There is so much great stuff on this site, so many incredible tales and photos. I come back from a trip and ask myself: what is the point of adding our small journey, our small stories to the enormous pile of epic and humbling reports? What makes an adventure? Need it be be off-road? Should it start with some catharsis, a quitting of jobs, setting off into unknown locales and unfamiliar cultures? I mean, one man's epic adventure is another man's blase weekend outing. What can we possibly add? Ultimately, for us, we have decided adventure is anything that forces us to push beyond our envelope of comfort, something we try to do a little bit with every trip, and frankly something we should try to do every day but often don't manage it. And then: who is the ride report for? For the percentage of folks who have not been there, done that; for some select friends and family; but really, for us, because the ride report format is such a great way to capture stories and thoughts about a given trip. And if it rolls off the end of the threads list within the first day with a measly 25 views, well, that is if no import. It exists in the archive for us, and for whoever stumbles onto it some sucky sucky wintry evening to read what we did and maybe be inspired to challenge their comfort zone just a little bit. And the thought of that makes it worth it. So, we went to Italy. We rode. It was freaking great. Everyone goes to Italy at some point, it seems, or would like to. Everyone except us, up until now. If you're a European biker, well, I'm sure you do this stuff every weekend. Flying over from Canada, it was kind of a big deal for us, and fully qualified for our own definition of adventure. So here it is. MASTER PLAN: - three weeks in Italy, from the end of August into September. - start in Milan, end in Florence. Ride the Dolomites, send two days in Venice, because, well, you have to do it once, and ride Tuscany. - two weeks with the bike, ending with 5 days being classic tourists on foot. It seems the biggest new challenge with this trip is that we're converting ourselves in phases from air travellers to pedestrian/bike/pedestrian/bike/pedestrian/air travellers. This is somewhat more difficult logistically than "pack the bike and go". So we've got it packed into this: All of which will have to be hauled by us on foot at a few points during the trip, or unpacked and re-packaged into the bike luggage. Seems reasonable. For a shorter flight, we would have just worn our moto gear, but it's long, and it will be hot in Milan, so that's a no go and it all gets crammed into the black duffle. 'Everything else' in the blue one should fit no problem into te available panniers. Right? We fly Ottawa-Frankfurt-Milan, carting our helmets carry-on. The flights were a bit of a circus: a general call is made for a doctor on the overseas leg, never good; some other guy gets up to stretch his legs and just falls flat into the aisle, perhaps drunk, but who knows; on the final leg, the guy in front of me is getting scolded because he's holding his three-year-old in his lap during takeoff; the flight attendants are scolding someone else over the PA for getting up and walking around during the ascent. The flight is overbooked and they are offering a 200 euro credit to anyone who will go on a later flight, which we would have jumped at except it was probably a Lufthansa credit we were unlikely to use soon. However, to quote Louis CK, we were sitting in a chair, IN THE SKY. Which will always be awesome. So. In Milan Linate, we hit the TIM mobile store in the departures area to buy a SIM card for our unlocked phone, a sweet move that worked out very well. 20 euros for 2GB of data and enough SMS and voice minutes to get us through with no trouble. Then we get a shuttle bus and subway to within a few blocks of our hotel in central Milan, our first victories! Everything is going according to plan (chomps on cigar). These minor wins are always so satisfying. The hotel is about eight blocks from the subway stop, it is hot, we are tired, and carrying all of our crap. the straps are digging in and this is really unpleasant. Tomorrow we shall do the unthinkable and hail a cab to take us to the train. The unpleasant walk to the hotel is leavened by a guy on his bicycle, stopped at a light, hollering into his mobile phone in full-bore Italian argument, a sound that must be heard in first person to really be appreciated. We exchange elbows and winks. We have arrived. A cat cannot be swung in the hotel room (Idea hotel Milano) but it does not matter, it's nice enough, we pass out for a while and then hit the town while there's still a bit of light. And pretty light it is, to light my pretty riding partner as she takes a stroll along the