A week in Tuscany

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Joerg, Sep 12, 2007.

  1. Joerg

    Joerg Long timer

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    I just recognised that this trip, which I rode with my lady and my trusty R80GS, dates almost one year back ... so I thought maybe it's time to share it with you.

    Here is a little appetizer, to see if anyone is interested ... this will be less about riding, but a lot about food, sights and sites :D

    ... shall I post a full trip report?:ear

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    #1
  2. kahoon

    kahoon who's yer daddy??

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    are you kidding??

    :tb :lurk
    #2
  3. GB

    GB . Administrator Super Moderator Super Supporter

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    Tuscany? :snore... :nah we don't care for a WEEK in Tuscany ride report.. We'll wait for the YEAR in Tuscany!! :lol3

    GET GOING!! Let's have it... :tb

    :lurk :lurk
    #3
  4. Joerg

    Joerg Long timer

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    OK ... so you shall have it :D I'll try to post the parts on a day-by-day schedule:

    We started rather late - on my scale, this means about 10 o'clock in the morning - at our home near Lausanne and took the rather direct way to the south, via Martigny to the Col du Grand St-Bernard where we had our first rest. After some delicious hot soup and sandwiches at the top of the col, we continued down to Aosta, and since we wanted to advance rather quickly, we simply hit the highway towards the south. While most of that road is relatively boring to ride, we were lucky and did not run into too much traffic either.

    It was an easy ride, and in particular the last section towards Ronco Scrivia offers very nice curves for an autostrada! Taking said exit north of Genoa, we strolled via little roads down to Genoa. Due to an error in the GPS map ;-) at the eastern end of the city, we climbed up into the mountains again, and finally ended up on the road 333 towards the coast again. An impressive road, with hundreds and hundreds of never-ending curves that lead towards the coast, and bus drivers that take the corners as if there would be no tomorrow. Note to self: repeat this error the next time we're there :D

    Col du Grand St-Bernard
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    Col du Grand St-Bernard
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    A few km north-east of Genoa, view to the west
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    "Do you still have a free room?"

    We started looking for a hotel in Camogli (which is a really nice place), but learned that during the week-end, this region is not only invaded by Germans :lol2 but also by Italians that are spending the week-end at the coast: you're better off reserving your hotel well in advance! After a number of trial-and-error searches it was getting dark, but finally we found a cute one-star hotel in Santa Margherita Ligure, which had one very last double room free. Saved!

    The hotel did not have its own parking and was (well, it still is :lol3) located on a steep road, so the bike was parked at the next central place of the village - I was a bit worried, but it was still there on the next morning :thumb. The evening was spent walking through the city, enjoying the warm air and the cheerful people, taking lots of photos :D, and having a good dinner.

    ... ah, yes, and we learned quickly from the problem above: Consolidating a list of the places for the next days, we started to book the hotels in advance. Instead of the originally planned "we'll see where we will be this evening", now we knew where we would sleep tomorrow: Pisa.

    Santa Margherita Ligure
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    Santa Margherita Ligure, Harbour
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    Santa Margherita Ligure
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    Santa Margherita Ligure, Christoph Columbus memorial
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    Santa Margherita Ligure, a place near the hotel
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    Total of the day: 491 km.
    #4
  5. kktos

    kktos on a bright side of life

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    ah ah . viaggio molto interessante.
    Genova, La Spezia (5 terre ?), carrara ?, Lucca (è bellissima) ?
    :lurk
    /thierry
    #5
  6. Rick West

    Rick West Function not Farkles

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    More please......:clap
    #6
  7. DrMike

    DrMike Old F'ng New Guy

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    Somewhere, not far enough, out there.
    :clap :clap :clap :clap
    #7
  8. Joerg

    Joerg Long timer

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    In contrast to the "general" italian cooking, Italian breakfast is generally not a very suitable means to give you a good start into the day ... the participants of the 1st European AdvRider meeting will remember :cry Yet ... the breakfast at the hotel that we had found was diagonally opposite to that. It was good, rich, tasty, and a real good start for the day - not too astonishing once we recognised that the landlord was a charming German lady that came to Italy many, many years ago.

    Santa Margherita Ligure is a village that is located next to Portofino, and judging by the location on the map, this had to be a nice place. Thus, after breakfast we packed the bike and headed for Portofino first. The beautiful sight of all those little (and not-so-little!) ships, the harbours and the houses are absolutely worth the visit. However, in terms of people there seems to be quite some "jet-set" - not really the place where I would start to look for a little, cheap hotel in the middle of the night :eek1

    'Albergo Annabella' in Santa Margherita Ligure
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    Between Santa Margherita Ligure and Portofino
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    View over Santa Margherita Ligure
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    Near Portofino
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    Returning to Santa Margherita, we took the coastal road - the ever-so-famous Via Aurelia - and headed for the southeast. The ride as such was pretty boring, but the houses and the scenery are truly nice.

    Just like a "compensation", the stretch of the SP1 that you reach east of Sestri Levante heads up into the mountains, and a beautiful twisty road leads from sea level to more that 500 m, and into the region of Cinque Terre. Since our holidays were shorter than planned, we did not visit these villages, but decided to continue towards La Spezia instead.

