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Posts Tagged ‘Piedmont

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

Italian Lake District

with 3 comments

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