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Italy’s Piedmont Region

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Just a quickie one week trip report in Northern Italy for the Guzzi gathering and a trip to the Piedmont Region…

team orson arrived in Italy just in time for Moto Guzzi’s 90th anniversary party in Mandello del Lario on the shores of idyllic Lake Como. From Parma to the Italian Lake District is but a mere three hour jaunt via la autostrada. Usually, seeing another Guzzi on the road is a rare event however, as I approached Lake Como almost all the bikes seen on the road were other Guzzis, which was rather a strange experience.

The only hotel I could find was across the lake in Bellagio, but this really wasn’t a problem as Lake Como ferries run regular routes across the lake. After checking in to the hotel, I boarded the ferry for the 15 minute ride across the lake to Varenna.

Taking in the views and the cool lake breezes on the crossing

Ferry

Nuthin but Guzzis on the ferry. I met some Dutch riders who had ridden from Holland to Mandello in one day.

Guzzi

Approaching ferry port of Varenna on the eastern shore of Lake Como.

Varenna

From Varenna to Mandello was a quick 15 minute hop. Many businesses along the road to Mandello had Guzzi banners hung out to welcome the hordes. I arrived late Friday afternoon and the place was already brimming with Guzzisti. As I walked around taking in the sights, Guzzisti from all over Europe continued to roll into town.

Guzzi Factory

Sport touring as it once was

Old Guzzi

By Saturday morning, the place was really filling up

Mandello Park

Italian fast food

Fast Food

Somehow, a Benelli managed to infiltrate the event

Benelli

After two days spent ogling the bikes, it was time to move on. Leaving Lake Como, an early snowfall had dusted the alpine foothills

Lake Como

I headed west along the base of the Alps. The roads on the southern side of the lakes are clogged with traffic and it’s not until you get past the western most lake, Lake Orta, that I begin to get a respite.

Alpine

I spot a road on the map that heads up into the mountains before dead ending at the ski resort of Alagna Valsesia. I’m always intrigued by those end-of-the-road places and decided to make that my stop for the night. The town seems a veritable ghost town with most hotels closed for the season, but I luck out and manage to find a hotel that has remained open.

The following morning dawns with clear blue skies providing a clear view of the largest mountain in the area, La Monte Rosa.

Monte Rosa

Heading back down into the lowlands of the Po Valley

Valley

There’s a rather abrupt transition from the mountains to the plains

Plains

A small village with the snow peaked Alps in the distance

Village

As I continue southwards, the terrain begins to turn to undulating hills as I reach the Langhe area of Piedmont.

Piedmont

The Lonely Planet refers to Piedmont as β€˜Tuscany without the tourists’, as its hills lined with vineyards bears a resemblance to its southern counterpart.

Vineyards

The area is famous for its wines as well as its white truffles. I stay at the Hotel Castello di Sinio run by an American woman with a super friendly staff and a great ambiance. I manage to arrive right during the white truffle season and get an opportunity to sample truffles in the local cuisine. The Piedmont Region has become known as the seat of the Slow Food movement in Italy. I’ve stated before that it’s almost impossible to get a bad meal in Italy.

Food

Langhe

Piedmont has an undiscovered air about it, as the vast hordes of tourists and tourist buses seen in Tuscany are absent, making you feel as if you have the whole place to yourself.

Castle

Wine

The area around Asti and Alba is crisscrossed with roads snaking their way through farms and vineyards. As it was harvest time, I often encountered farm tractors on the road but they moved slowly so it was fairly easy to pass them.

Road

Italy

After two days in Piedmont, it was time to make my way back to home base in Parma. I think that one of the reasons there are so few visitors to the Langhe area is that it is difficult to traverse from east to west. Most of the main roads run perpendicular to the coast, leaving paved goat trails running east to west. This might be why most people stay on the autostrada and continue on down to Tuscany.

Still, I was determined not to take the autostrada to Parma and forged ahead, stringing together a series of backroads. Just south of Tortona, I decided to stop for the night. I continued forging my way eastward by sticking to the backroads. The terrain was still hilly, but less picturesque than the Langhe, so I didn’t stop for any pictures. Sometimes I took a wrong fork in the road and would end up on a remote goat trail before my instincts kicked in and told me that this didn’t seem like a major artery.

Finally, at around two in the afternoon, I reached the town of Bardi with a main highway leading to Parma. The road from Bardi to Parma is a stellar motorcycling road with fast, sweeping curves seemingly custom made for the Goose. The Guzzi’s massive torque, like an avalanche sweeping away everything before it, easily overtook any cars in its path. Before long, we were back in Parma bringing a great week of riding to an end.

