Italy trip planning

Discussion in 'EMEA' started by mach1mustang351, Mar 27, 2017.

  1. mach1mustang351

    mach1mustang351 Long timer

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    My wife and I decided last week, that we are going to make our first Europe trip this year. With our work schedules, we will be able to take the time in mid to late September. We want to rent a bike and do some exploring that way, and hopefully catch some nice roads before winter sets in. I have been reading a lot, and in my excessively analytical mind, I want to have a good idea on things before I go. I am taking in all sources for info and any help is appreciated.

    We tentatively want to fly into milan, and spend our time mostly in the northern part of italy, my only things I said I wanted to do were visit the Guzzi factory and Stelvio pass. My wife wants to explore tuscany, Florence and many other things.

    Like I said, I want any info you all could give.

    Super excited!!
    #1
  2. nickguzzi

    nickguzzi Long timer

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    Guzzi factory - worth the effort... Check.
    Has slightly odd hours - it is a factory rather than a visitor attraction - although some of us feel that it is that.
    I was there by chance just over a year ago. Late November and the weather was glorious. We found a bakery cum coffee shop just up from the new statue of Carlo Guzzi.
    It is a nice little town to walk around, although I have not actually stayed there since attending the Guzzi Rally in 1982. The whole area is great, beautiful towns and villages, great roads. Can't really speak about accommodation, but we did find great food easily - hey it is Italy.

    While not much of a guide book reader - generally you tend to meet a load of other tourists reading the same Rough Planet - but for food, I have had better luck. Often the places lining the main drags can be at least expensive, is not dull, food wise. I have had great luck with the Michelin guides in France, and it need not cost a fortune. I'm sure there is a modern version of the book I used many years ago to find some great places in Umbria and Marche. Not often cheap but value for money - Superb!
    And of course there is lots of Italian fast food, and that is not restricted to pizza. Try some porchetta for a meaty feast. Often sold from market stalls and mobile vans, they usually have quite a range of cooked and preserved meats for you to try.
    Many bars sell only imported beer. Often nondescript, big lable, Eurofizz. The Italians make a range of decent beers, collectively called Bierra Nationale. My favourite is Moretti. You may know and prefer others, but ask if not offered - it seems to be always in bottle rather than draught.
    Wine drink local - ask for a recommendation. You may find something you really like - then go check out the vinyard.

    Tuscany is also a great place to go see stuff. My personal favourite is Sienna, less tourists, smaller and just easier, If you are going to be based in or near Florence, then perhaps the hassle and bustle is toned down a bit by being able to escape to your place.

    If there is a problem with Italy, then it is that there is just so much stuff demanding your attention. We have stayed a few times in La Marche and also in Umbria. What do you do, everywhere, in all directions, is demanding your attention. Spent a fortnight in Citi di Castella, just because we could get a cheap farmhouse. On the way down, stopped in Sienna, to find the hole place winding up for Holy week. Arrived in the Campo at barely dusk, just as a procession of monks swayed across, stepping in unison and chanting prayers and psalms. After they passed, we walked on, only to rejoin them as they entered the Duomo. As we stood there, the great west doors were thrown open and we could see the whole interior lit by thousands of candles. The gold leaf of the frescos and paintings glinting. Like a Cecil B DeMille movie.
    Next day, and by now in Citi di Castella, the whole town prepared for a grand procession through all the streets. As we entered the town, the doors of every church and chapel had been thrown open and in each one a group of nuns was removing the body of Christ from its cross and laid it on a palanquin. Each was taken to the Duomo for blessing , and once blessed, then the procession started. More and more people joining as the throng wound round the many small streets. This continued for so long, we dropped off for some refreshment at a cafe in the piazza. The locals really put us to shame, tiny kids, strapping youths, women heavy with child and their pround husbands, old and infirm, the weak, halt and lame, all took part.
    One thing we were told is that in medieval times, the local men were renown crossbowmen, and worked as mercenaries around the wars of Europe. Which explained why so many of the locals wore medieval costume, and carried crossbows or pikes. To further the feel of the renaissance, apart from the many pipe and drum players, there were no electric street lamps. Each corner had a small container of burning oil as the only illumination. When the head of the procession returned through the piazza, the bar owner came round all the tables, asking if anyone minded the electric lights inside to be turned off - no one did. It was a super night, even for a confirmed atheist like me.
    This stuff still happens, not for us tourists, but for the people taking part, their forebears and their kids and their future. Their culture, their belief, accepted as something that must be done.

