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Old 10-22-2010, 05:03 PM   #1
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Richard Alps-aholic
 
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Riding Tuscany, Umbria, Abruzzo and Lazio

Alps-aholics anonymous, no 12 steps here, the first step will get you in the club, we are at step six, and have no hope or desire for a cure. We have traveled to Europe to ride on two wheels six times now, doing our own planning and with Beach’s Motorcycle Adventures, this trip is again with the Beach’s, on their Italian Idyll tour. There is a definite advantage to the right tour, no hassle with airport transportation, bike rental, hauling lots of luggage around for two weeks, wondering if the place you plan to ride to has any suitable lodging, etc. Just get your plane ticket and pack your gear and be assured you will ride the best roads, stay in great locations, and get a GPS filled with four or five great routes for each day, developed over 38 years in business.

We left Thursday September 30 from Toronto and flew to Paris, where we grabbed the train and did the obligatory trip to the Eiffel Tower to take a picture or three, then stopped at a small sidewalk café, and shared a small pizza before hopping on the train to head back to the Airport and on to Florence.







We spent the next four nights at Rossi’s Villa in Tuscany. .................................................. ................................... No not THAT Rossi, but Rossi of Martini and Rossi fame.



Rob Beach, Gretchen and Scott the van driver, were staying at the villa just south of Florence Italy, for the week between tours, and, as we were arriving early, they invited us to stay in one of the unused rooms, until we all hit the roads for the two week tour, needless to say we took them up on their offer. We stayed in one of the smaller buildings.





The Villa dates back to the early 1300’s, with some references as far back as the 1100’s and last major renovation in the 1700’s, The Villa is situated on a hill, with a beautiful view, of the surrounding valleys and vineyards, of course. . There is a working winery in the basement of the building we are staying and the musty aroma of winemaking filters through the Villa.







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Old 10-22-2010, 05:05 PM   #2
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Saturday we slept in a little, as we were getting over the lack of sleep on the flights over, combined with jetlag. All was good anyway as it was a bit foggy and cool, so we took a little walk into town and purchased some supplies for the next few days, we stopped at the local department store to purchase some fresh tomatoes, romaine lettuce, peppers and other salad fixins. The store has a good selection of fresh vegetables, toys, kitchen supplies, and a large variety of sundries as well as a large book and magazine section, all in a building about 30 x 30 feet.








Then on to the Butcher shop, for some meat for dinner, the grocery store, for some sparkling water, and a fresh coffee cake for dessert, you can get almost anything you need in these three establishments, all the size of a typical American living room. After our shopping spree, it was time to stop at the bar, for our first cup of cappuccino, made like nowhere else but Italy, where true coffee drinker genuflect the coffee machines.





As the morning wore on the fog burned off so we grabbed the R1200GS that will be out wheels for the next two weeks. We loaded our cold and wet weather gear in the saddlebags, and I attached my tank bag and GPS. It is nice having the van to carry our clothes and extra gear, and not have to lug the bags up every night; in fact I hope I don’t have to open the saddlebags again, until we are ready to pack for home. By the time we geared up, the sky was blue and bright, with a few scattered puffy clouds gracing the hills. Temps were about 70 degrees, perfect riding weather.



We headed NE from the Villa, to avoid the towns as much as possible. I have to say every time I start telling myself some of the roads in the Smokies are comparable, I simply blow away that myth in the first 20 kM. All I can say is in just an afternoon, I am well on my way to another “FIX” of European riding.

I had spotted a couple of small roads that looked promising on my detailed Michelin maps that I plugged into the GPS, and headed for. As we turned off the main road onto the first one, we soon passed a group of four sport bikes were heading in the other direction, a good sign for sure. As we continued along the sport bikes kept coming along, so I knew I was found what I was looking for, I was not disappointed. As the road started to go up, and the shifter was notched down, the road soon became tight and twisty, just like I like them. Settling in on 2nd gear, with just an occasional foray into 1st and 3rd, will tell you just how nice this road was, the corners had a nice rhythm of endless linked tight S turns, that just kept unfolding in front of us. If there is a motorcyclists heaven, then these hills are surely filled with kindred spirits dancing to the rhythms of the roads. I will say that there are stretches of fun pavement in the states, but they usually only last five to ten minutes, if you are lucky. The first road took about 45 minutes to traverse, and about 20 minutes to get acclimated to the different handling characteristics of the GS, and for me to start getting comfortable and loose the feeling I was learning to ride all over again. It is funny how ingrained our actions get, that when placed on something just a little different, we can feel like a baby just learning to walk, and our seemingly automatic inputs take some thought, until we overwrite the gray matter, and all is balanced in the world again.

We made a turn to the North on another, wonderful twist deserted piece of pavement, over Passo Della Calla, then I turned back to the SW, on what appeared to be a fairly straight road, but instead was a delightful stretch of pavement, think NC 28, on steroids, and two to three times longer, the rhythm only interrupted by some sparse traffic. As we got close to the villa again, I took some narrow roads that weaved in and out of vineyards, groves and farms with tractors hauling grapes in crates, picked fresh, headed to be crushed and fermented into fine wine.