Trip statistics:
Riding Days: 7
Rest Days: 1
Mileage: 2500 km
Police encounters: 0
Bee stings: 0

Route Map:

Map

Written by orsonstravels

October 1, 2011 at 2:43 pm

Tuscany I

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November ’04

I had scheduled the first week in November to get one last ride in before the onset of winter in Italy. My intention was to take it easy, take some pictures of some picturesque Tuscan villages & generally putter about with no general sense of urgency. As the trip grew nearer, I kept checking the weather on the internet in hopes that there might be some glimmer of fall left. My hopes kept getting dashed upon the rocky shore of reality as, each time I checked, all I could see was a line of icons showing gray clouds with little rain drops eminating. I kept checking again and again in hopes that the weatherman had made a mistake or the weather had taken a turn for the better but, alas, nothing but rain clouds appeared for the entire week. As I already had purchased a plane ticket, I decided to go ahead and try to make the best of a damp situation. I flew into Milano, hopped onto a train to Parma & checked into my hotel. Parma is a nice city with many sights to see including a fantastic rennaisance era theater. However, that wasn’t what I was here for. Things looked grim as I woke up the next morning and heard a thunderclap which was followed by a rain shower.

I headed for the bike shop like a man headed to the firing squad. As I prepared the bike, the rain had stopped but, the skies were still gray. It was almost 12 noon before I was ready to get under way so, I made the decision to slab it down to Florence on the autostrada (interstate). This decision was also due in part to the fact that BIKE magazine had rated the autostrada between Bologna & Florence as one of the best rides in Europe.

Around mid-afternoon I began to see vague shadows appear. The skies were getting brighter though, they were still gray but, hey, the roads were drying up & I was riding my bike. Things could be worse. As for the autostrada’s great rating? I was less than impressed. It was still an interstate to me though, it did have some curves thrown in. I guess the interstates west of Denver would be comparable. The view was quite different though. Pure Tuscany. Italian pines dotted the landscape looking for all the world like the backdrop to a Leonardo Da Vinci painting.

By late afternoon, patches of blue began to appear. Hey! What is this? Maybe I’ll get lucky. After missing my exit and going 50 km before stopping to check the map (eyeroll) I managed to find my way to the villa I would be staying at in San Casciano, just south of Florence.

Here is a photo of the Villa Il Poggialo. This would be my home for the next 2 nights. Kinda looks like what a Tuscan villa should look like, huh. It’s a family run place & me and my Guzzi were made to feel more than welcome. It felt like I was staying at someone’s house. Well, it did used to be the family’s house.

I woke up the next morning to a vibrant blue sky. Bonus! The weatherman was obviously still asleep. After breakfast, I loaded up & headed south through the Chianti foothills towards Siena, the smell of harvested grapes heavy in the air. Since I was sticking to the backroads & the towns I would be going through were centuries old, I expected that the roads would also be centuries old. WOW! Was I ever wrong! The roads were fantastic! Imagine two parts Napa Valley, one part Deal’s Gap, set the blender to “liquify”. Enjoy! I did just that! The roads dipped and weaved through breathtaking scenery & this time of year there was hardly any traffic.

Picture of a Tuscan farm house. I’d love to live here but, the Brits have bought up all the property driving the prices sky high.

Quite possibly the bike industy’s most beautiful sport tourer, the Le Mans stops to take in the view near the village of Radda in Chianti. πŸ™‚

stopped for lunch in the scenic village of Monte San Savino. I ate at the little bar / gelateria across the street. It’s against my religion to eat at a McDonalds in Italy. It’s impossible have a quick meal here. If you try to get by with just one course, they look at you kinda funny. Count on spending 1 hour to have a nice meal. Well worth it!

The view from the other side of the portal. Itty bitty Italian cars were zipping through the portal at a frightening clip (frightening for me at least).

After lunch, I turned back, going through Siena, then north thru Colle di Val d’Elsa. Here is a picture from outside the city walls.

The mighty Goose pauses near the town of San Gimignano. San Gimignano is a tourist hot spot as it is reknown for its famous towers. I was cruising the back streets when I came into the main “pedestrian only” throughfare. Imagine their surprise when a Guzzi mounted hoodlum hurtled into their midst. Realizing my mistake, I did a quick U-ey, leaving the dazed tourists to wonder,”who was that masked man”?

I ended the day back at the villa. What a gorgeous day it turned out to be! 70 degree temperatures and fabulous roads too! I sat on the veranda with a glass of port wine watching the sunset go from pale blue & hot pink to pale blue & crimson over the Tuscan hills.

I was to be blessed with more blue skies on my third day! On this day, I headed to northern Tuscany where the Appenine mountains lie. The roads got tighter and slower but, the scenery was more of the same. The Appenines climb as high as 6000′ making for cooler riding but, at least it wasn’t raining, causing me to tip toe thru the curves so, I wasn’t complaining. Temperatures hovered in the high 60’s low 70’s.

