, Italy and was soon on the road heading southwards.

Tuscany

The first day would end with team orson in the Chianti region of Tuscany. The long layoff had affected team orson’s endurance and they were feeling mighty sore. In the past, team orson plowed ahead, staying in a new locale every night. A decision was made to stay at one place for a few days, making day trips before moving on.

Panzano in Chianti

Panzano in Chianti

Heading southwest from Siena

Southwest from Siena

Someone’s Tuscan weekend bungalow

Weekend Bungalow

Approaching the castle in Rocca d’ Orcia

Rocca d' Orcia

Narrow, cobblestone streets of Rocca d’ Orcia

Cobblestones

Heading south from Rocca d’ Orcia, Monti Amiati, the highest peak in Southern Tuscany looms in the distance

Monti Amiati

Castel del Piano

Castel del Piano

Tuscan autumnal landscapes

Harvest

Returning to Rocca d’ Orcia

Return

An elderly gentleman makes his way up the streets of Rocca d’ Orcia. Team orson had been recommended a nice room nearby with an excellent restaurant

Elderly Gent

Tasty twisties were also sampled

Twisties

We stopped to have lunch in this town whose name now escapes me.

Lunch

Team orson was becoming all too familiar with the pleasures of Italian cuisine where, one course simply will not do. Meals were consumed with no concern given to bulging waistlines. At one lunch stop, an Italian waiter chided team orson for ordering a coke rather than wine with lunch. The fact that I was operating a motor vehicle failed to dissuade him from his stance. It was simply un-Italian. Within a week, team orson had to cut out all desserts.

Something was amiss with team orson’s itinerary. Whereas in the past, an innate sense of wanderlust had propelled us onward, now, wandering aimlessly had caused a feeling of disorientation to set in. A chance meeting with a leather shop owner in Siena changed things. After learning that we were both motorcyclists, a conversation about trips and roads ensued. He mentioned the Isle of Elba and how great the roads were there. A seed had been planted and by the next morning, team orson was heading towards the Tuscan coast.

Approaching the coast through groves of olive trees

Olive Trees

I had planned to stay overnight at the ferry port of Piombino but, arriving by 3:00 P.M., I found that a ferry was leaving in 20 minutes. I purchased a ticket and was soon directed to the front of the line. I had barely enough time to get off the bike and snap this picture of the ferry before the load master was hollering at me to get my butt onboard

Ferry

Elba lies 18 kilometers off the coast of Tuscany so, it was a relatively quick 1 hour crossing. The island is about 40 kilometers long and roughly 10 kilometers wide. As with many islands, time seems to slow down a bit and life is carried out at a more relaxed pace than on the mainland. We found a hotel on a beach and made plans to explore the island the following day.

The cove where the hotel was located

Cove

The next morning we head west from the main city of Portoferraio, following the coastal highway, Monti Capanne, the highest peak on Elba in the distance

Monti Capanne

Approaching the town of Marciana Marina on the north coast

Marciana Marina

The roads of Elba are extremely twisty but, with the heavy traffic, traveling at a sporty pace proved difficult. It seemed that a moped with flip flops and a bathing suit to sample the passing beaches might be the proper choice. After Marciana Marina however, the traffic density was reduced significantly and things began to look up.

When the road broke out of the forest onto the cliffs overlooking the west coast, I was impressed by the view. If you squinted, you might think that you were riding the Pacific Coast Highway in California

West Coast

Cue Tommy Chong voice: Oh wow man! That’s California!

Like California

I stopped in the town of Pomonte for lunch. The primi platti of frutti de mari was absolutely delicious

Frutti di Mare

Unfortunately, the Highway 1 similarity only lasted about 20 kilometers. Heading back east along the south coast

South Coast

The next day would be spent exploring the east side of the island.

Overlooking the main city of Portoferraio across the bay

Bay

Approaching the town of Innamorata

Innamorata

Looking back west along the southern coast from the town of Innamorata

Southern Coast

After two days on the island, we boarded a ferry back to the mainland. Heading across Southern Tuscany, the landscape reminded team orson of Spain

Tuscany

It was on this day that team orson would rediscover sport touring. From the coast, the Strada Statale 322 climbs up into the Appenines with a mix of fast, sweeping bends followed by tighter, more technical twisties. Team orson meshed into a single, strada-strafing unit, dispatching what little traffic they encountered to turn the knob to eleven. The day would end along the shores of Lago di Bolsena which, when viewed on a topographical map, is revealed to be the crater of a giant, extinct volcano.