    Perhaps having your own wish list, focusing on art or architecture to food and vineyards - whatever. Then some infill round that.
    If you have never been, then you have no idea yet how concentrated, how densely packed is the culture and history.

    Have fun
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  3. mach1mustang351

    mach1mustang351 Long timer

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    Nick,

    Thanks for that. Awesome read. I am very excited about the idea of doing this. My wife is super excited about this too, she has never been more excited about a bike riding adventure since we went to Alaska in 2008.

    Any feedback as to the language?? Neither my wife or I speak italian. She has 3 years of French from High school, and I have 3 years of Spanish from back then. We have been working a bit on some phrases and things. What are the odds I will get jammed up along the way with language barrier??

    As far as the kind of trip, we want to enjoy food and drink, and see the history.... And the Guzzi plant.... She was sold when I told her it was on lake como.

    Any more advise, feedback, etc is welcome.

    I'll post a bit more as plans shape up in the next month or two
    #3
  4. glitch_oz

    glitch_oz Long timer

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    Can you smile??...and not take yourself too seriously?
    Let 3 be an even number sometimes and NOT be a nitpick about small stuff and "procedure"?
    Yes??
    You'll have a GREAT time, no other language is needed! :-)
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  5. VACommuter

    VACommuter Long timer

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    Take your "fat" pants. I never had a bad meal in Italy. Don't leave anything unattended that you don't mind losing.
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  6. mach1mustang351

    mach1mustang351 Long timer

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    In all honesty, I do struggle a bit with taking myself too seriously. The best part going for me is, I don't have this issue on my bike, and I don't have this issue on vacation. That is purely in a professional setting. So I think I'll be golden. No worries then!!
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  7. mach1mustang351

    mach1mustang351 Long timer

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    Uhh oh, I'm trying to loose some excess weight I gathered over the last few years, hopefully I can make goal weight by Italy time, so I can go back on the diet immediately after :lol3
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  8. glitch_oz

    glitch_oz Long timer

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    You'll be sweet! :-)
    Give your better half a bit "of an eye", some seedy dance moves down the main street....and you'll be full of local vino
    amidst your new, local family before dinner is on the table, hehe...(been there, done that...we're still emailing eachother).
    This is Italy... ;-))
    #8
  9. MichaelJ

    MichaelJ Long timer

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    +1

    I've spent 6 years in Italy with the USAF (late '60s ~ mid '70s) and basically went native. I don't think that I've EVER found a population more open and friendly. Regarding language - what Glitch said. Learn a few words and phrases and you will be greatly rewarded - no matter how bad you bungle the pronunciation. If you're really worried, see if there's a local Italian language class or even a "Rosetta Stone" or similar program.

    Pick up a copy of John Hermann's book "Motorcycle Journeys Through the Alps and Beyond" - presently in its 5th edition. Lots of good tips, roads and sights. He's not without his faults (who isn't?), but a good source of info for the Newbie. FWIW, I'm out on trip #13 this summer, and will have his book with me - as more of a general reference than a rigid guide. I tend to roam semi-aimlessly and often find myself in some place that I have NO knowledge of. The book has earned its keep.

    How long are you planning to be there? Tuscany is a full day from the Alps, and that's using the Autostrada (ugly, boring & expensive, but efficient). Plus another day getting back.