We were riding about four hours and only covered 190km, or about 115 miles, and I was riding hard enough to make sure there were no chicken strips and to take a little material off the centerstand, of the tall GS. I know this does not sound like many miles, but believe me we were running a good clip, and only stopped for fuel and a couple of times for a picture or two, and to stretch our legs.

We stopped and purchased a couple of bottles of wine to have with the dinner made from the mornings shopping trip. After whetting our pallets with a little Grappa, while the meal was cooking. Finished off the night sipping on some local white wine, while typing this.
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Old 10-22-2010, 07:59 PM   #3
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Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh....... wait for it.......... you suck.






I can't stop staring at those pics. Man oh man.
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Old 10-23-2010, 02:21 AM   #4
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Old 10-23-2010, 03:04 AM   #5
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Please keep it coming.

Wife and I are booked for a week in early May with CIMT tours. We talked to Beach but they only do two weeks. When early arrival site seeiing was factored in, just too much time.
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Old 10-23-2010, 06:53 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hap Hazard
Please keep it coming.

Wife and I are booked for a week in early May with CIMT tours. We talked to Beach but they only do two weeks. When early arrival site seeiing was factored in, just too much time.
A week is never enough time, it takes 3-5 days to get comfortable with European riding, if you have not been recently, and then you need at least a week to have fun, before the last 2 or 3 days are wishing you could stay longer, and fret going home. If you can pull it off take the time and do it right. You will kick yourself in the butt, for not taking more time, guaranteed!
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Old 10-23-2010, 12:56 PM   #7
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Sunday 10/3/10

The weather forecast sounded a little poor for today, but when I woke up to a bright morning sky, at 6 am, I was pleased. I felt rested, so I grabbed the camera and went for a morning walk, around the grounds and olive groves. As I stepped out the door I was hit by the sweet musty smell of the winery below, mixed with the fresh cool morning air The Olive, cedar and oak trees were filled with birds singing cheerfully in the misty morning sun.






After shooting a bunch of pictures, and having a pleasant stroll, I came back and started a pot of coffee; slowly the others emerged from their rooms. I grabbed a cup and went outside to sit, listening to the birdsong, and reading about the route options for the upcoming days. I grabbed my maps to look for a few small roads that we could ride for a couple of hours, as we had to be back early to go into Florence for a personal, guided walking tour of the old city, that Beach's arranged for the group and then dinner at night with the rest of the tour members. We again headed east, and into the hills, this time to the SE. Headed for one of the roads and again as we started to climb the forest got thicker, and the turns tighter, again great flow to the roads, and endless corners, on perfectly smooth pavement.




When it was time to head back another meandering road took us back into the valley, where we then followed another nice winding road back to the Villa in time to shower and look presentable for dinner.

We headed into Florence for a personal walking tour of the old city. The walking tour was conducted by a local art historian and provided us with some great insight and information about the history of the city and its contributions in history and to the arts. The freestanding dome of the Duomo in Florence was finished in the mid 1400’s and took 16 years to complete, using 37,000 tons of material, including 4 million bricks!









Dinner was at a very nice restaurant in the middle of Florence, with some fine Local wine to complement the meal, and a final cordial of Grappa or Limoncello. The others on the tour seem like a laidback crowd, should be a perfect mix.

The interior of the restaurant.


Back to the Villa for a good nights sleep on a full stomach.

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Old 10-24-2010, 03:34 PM   #8
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Great eating, great riding... what more could you ask for! thanks for taking us along
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Old 10-24-2010, 06:13 PM   #9
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Monday October 4th.
Monday was a free day, reserved for people getting familiar with the bikes, terrain, and the protocols for European riding, like riding to the right, not down the middle N American style. Rob and Gretchen left the villa early to assign the others their bikes and to lead them on a ride, if they so desired, to advise and size up the skill and or needs of the riders. The wife and I took off for a ride to the North, the weather was threatening all morning, but again we found some excellent small roads. We stopped at a small Café for lunch and our luck, and dry weather ran out. We donned our rain gear and set off again, in a few miles we ran out of the rain and got some dry pavement again, for a little while, until finally the rain got steady for the hour or so back to the villa. Tomorrow we head out of Italy.

A view of the countryside.




Tuesday October 5th
It rained hard overnight with some lightning and thunder, but by morning there was some sun peaking out of the clouds. Today we hit the road and ride to a different country tonight, even though we are still “in” Italy. The destination for tonight is San Marino, one of the European micro states, that is all of 24 square miles of rock in the middle of central Italy. San Marino is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, and the oldest constitutional republic in existence, and was founded in 301, no I didn’t forget a “1”, it is 301!
Cecilia and I took off to ride by ourselves, as we were advised that we probably kept a little faster pace than the other riders on tour, the freedom to do your own thing, is the great part of Beach’s tours. We did know that the others were planning on stopping at the castle in Poppi, to sightsee and grab lunch, so we meandered along some smaller roads as we knew we would make better time than the rest. I hit some narrow twisty roads, but many were covered with leaves, pine needles and ripe chestnuts that were knocked down by the previous night’s storm. . So a little slower pace as we tiptoed along the feeling out the traction of wet fallout.