The town of Bolsena is one of those places, lined with trees and cafes and gelaterias filled with Italians enjoying life, that make one think, “Dang, it sure would be nice to retire here”.

Lago di Bolsena

Leaving Bolsena the next morning, it’s just a short hop to the hill town of Orvieto

Orvieto

Meandering through the narrow streets of Orvieto

Narrow

The mighty, mighty Goose patrols the rampart walls for any signs of approaching Honda hordes

Ramparts

Moto Guzzi V11 Le Mans

Guzzi

Lazio

Leaving Tuscany, team orson enters Lazio. While not as famous as Tuscany or Umbria, Lazio still has some wonderful natural beauty.

Heading into the Grand Sasso National Park north of L’Aquila

Gran Sasso

Team orson was surprised at the quality of the twisties on the eastern fringe of the Appenine mountains. Wonderfully traffic-free, twisty roads that rivaled anything the Alps have to offer. It remains a mystery to team orson why so many focus on the Alps while leaving other fantastic roads untouched but, we are grateful for the lack of traffic

Vast wide open spaces on the northern fringe of Monti Sibillini National Park

Monti Sibillini

The town of Civitella (I think)

Civitella

Umbria

Approaching Spoletto from the south

Spoletto

Tuscany

After almost two weeks of unflinching, sunny blue skies, a day of rain set in. With time running out, we began to head north towards home base. In Northern Tuscany, the mountains become steeper and the terrain becomes almost alpine-like.

The Northern Tuscan spa town of Bagni di Lucca where team orson found a nice little hotel overlooking the river

Bagni di Lucca

Sunny skies returned allowing for a beautiful ride through the Apuan Alps of Northern Tuscany

Apuan Alps

Resistance is futile. If you see the sign of a scorpion in your mirrors, surrender to your fate at the hands of an Abarth-equipped Fiat 500

Fiat

More views of the Apuan Alps

Apuan

Popping out on the Ligurian coast near Portofino

Liguria

Emilia-Romagna

After a rest day in Portofino, team orson begins the final leg of the trip from the coast back to Parma. Team orson was a bit surprised to find some of the best roads on the trip were within a day’s ride from Parma.

Impressive mountain views in the Emilia-Romagna

Emilia-Romagna

The castle overlooking the town of Bardi

Bardi

One final meal

Ravioli

Route Map:

Route Map

Mileage: a paltry 3200 kilometers
Riding Days: 17.5
Rest Days: 1.5
Carabinieri encounters: 0
Deer encounters: 0
Ferry crossings: 2
Bee stings: 1

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Italy’s Appenine Mountains

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Fall 2007

team orson manages to escape for one last fling before winter’s icey tendrils take hold. Being allergic to cold weather, I decided to head southwards along the Appenine mountain range which runs along the entire length of the Italian peninsula.

For the first day of my trip, I decided to put off heading south for a day and explore the province of Parma. While the Emilia Romagna isn’t as popular as Tuscany, it doesn’t lack in natural beauty and doesn’t suffer from bus loads of Japanese and American tourists. I headed west into the foothills of the Appenines on a route suggested by the bike shop’s owner.

I encountered the first castle of the trip. It would be the first of many.

The sun was shining and the roads were twisty as I headed deeper into the mountains. I encountered local riders along the way. You know you’re on the right road when you see the locals.

Near the higher elevations of the Passo di Mercatello, I encounter some fall foilage. While Europe doesn’t seem to have the volcanic fall colors seen in North America, they still provide a nice display

Later in the day, the skies begin to darken and threaten to rain, but the threat does little to dampen the beauty of the Italian countryside. Hang a hard right, give it a little throttle before easing off for the small village dominated by the church spire.

One nice thing about riding in Italy, you’re toodling along, minding your own business when you round a corner and…whoa dude! Nice house! 🙂

The castle dominating the town of Baldi

On our way back to Parma, the mighty mighty goose cools its heels as “night arrives with her purple legions” to descend upon the Appenines, signaling the end of another day.

After a night’s sleep and a proper dosage of cappuccinos, I began to make my way south along the fertile plains that run along the eastern slope of the Appenines along the area so famous for its racing heritage. Home to names such as Ducati, Ferrari and Maseratti.

Stopping at Maranello to snoop around a bit for Ron Dennis 😎

From Maranello, I turn southwest and begin the serpentine climb up into the mountains and into Tuscany

As I climb further and further, the other traffic decreases. Soon, it seems I have the mountains to myself. Again, the fall colors become more prevalent at the higher altitudes.