    Mid-late September can be iffy - the Stelvio may be closed (I've been snowed on there in July). I'd suggest doing the northern bits first and then heading south into Tuscany. My only recent September ride (in 2015) was wet & cold. The only great weather I had was the day I was prepping my bike to go back into storage. I think that Glitch used up all of the good September weather.

    Food is another issue. You'll be in deep shit. Your diet will last until you pass by a local bakery pulling its morning bake out of the oven. And I won't EVEN mention pastries. Or Gelato.

    It's a cliche, but...

    [​IMG]

    Or perhaps a regional delicacy?

    [​IMG]

    And, if all else fails...

    [​IMG]

    Actually, the last pic is usual for me. Pick up lunch in local markets and find a nice spot to eat it. Just don't let a pear roll around loose in your topcase.
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  10. glitch_oz

    glitch_oz Long timer

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    Early Sept-early Oct = the BEST!!
    If wet north of the Main Ridge, tack south....or reverse, as needed.
    No need for fixed routes...pick an area instead and go with the weather, easy.
    No Stelvio needed, plenty of other stuff around :clap


    Agreed :lol3
    But momma....ohhh, sooooo goooood!!
    #10
  11. nickguzzi

    nickguzzi Long timer

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    My Italian is mostly limited to the names of their cars and bikes, a few dishes like spaghetti or pizza and the occasional wine type. Like many anglo-saxons, acquiring languages has not seemed easy. A bit of German, 'cause I lived there and a smattering of French because my partner speaks French fluently enough to be a translator and I have been there often enough to have quite a few word drawn in by osmosis.
    Do not underestimate the power of mime - we may all think Marcel Marceau was a terrible joke, but when you have had posh waiters in white duck jackets and shiny patent leather shoes hopping up and down between the tables to indicate hare is on the menu, then you realise communication is in the mind, a willingness to open your mind the possibilities of others having something to say that is in your interests to comprehend. In other words, it isn't a problem unsurmountable.

    A European deli is not just a glorified coffee shop - the name - think about it - delicate essen, delightful food, and they are in most towns and villages, serving local produce, what is seasonal and often artisnal. Do as Michael has shown in his pic, and buy local salamis or cheeses, breads and fruits and go seek out a pass or a valley to sit and watch the clouds, or the snow topped mountains or the sheep, goats or cattle - or even people working the fields.
    #11
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  12. GiorgioXT

    GiorgioXT Long timer

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    Most of young people speaks some sort of english, as practically everyone involved in tourism e.g. hotels, bar, tourist offices. The rest will -at least- try to understand you or find someone near able to ...

    Just a note : absolutely don't forget to spend some days in the Dolomites, northeast of Italy. Will be pity to lose the nicest mountains in the world and spectacular roads.

    If you plan also to visit Venice , tell me, have a few hints and advice since spent part of my life there.
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  13. mach1mustang351

    mach1mustang351 Long timer

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    Dolomites and Venice are both on the list. I'll take any info you got. My wife is reading her first adv rider thread right now loving the feedback.

    Thanks everyone
    #13
  14. mach1mustang351

    mach1mustang351 Long timer

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    We are planning to be there about 12 days. It'll basically be 9 or 10 there because it is a full travel day there and back.
    #14
  15. nickguzzi

    nickguzzi Long timer

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    First time in Venice, stayed in Mira, about 10kms. I crossed the causeway and parked on the top of the steps backing onto the old bus station. It was directly opposite the train station at Roma. Good place to leave a bike - but not sure if it is still there as they built a footbridge now. Nice walk through to the Rialto and San Marco.

    Most recent visit, drove (December 2015 - still busy btw) to Vicenza, and caught the train from there, can't remember the cost, but it seemed cheap enough. The station car park was tickets\barrier, lots of bikes and scooters, not so easy for someone to take off with a bike, not that it felt likely.
    And exiting the concourse at Roma on to the Grande Canale is a pretty good introduction to a beautiful city. Vaporetti to San Marco from there. Buy your tickets first.
    If you have not already been warned, prices are eye watering round San Marco. Go a few blocks and every thing becomes more realistic.
    #15
  16. MichaelJ

    MichaelJ Long timer

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    Note: the following reflects my prejudices.