Here near another picturesque village called Cutigliano, the exotic Goose pauses for a breather. πŸ™‚

I’m sorry I couldn’t take pictures of almost half the beautiful sights I saw. Most of the time the road was just too narrow to safely pull over and snap a picture. Y’all are just gonna have to go there & ride it yourself πŸ™‚

In northern Tuscany, the Guzzi overlooks the town of Barga with the Apuan Alps in the background.

Last one. This one’s called,”take the long way home”.

Descending from the Appeniness down to the plains of Parma, the roads opened up & became faster & sweepier. Good stuff! A good way to end the trip. Unfortunately, all trips have to come to an end. This one was much too short but, I cheated the weatherman by getting 3 days of glorious blue skies so, I can’t complain. Tip toeing thru wet curves sucks.

Mileage: 1100 km in 3.5 days

Italian Lake District

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Fall 2008

team orson managed to get one last ride in before winter’s icey tendrils gripped the Italian landscape. We decided to stay close to home and explore the Italian Lake district in the foothills of the Alps. After retrieving my Guzzi from Moto Guareschi in Parma, we made our way north via the backroads under sunny blue skies.

The first lake encountered would be Lake Garda. The southern end of the lake is a bit touristy, including the kitschy Gardaland, an italian takeoff on Disneyland. However, once you head north along the lake shore, you encounter many quaint villages, some with their own medievel castles.

Stopping for a leisurely lunch at the town of Garda on the east side of the lake.

Climbing up into the hills that surround the lake provide a better view.

At the north end of the lake, in the town of Arco, stands the imposing 12th century Castello di Arco.

Heading south on the western shore of Lake Garda, the road spends half the time cutting thru tunnels due to the steep cliffs.

The plan had been to head west towards Lake Como. However, at a gas stop in the town of Storo, just west of Lake Garda, the Goose began running on one cylinder. Fortunately, there was a car/motorcycle garage right across the street. The mechanic couldn’t do anything for me, but offered to load up the bike in his truck and take me to the Guzzi dealer in Rovereto.

I found a hotel room for the night and returned to the Guzzi shop the next morning. As they weren’t making any headway, they offered to let me take a new Moto Guzzi V7 for a ride. never one to turn down a free test ride, I jumped on it before they had any second thoughts. I headed southeast from Rovereto on SS46 thru the Passo Piani di Fugazzi. This is quite a spectacular pass with freshly paved tarmac and the little Guzzi performed admirably. Unfortunately, it had no place for my camera, so no pictures 😦

Returning to Rovereto, they were still having no luck diagnosing the Guzzi’s electrical problem. With the weekend looming, I didn’t want to be stranded, so I called Mr. Guareschi to come rescue me, since I was only 2 hours from Parma. For those who haven’t heard of him, Papa Guareschi is to Moto Guzzi as Pops Yoshimura was to Suzuki πŸ™‚

Returning me and my Guzzi to Parma in his van, and seeing the next day was a Sunday, he kindly offered me the use of his new Moto Guzzi Stelvio. Top bloke. I stayed in Parma the night before continuing my vacation the following day.

Not willing to lose any more precious time, I blasted north to Lake Como via la autostrada. Lake Como is the spiritual home to Guzzisti the world over. Every Guzzisti is required by his faith to make the pilgrimage to Lake Como at least once in his lifetime πŸ™‚

Heading north to Bellagio

Lake Como is shaped like an upside down Y with the idyllic town of Bellagio at the tip of a peninsula where the Y comes together. I arrived on a Sunday afternoon and Bellagio was bustling wth day trippers from Milan, including a wide assortment of bikers.

I also saw quite a noticeable contingent of Harley riders. Not the wannabe badasses seen in North America. These were the style with the wide beach bars. I call them George Clooney clones, as Mr. Clooney has been known to partake on the Lake Como roads on his Harley from his nearby villa.

An Aston Martin Vantage V-12 is like honey to a bear for Italians πŸ™‚

The following morning, I hop on one of the numerous ferries to Menaggio on the western shore. Looking back at Bellagio off the ferry stern, the good weather was still staying with me.

I follow the old road north along the lake.

From Menaggio, I continue west to Lake Lugano. Italy shares Lake Lugano with Switzerland, however, wanting to avoid border crossing delays and snooty Swiss border guards, I decide to stay in Italy. I trace the southern shore of Lake Lugano before heading south into the hills between Lake Lugano & Lake Como.

October is a wonderful time to visit Italy. Most of the tourists have gone home, leaving the roads and the sites relatively traffic free. A soft, autumnal light caresses the landscape giving everything a portrait quality.

Climbing the road into the hills with Lake Lugano in the background.

Tiny villages cling to mountainsides.

The further I got into the hills, the narrower, the road became. It was probably a good thing I was on the Stelvio, as the road became a veritable goat path.

After about 20 kilometers of this, I finally made it over the ridgeline and began decending with Lake Como stretching out below me. Typical narrow streets encountered in the small mountain villages. Yes, trucks and busses pass this way.