Viale, contemplating that 24 hours ago we were somewhere very, very different: The impressive arcade of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, built in 1877. It is a little nicer than our local mall: Roof: Sun setting into the arcade: The ornate and impressive Milan Duomo is not too shabby either. It only took them six hundred years to finish this, the fourth largest cathedral in the world: The subject matter depicted in sculpture is always very interesting: High-relief bronze castings on the entrance doors are recent work but are nonetheless impressive. Each panel is about a foot square: Rub the nose for luck? But enough of these shenangans. When do we get to ride??? In the AM, the promised cab is hailed, and for a measly couple of euros saves a lot of grief by dropping us directly at the rail station: The bike rental outfit is CIMT, and the pick-up is in Rescaldina, a small suburb about 20 minutes out of town. We haul all of our crap about ten blocks from the station to the garage. The local CIMT contact is the friendly and helpful Omero, who pulls us a couple of espressos, while we transfer the luggage, chat, and go over the bike, since I've never ridden an F800GS. It sure is purty! Meanwhile Karen is freaking out because I grossly overestimated the amount of available cargo space. Something is going to have to go. After packing, re-packing, and jumping up and down on the cases, we are finally good to go, only leaving a few items behind to have transferred to Florence. The bike rental is one-way and includes the transfer of luggage if we want, so we took advantage to leave a few things behind. Omero, I'm sure, had a good chuckle as we drove off very ungracefully into the wilds of Italy, twitchy throttle and clutch friction point not yet programmed into my brain. Every time I would try to cancel the turn signal, the required thumb contortions would cause me to blip the throttle, and I never really got the hang of that maneuver. BMW people: I just don't get it. Opposable-opposable thumbs? The quiet suburb turned out to be a great spot to ride around the block a number of times and learn the feel of the new-to-me, 2-up fully loaded machine. Once I was more comfortable, the GPS took us north to Lake Como along one of the only pre-programmed routes I'd made, designed to keep us off the autostrada and maximize our exposure to the new machine and Italian traffic patterns. After a brief rest stop to address the broken Powerlet socket, we were ready to roll. Our track for the day: Pictures were light on this day, since we mounted the GoPro on Karen's helmet and ended up with 250 pictures of the back of my head. Next time, we will mount it on the other side :). Today was the only day I was made to feel like an ass for not speaking passable Italian. On both occasions, some younger folks were obviously disgusted and impatient. That kind of bad vibe never happened again for the rest of the trip. I was helped on one occasion by a kind and multilingual German tourist who ordered food for me. Of course, we never had any expectation that people should speak English to us. But universally you hope that people are going to recognize that you are out of your element and doing the best you can. And that was the end of that. Everyone else we encountered was courteous, patient, and kind. We headed to Aprica on the recommendation of another ADVer, to a specific hotel, and we were quite happy with it. The road over was not the madhouse I was expecting, owing to it being Tuesday. But the last bit to Aprica was our first taste of the seemingly millions (ok, hundreds) of hairpin turns we would hit in the next days. In Aprica, our hotel, recommended: Aprica is a pretty shiny little ski village offering not much culture shock, but a perfectly suitable place to stop and gather ourselves. Victory! We made it to Italy, made our way to the bike and are RIDING in Italy. We go for a stroll and really start to enjoy the fruits of months of planning and anticipation. The hotel's bike garage was a nice feature, but very unnecessary. The owners spoke no english, but this was also unnecessary, as they were friendly and everything was made quite clear by their patient and skilled gesturing. They directed us to a restaurant where I had a killer calzone, Karen had gnocci with gorgonzola, blueberries and walnuts, one of the most memorable meals of the trip. Delicious! We awoke the next morning to the sound of church bells. Oh, yeah: Did I mention we had unwisely skipped lunch and substituted gelato? Bad move, making this oh so much sweeter: She looks unimpressed because I delayed the inhalation of this meal by pausing for the photo. I hereby interrupt this report to address my stomach, which has suddenly started rumbling.