By the time we hit Poppi the sun was bright and we sat outside the castle soaking up the warm sum. When the others arrived we wandered around inside the castle and climbed up the bell tour to look at the surrounding landscape. Then a short walk to a nice restaurant for lunch of pasta, of course.






View from tower









I usually look forward to the fine and tasty breads in Europe, but was disappointed by the breads I was being served at most places, but about half way through the tour someone explained that the bread is NOT for eating as a separate food, it is made to be used as a sponge to soak up the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, tomato or bolognaise sauce.
We took off on our own again on some wonderful roads, I saw this on a hill.



So I went to pull over on the side of the road , on what looked like some sand, as I pulled in the front end started to wash on what was wet clay and slicker than monkey snot, my mad skills (Dumb ass luck) kept the bike upright. I had the wife get off, and slowly peddled the bike out.

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Old 10-24-2010, 06:30 PM   #10
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As we would find on this trip many of the cities are built on a hill tops, most were walled cities, built to defend its residents. Once we left Italy and navigated into San Marino we began to climb, and went as far as we could drive toward the top of town, to the motels parking area.
San Marino from a distance (On top of the hill)



View from the Hotel





This is where the van delivering the luggage to your room is nice, as we had a 1/3 mile uphill hike from the bike to our hotel, but out suitcase was waiting for us in the room. A quick shower and a couple of beers before dinner, than a fine five course dinner with some great wine, and again finished off with either Grappa or Limoncello. Then off for a good night sleep on a full stomach.

Next morning walked to the top and had to envy the view these workman had while doing their job.

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Old 10-25-2010, 06:07 PM   #11
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Wed Oct 7th.

At dinner last night, Rob mentioned another unlikely charger in the group. The California couple that everyone tagged the “Harley” couple had showed a proclivity to riding at a “spirited” pace. We were both planning on doing the long route, so we suggested we ride together to our next nights stay. At breakfast, Rob said he was heading the same route, so we all decided to run in a three bike group. All I can say is never judge a book by its cover, as the “Harley” couple had mad skills. At the end of the day their center stand had lost about as much material as mine. Nothing is more fun than running hard with equally skilled riders.

We stopped at this fort, which in the past had allowed people to wander around inside, but this day was closed tight. We went to the little alimentary (grocery) and picked up some meat, cheese, bread, fruit, and chocolate and set out to find a place for a picnic lunch.



We found this field adjacent to a mausoleum/cemetery, and enjoyed a nice relaxing lunch, and 10 minute nap.





Our destination was Spello, Italy a, you guessed it , city on a hill. The highly rated restaurant at the Hotel was closed for the night, so a few of us walked down through the old town for dinner that night. And a half mile uphill walk back to the hotel, to work off the meal.

Thursday Oct 8th
Spello was a two night stay, and the next morning was sunny with a little fog.

The view from our room in the morning





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Old 10-26-2010, 07:17 AM   #12
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Thursday Oct 8th
A nice breakfast and the wife and I suited up to do a little loop. We decided to go up to Assisi, the birthplace of Saint Francis, and home of Basilica of San Francesco d'Assisi.







We then wandered through town, grabbed our first gelato of the trip for lunch, as we had a big dinner scheduled at the hotels very popular and highly rated restaurant that evening.
The wife wandered in and out of some shops, and I decided to people watch on the street. As I was leaning against a building on the street, I suddenly felt a PLOP glance my neck and land on my shoulder, as a pigeon decided it did not like me standing beneath its perch. The wife got quite a chuckle; I wish I had a gun.









We went back to the bike and made our exit by driving through the old town, in spite of the local traffic only signs, we were on a BMW with German plates, so instead of people thinking were inconsiderate Americans, they thought we were arrogant Germans.

We made loop to the west and then back up to Spello from the South, and got back early afternoon. .
The hotel and restaurant in Spello.






We thought we would do some shopping in town, but when we got back we sat in the garden, ordered a beer and relaxed, with this view.




Decided we would take a short nap before shopping, a couple hours later we woke up, with only time to get ready for another great five course meal, with wine selected by the chef, and finished off with another round of limoncello and Grappa. The wife was so impressed with the limoncello, she asked the waiter to bring a full bottle, which made it home intact.
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Old 10-26-2010, 07:28 AM   #13
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OK - COMPLETELY enjoying your trip through Italy! My wife and I were in some of those places ourselves a few years ago. Simply great.

We're both agreed we need to do a trip like yours, though - on a bike. I was sorely tempted 2 months ago while in Munich to rent a bike for a day and hit the roads, but alas, meetings, dinners, drinking and pre-Oktoberfest parties sapped my time away...

Lovin' the trip report - thanks for sharing. :)

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Old 10-26-2010, 07:35 AM   #14
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Very very nice, thanks for sharing your experiences.

In 2007 I took the Alps East tour with Rob & Gretchen, wonderful people and a life altering experience.

Next summer I plan to ship a bike over and spend 6-8 weeks touring........ some of that time will be spent in Tuscany. That's a great picture of Rob napping, now let's see a few of Gretchen!!
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Old 10-26-2010, 08:29 AM   #15
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Awesome report. Thanks for sharing
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