A mountain village, lies in seclusion deep in the Appenines

A tree lined country lane winds its way through the mountains. In the states, a traffic safety engineer may have deemed these trees unsafe and ordered them to be cut down. In Italy, they remain…just because

Sleepy villages line my route where time seems to stand still, in spite of what the clock tower says

As I approached the town of Pescia, I began to notice small throngs of people lining the route. Many of them were dressed as bicycle racers. I began to suspect something was up. Sure enough, as I rounded a bend, a police bike coming the opposite way, dismissively waved me off the road. Right after that came the usual sights seen at the Tour de France. The team cars, officials, camera bikes, followed by the peloton. I didn’t get my camera out in time and missed a shot of the peloton so you’ll have to settle for a shot of more team cars 🙂

South of Empoli, I was getting into the heart of Tuscany with its picturesque countryside and its romantic villas

I found my way back to a nice villa near San Casciano that I had stayed at a few years earlier. The following morning, I made my way into town to look for a map of Tuscany. If it’s Monday, it must be market day. Everyone comes down to the square to load up their supplies for the week

Armed with a new map, I leave San Casciano headed east into the Chianti foothills. I have no pictures, so you’ll just have to take my word for it, but the roads in this part of Tuscany are exquisite. Fine twisties amongst hillsides dotted by centuries old villages.

Those of you who have been to the Napa and Sonoma valleys will notice the resemblance with this wine growing region. Naturally, team orson would be in dereliction of their duties if they failed to sample some of the local product. 🙂

Lost again. After Montevarchi, I began climbing into the mountains again. Many times in Italy, the maps say one thing, and the road signs say something else. I came across the tiny village of San Clemente who’s “main street” was about 3 feet across. You really have to get along with your neighbors to live in a village like that.

Climbing towards San Clemente

Finally regaining my bearings, I found a main road and started heading south towards Arezzo and Cortona.

The mighty mighty goose waits patiently while I stop to take a picture of a castle. Unable to decide whether to focus on the castle or the Guzzi, the camera chooses the traffic sign 😦

Approaching the walled city of Cortona

I entered the city and puttered around exploring for a bit. Notice the 10 kph speed limit sign. I don’t think they have to worry about enforcing that one

As the sun begins to set, the Guzzi overlooks a small chapel just outside the city walls

I find a B&B near Cortona and rest for the night. The fourth day would find me still heading south under now cloudy skies but no rain into Umbria. I skirt around Lago Trasimeno and make my way towards Todi.

First sighting of Todi.

Between Todi and Orvieto, I encountered a real bit of twisty tarmac. It started a bit rough and bumpy but finished off real nicely. I think the asphalt might have still been smoking the next morning. Here’s a shot of the visually stunning city of Orvieto. I really wished the sun had been shining for this one. It reminded me of an Imperial battle cruiser from Star Wars.

The end of the fourth day found me on the shores of Lago di Bolsena where I found a nice hotel to take me in for the night. Now, time is running out on my journey and I need to begin heading back north towards Parma. I depart Bolsena under still cloudy skies.

The roads leading north back into Tuscany are pleasingly twisty, just as most of the roads have been since my journey began.

The Tuscan roads wind their way past hilltop villages, too numerous to keep track of

The sun begins to make an appearance as the mighty mighty goose cuts a handsome profie with the Tuscan landscape as a backdrop

At Pontedera, near Pisa, I decide to call it a night. Tomorrow will sadly be the last day of the journey. I take the autostrada and cut north along the coast to La Spezia before I cut inland towards Parma. I climb into the Appenines one last time under brilliant skies

Yet another castle!

The final pass over the Apuan Alps

I descended the final few kilometers into Parma before handing my bike over to its caretakers. All in all, it was probably one of my best trips in Italy. I kept to the backroads for most of the time and really enjoyed some fine motorcycling roads as well as the awesome countryside.

Distance: 1700 km / 1056 miles in 6 days
Carabinieri interaction: 0
Puckers: 1
Deer encounters: 0
Bee stings: 0

Route:

Tuscanny, Spring 2007

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Spring 2007

I flew into Milan and grabbed a cab for the Estacione Centrale to catch a train to Parma. Cue picture of Milan’s cavernous train station…

Arriving in Parma after about 2 hours, I grab another quick cab ride to Moto Guareschi. Home base for my Gootsi where they lovingly fondle it and whisper sweet nuthins into its ears to get it to purr contentedly.

After paying my bill and renewing my insurance, I’m ready to hit the road. I didn’t really have a route planned other than to try to loop south through Tuscany. I hadn’t made it 5 kilometers before I realized I forgot to put my ear plugs in. While stopped, a guy comes running up to me gushing about the Guzzi and wanting to take a picture with his cell phone. The fame of Guzzi ownership is something you never get used to. If only it had this effect on young women!