    Already on the very first hill of La Spezia, just upon entering the western outskirts of the city, we took a little road into the forest. From the map I had expected something bigger, but the GPSr indeed indicated that we were on the right way ... and since we knew already where we would sleep this evening, we took our time to explore this path. The narrow road continued for quite some time through a light forest with spectacular views, then reached a crossing at the Colle del Telegrafo, which is located at the south-eastern edge of the Parque Nazionale delle Cinque Terre. A restaurant is situated at the Colle, just at the right time :jump and with good food. We had a good lunch :dg, took the time to relax, and I filled up the oil level of the GS. She had consumed about 0.5 l of oil over the last 500 km - yes, most of this was on the highway, but time for a head revision anyway :bluduh

    Santa Margherita Ligure
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    Another beautiful house, near Zoagli
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    A twisty road :wings in the forest above La Spezia
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    Colle del Telegrafo
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    Back on the bike, we headed briefly towards La Spezia, but then decided to take the round trip to Portovenere anyway. Just like Portofino in the morning, this is a rather isolated village, but due to the proximity of the famous Grotta Azzurra it is very much taken by tourists - indeed we would have had trouble parking the bike (!) somewhere! Martina was in favour of a boat trip to the Grotta Azzurra, but since we had all of our luggage on the bike and were still far from Pisa I pressed on, one last time.

    Portovenere
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    The La Spezia bay is quite an interesting sight since it had always been used as a military harbour. You can get a nice overview from the mountains in the south, but the whole harbour area as such is surrounded by a huge wall - thus, no chance of capturing a few close-up scenes of the huge battleships that you can see from the distance. Sorry guys :dunno

    Being somewhat deceived, we followed the directions to Lerici, then the small SP28 towards Tellaro. Our idea of a little stop in one of these villages, having a coffee and some dolce in a café with a view was wiped out by the fact that most of these villages are closed to the traffic - and since it was getting hot, we were not really in the mood to have a long walk in the burning sun. Thus, we headed further to Ameglia, and shortly afterwards we were on the highway for Pisa.

    Bay between Lerici and Tellaro
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    Another bay between Lerici and Tellaro
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    Approaching the city of Pisa, it was apparent that it was indeed a former harbour ... the grounds of the city are completely flat, there is not a single hill, and the famous Campanile is visible from quite a distance. The GPSr lead us straight to the hotel, and it turned out that the hotel was indeed situated halfway between the Campo dei miracoli and the old center of the city near the river Arno. Thus, a perfect location for the next two days!

    The only downside was that we were - again - in the very last room that was free. The guide from Michelin that I had bought just before the trip recommended this hotel, but since we ended up in a room under the roof - with no view at all, just a "hole in the ceiling" - this first impression was a bit deceiving.

    The second problem was that it was not sure if we could stay for another night - we had forgotten to specify early enough that we wanted to stay two nights.

    Oops. :brow
    #8
  9. BenTwo

    BenTwo Adventurer

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    Superb photos. More please, much more. Thanks for sharing.
    #9
  10. LostRider

    LostRider Motorcycle Addict

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    WOW....:huh it's taken you a year to post this trip, what are you crazy?:loco This is some good stuff!!

    Keep it coming!
    #10
  11. Joerg

    Joerg Long timer

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    Fortunately the Amalfitana is not the only hotel in that street ... two houses further was the hotel Cecile, where we immediately booked a room for the next night. And just across the street is the botanical garden - what we could see through the gates was amazing (in particular since my lady likes about anything about gardening), but unfortunately the area is closed during week-ends ... so we strolled a few steps further to the north, and reached the famous Campo dei miracoli.

    Most people that think of Pisa have merely the Campanile in mind, but there's more, much more to that ... Campo dei miracoli comprises also the duomo (dome), battistero (baptist church) and the camposanto (cemetery), and is an UNESCO World Heritage site.

    The early evening provided a very special light, so ... enjoy!

    Pisa: Duomo and Campanile
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    Pisa: Campanile and Duomo
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    Pisa: Battistero, view from the south-southeast
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    Pisa: Battistero, Detail
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    Pisa: Duomo, Detail
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    Pisa: Duomo, Detail
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    More info on the site: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Campo_dei_Miracoli

    Total of the day: 228 km.
    #11
  12. dirtrider

    dirtrider Dusty Adventurer

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    Outstanding pictures!
    #12
  13. kktos

    kktos on a bright side of life

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    Joerg,
    did u get a chance to visit il duomo ? -- edited: ok, was closed.
    And in il camposanto, there is the tomb of one famous rabbits lover ! ;)
    /thierry
    #13
  14. FREDO RIDER

    FREDO RIDER Enjoying the path !

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    Very nice ! :clap :clap :clap
    #14
  15. Joerg

    Joerg Long timer

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    Hi Thierry,
    Yes, on the next day (which is a day that we spent entirely in the city of Pisa ... definitively worth the visit! Pictures to come ... hey, I don't want to post all of zt in one bunch: Take it like a menu ... it's more fun if you have one dish after the other, and a little digestive pause in between :dg
    Camposanto, on the other hand, we skipped ... the city plus duomo and campanile and all the area around already was a lot of stuff to "digest" (uhm ... is there a pattern in my vocabulary ... ?). Indeed we preferred to pick a few places and explore them in-depth, instead of doing a "Europe in three days" tour.