With the sun sinking in the west, I tried to capture an image of the steep Lake Como hillside near the town of Pigra. Apologies for the poor lighting.

This was the best shot I could get of the road that clings to the lake shore near the town of Argegno.

Making my way back to Menaggio, it’s late afternoon by the time I hop on a ferry back to my hotel in Bellagio. Approaching Bellagio on the ferry.

You’d be hardpressed to find a lovlier village than Bellagio…

Narrow shopping street in Bellagio.

A park and a weir at the tip of the Bellagio peninsula looking west towards Menaggio.

Another narrow alleyway opens up onto a view of the lake.

A quiet lakeside cafe

I head south towards Lecco at dusk to capture the image of the road carved from rock. Apologies for the poor lighting. The ever-suffering team orson photographer continues to whine that he can’t work with inferior equipment.

Another ferry approaches Bellagio. The ferry service is quite efficient as I never had to wait more than 15 minutes to catch one. The Italians love for speed is evident in the super cool hydrofoils that ply the lakes.

Disclaimer: team orson regrets having to post these images of rampant hedonism. It is hoped that by publishing these images, we can better understand the mindset of the hedonist.

Sunset over Lake Como from the hotel balcony.

Watching the news, it is evident that an imminent cold front is approaching from northern Europe and bringing rain with it. team orson is forced to make an executive decision and drop down south to a defensive line along the Ligurian coast. The next morning still has blue skies, so we make time for a quick dash eastward via Varese, skirting Lake Varese to the Lake Maggiore ferry crossing at Laveno.

Crossing Lake Maggiore looking towards Verbania on the opposite shore.

Staying ahead of the cold front, we follow the western shore of the lake heading southwards to Arona, before jumping onto la autostrada for a quick 3 hour dash to the Ligurian coast.

The Isola Borromee are a trio of islands that have ornate gardens and palaces built by the Borromee family since the 1650s.

Regarding the Lake District as a motorcycling destination, in all honesty, the roads aren’t conducive to sport riding. The roads are very twisty with lots of traffic and few places to pass, even for a motorcycle. There are few roads inland from the lakes, as the mountain terrain is so steep. Mr. Clooney’s idea of cruising around on a Harley make more sense. If you can’t go fast, you may as well go slow and enjoy the lush views.

Approaching Genoa on the coast, I find myself tiring of the autostrada and beat a quick exit for a road following the coastline in the hills above Genoa. It turns out to be a fortuitous decision as the road turns out to be a freshly paved supermotard track. Unfortunately it’s a track that contains four-wheeled competitors so care must be taken on blind curves πŸ™‚

I have to say…Gawd, I love Italian riding. Motorcycles can get away with anything short of murder and cops just look the other way πŸ™‚ You pass where you want, when you want and nobody honks at you. Solid white lines are meaningless. There were times when I would fall back into American riding, trundling along behind slower traffic, only to be buzzed by a sweet young thing on her moped.

I’m old enough now where my manhood isn’t threatened by such things. In one town a young thang zipped by me, while waving to a friend she saw. At least she wasn’t texting and waving. I stayed behind her on the narrow road to Portofino. Coming around one corner, we met a bus that took up most of the road, leaving a three foot gap between the bus and a wall of granite. Miss moped didn’t bat an eyelash, kept the throttle pinned and shot the gap between the bus and the wall. I stayed in her mirrors just to preserve my masculinity πŸ™‚

Approaching the coast overlooking the town of Santa Margherita.

I decide to head for the quaint, if touristy village of Portofino and find a hotel that can make a martini. I strike paydirt, scoring a nice hotel near the mouth of the harbor.

The road leading to Portofino.

Last time I visited Portofino was in May of 2002 and I had gotten a bad vibe from the place from the rampant tourism. In October, it was a different story. With the throngs of tourists gone, you could almost squint and imagine what a lovely place it once was.

My plan to escape the rain had worked, as I had awoken to overcast skies, but no rain. After the funfilled supermotard track of the previous day, I decided to head up into the Ligurian hills and explore. I was finally encountering some motorbike worthy roads.

I came away very impressed with the hills around Genoa. I must make it a point to explore this region with more thoroughness πŸ™‚

The final day on the road dawned with cloudy skies yet again, but the clouds had yet to unleash their damp revenge. After a leisurely breakfast with one last dossage of Italian cappuccinos, I head towards Parma across the autumn-hued Appenine range.

Trip route:

[IMG]http://i19.photobucket.com/albums/b173/Orsoni/image_map-7.gif[/IMG]

Mileage: uhmmm…I lost track. Maybe close to 2000 km in 8 days.
Carabinieri encounters: 1
Puckers: 1 (sand in curve)
Bee stings: 0

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! πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚

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. πŸ™‚

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.