Making my way westward out of Parma, I soon came upon the beautiful Torrechiara Castle, built over 500 years ago in the Parma Valley.

About 30 minutes later I came upon the ruins of another castle whose name escapes me.

Continuing westward in the Province of Parma…a medeivel farming village in the foothills of the Apuan Alps…

I continue climbing up over the Apuan Alps and into Tuscany. I’m surprised to see there’s still quite a bit of snow on the ground. Unfortunately, the day is overcast so I didn’t think to take any pictures. The sky turns menacingly dark in spots and for a few moments I worry that I’m about to get drenched but alas, my fears are unfounded and I’m spared.

While studying the map, I notice the Cinque Terre region on the Ligurian coast. Hmmmm. In an instant, a change in plans. Tuscany would have to wait a day. I’m this close to the Ligurian coast, why not? This is one of the reasons I don’t book hotels in advance…I never know where I’ll end up! I grabbed a hotel room in the seaside resort of Portvenere and enjoyed a nice seafood meal.

The Cinque Terre region is named after five villages precariously perched on the rocky shores of eastern Liguria. Kinda has a California Highway 1 vibe going…

The village of Riomaggiore.

more coastline…

I think this is looking down on the village of Manarola. They have toll booths set up before you get into each town. I can’t say that I blame them or otherwise they’d be swamped by tourist traffic in the summertime.

I think this is a picture of the village of Vernazza with the village of Corniglia in the distance.

It was midday by the time I reached the last village of Monterosso so, I turned around and headed back south towards Tuscany and the Apuan Alps. The Apuan Alps are impressive indeed. While they don’t reach the same heigths as their more famous namesake, they seem impressive enough just the same and the roads are no less a challenge. The northern part of Tuscany is more rugged and mountainous than the south.

An abandoned farmhouse in northern Tuscany

Where’s that confounded bridge? The last time I was in Tuscany, I spent a few hours trying to find this bridge. It was right here the whole time! The Ponte di Maddalena near the town of Lucca. It was built over 700 years ago. It was one of the few bridges not blown up by the Germans during World War II because they didn’t think the Allies could get Sherman tanks across it.

I stopped for the night in the beautiful town of Bagni di Lucca. Before I left Parma, Vitto Guareschi had invited me to a track day at Mugello. Not being no fool, I quickly took him up on his offer. It might be the closest I ever get to a GP!

Leaving Bagni di Lucca for Mugello, I came across another ancient looking bridge.

Determined not to use the Autostrada, I forced myself into downtown Florence, determined to make my way north. I’m a Luddite who refuses to use such aids as GPS so I plowed ahead. Unfortunately, I ended up getting lost big time. Each time I decided to retreat to the relative safety of the Autostrada, I’d spy another sign that would only lure me deeper into its clutches. I finally gave up after about an hour and made my way north along the Autostrada to Mugello….

When they aren’t working at Papa Guareschi’s Guzzi shop, Vitto Guareschi is Ducati’s Moto GP test pilot. Nice work if you can get it. Gianfranco Guareschi races the MGS-01 for the Guzzi factory. On this day, Vitto was testing tires on a pair of new 1098s

I left Mugello at 3 p.m. as it was a gorgeous day and I wanted to get some more riding in. The hills around Mugello offer some great roads, including the famous Paso di Futa, where Ducati test riders ride from nearby Bologna. The Paso di Futa was also part of the famous Mille Miglia road race.

The sun was getting down to that golden hour time and yet, I didn’t want to stop riding. I pressed on through the golden sunlight

This isn’t a side street. This is the main road through this small town…beautiful

A sunny day in Tuscany on a motorcycle…does not suck.

Tuscan twisties

Finally, around 6 p.m., I called it quits and found a hotel near the racetrack. The next day would be my last and I would have to make my way back to Parma. But I still had time to enjoy the Tuscan roads until heading north at midday. I made my way through the hilly terrain to the beautiful town of Stia. Stia has a wonderful medeival town square.

I finally ran out of time and began heading north. Unfortunately, I had to use the Autostrada to make time but, you have to take the good with the bad. I left the bike with the Guareschi boys, bade my farewells and made my way back to Milan.

Total distance- 1450 kilometers / 900 miles in 4 days
Pucker moments- 0
Cop sightings- 1. I saw two policeman standing on the side of the road with their lollypops ready but they seemed involved in an animated discussion about soccer or women and ignored passing traffic.

One more for the road.