    Doing the Alps and Tuscany in one short ride will be *busy* You should really have either (a) another week or (b) a second ride (yeah, I know). That being said...

    Named cities are more aiming points than hard recommendations.

    With only a week and a half, consider basing - i.e. staying in one place for a few days and riding the local area. I'd suggest spending 3 nights (+/-) in either Arabba or Corvara in Badia. This puts you in the heart of the Dolomites and you can get 5 busy days of riding out of there. With scenery that will make you quiver.

    Assuming a Milano start/finish, I'd consider something like this

    Day 1 - Milano to St. Moritz (area). This will take you up Lake Como. The west side is prettier and more trafficky, the east side has the Guzzi factory (but that would be a very late in the day stop). stopping for the night near St. Moritz - Celerina has some reasonable (for Switzerland) hotels. This is a relatively short day (about 100 miles*)

    Day 2 - St. Moritz to Arabba. Over the Bernina Pass and into Livigno (fuel there - cheap!). Through Livigno and over the Stelvio and to Bolzano. From Bolzano to Arabba (I prefer the northern route through Kastelruth).

    IF the Stelvio is closed... Continue north to Zernez and then east through the Val Mustair to Glorenza and then on to Bolzano, etc. The chances of it being closed in early September are slim, but possible. Dress warmly.

    Day 3-5 - Ride the Dolomites. Leave your gear at the hotel and just ride. Visit Lake Misurina. Warning! The Dolomites will positively wreck you for riding anywhere else.

    Day 6 - Arabba - Venezia. See Nickguzzi's post above. I'd be sure that everything was secured. The bike will undoubtedly have lockable hard luggage, but if you have anything "portable"... Look at the "PacSafe" line of secure gear.

    Day 7 - Venezia - Firenze. I'm not much help on Tuscany - sorry

    Day 8-9 - Tuscany

    Day 10 - Firenze - Milano. Autostrada, unfortunately, but the traffic on the surface streets would be a killer.

    * Daily mileage. You're not in Kansas anymore, Toto. While riding secondary roads 250-300 kilometers (not miles) makes for a good day in the saddle. Expect to average 35 MPH. Speed limits are generally low and even lower in towns (which are amazingly close together). Plus you'll be stopping to eat, take pics, etc.

    This was last year's ride that took me from Heidelberg to the Pyrenees and back again with some mucking about in France. Pretty consistent with previous years. And, as you may have surmised from the Max. Speed number, there was some Autobahn involved (about 600 kms or so) which significantly raised the moving average. Be realistic.

    [​IMG]
    #16
  17. robxxx

    robxxx Adventurer

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    Goddammit Nick, will you please stop all these glowing posts about Italy. Your starting to bring out the repressed catholic guilt in me and I cant take it any more. I go back once a year to see family, and thats me done with Italy for the year. I'm now going to have to find a priest and confess this sin and ask for absolution. If I have to do a whole rosary of Hail Mary's and Our Father's i'm holding you personaly responsible.
    #17
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  18. nickguzzi

    nickguzzi Long timer

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    I originate from Leicester, so I understand your need.

    I don't actually know Italy that well - it's just that there is something worth stopping for round every bend and behind every mountain.
    The bloody villages and towns - they are impossible to pass by.
    #18
  19. robxxx

    robxxx Adventurer

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    Small world. I'm just down the road in Kettering.

    The sad fact is I now treat Italy as a bit of a busmans holiday, I have become complacent to the place. Sad really.

    Sorry for the tread hijack mustang
    #19
  20. nickguzzi

    nickguzzi Long timer

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    Nice! Before I left for the wilds of the Fens, I lived in Lubenham.
    #20