    More to come ... tomorrow! :wink:
    #15
  16. GB

    GB . Administrator Super Moderator Super Supporter

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    Wow... Thanks for the memories... Tuscany... beautiful... :tb :tb

    Awesome pictures and report!! :clap

    more more more!! :lurk :lurk
    #16
  17. kktos

    kktos on a bright side of life

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    therefore u missed the tomb of il signore Fibonacci.
    I'm a Math history lover so it was a great pleasure to discover it here.
    /thierry
    #17
  18. bumknee

    bumknee Work Hard, Play Hard

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    Dream Ride - thanks for sharing
    #18
  19. Joerg

    Joerg Long timer

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    Here we go ...

    The next day was a sunny sunday, and we spent the whole day in the city of Pisa. Indeed this meant a day without the bike, but sometimes it feels not too bad to use your legs for a while :D

    The day started with yet another rich, good, tasty, delicious - in summary: un-typical :lol3 - breakfast at the hotel Amalfitana. Since we were obliged to move to another hotel (waiting for an "eventually free" room was not exactly acceptable for us), we packed our luggage and went to the check-in desk to pay. That is where we perfectly understood Michelin's recommendation: not only they were very friendly and understanding, but they also reduced the fee for the room once my lady made a remark about the price in the guide (the price tag for that room was a bit more expensive than indicated in the guide, albeit both were fresh from 2006). What a good surprise - nice place, very friendly people, good breakfast, we'll come back :thumb

    We moved the 20 m down the road, to the hotel Cecile. I pushed the GS into the Hotel parking. I did not have the impression that the receptionist was overly friendly since he wanted me to park the bike elsewhere, but I wanted a parking where it was at least a bit "hidden", but anyway - we left our luggage under the supervision of the receptionist and took a stroll towards the center of Pisa.

    Pisa is an old city, but its heart is young - the huge number of students and young tourists make the atmosphere quite charming, and even the restaurants offer their menus at very reasonable prices. We took our time to stroll along the river Arno, admire the old houses and churches. A boat trip came to mind ... we had read about it, the schedule was actual and fit perfectly to our arrival at the site, but ... no boat turned up whatsoever. Not a problem, there were so many great churches and wonderful streets nearby:

    Santa Maria della Spina (14th century, reconstructed 1871)
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    Palozzo Agostini: Terracotta details, 14th amd 15th century
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    Giardino Scotto
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    View from Lungarno Galilei
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    Santo Sepolcro
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    Italian Electrics :lol2
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    From this we went back, crossing the famous Piazza di Cavalieri with its Palazze ...

    Piazza di Cavalieri: Palazzo dei Cavalieri, sgraffiti
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    Piazza di Cavalieri: Palazzo dell'Orologio
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    Piazza di Cavalieri: Palazzo dei Cavalieri, detail
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    ... and then towards Campo dei miracoli again. This time we reached the place during the opening hours of the buildings, so we took tickets to visit at least the Duomo. BTW, most entrance tickets have rather low fees (about 1-3 EUR), wit the exception of the camapanile, the "leaning tower": If you want to climb up that famous tower, it's 20 (or was it 25?) EUR :huh ... most of that money is, of course, spent for the renovation. Here is the link to the official website ...

    Campo dei miracoli, view from the east (along Via Cardinale Pietro Maffi)
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    Campo dei miracoli, view from the east. Note the angle of the tree ... !
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    Campo dei miracoli, il Camposanto
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    Detail between Duomo and Campanile
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    Duomo
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    Duomo
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    Duomo
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    After this - and an ice cream :dg - we went back to the hotel, and moved into our newly attributed room. This time it had a window, albeit it pointed to the street. This meant that it would be noisy, but at least: it was a real window :lol2

    Total of the day: 0 km on the bike, many on our shoes :D
    #19
  20. Joerg

    Joerg Long timer

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    The Vespas in the streets of Pisa start early, so our night was short. Add to that the mosquitos (it was a warm september, so these beasts were highly active!) , and you will understand that the night was even shorter. The breakfast was a joke, too - a coffee served by a grumpy receptionist, and a lousy kind of croissant. To complete the package, it started to rain.

    I love packing the motorcycle in the rain. Oh yeah.

    We rode out of Pisa and towards the south. The weather did not improve, so instead of taking little back roads we changed our plan and headed directly towards Volterra.

    Approaching Volterra in the rain and fog is quite an impressing ride: not only that you climb a rather steep mountain that is visible far from the distance, but also the strong crosswinds and the harsh drops at the sides of the road call for a careful riding style. It was late morning when we arrived at our hotel, the Sole, which is a recent installation on the south ramp of the hill. A certain lack of charme of the new building is more than compensated for by the kindness of the ladies, and the large rooms and the private parking are very convenient. We merely dropped our luggage in the room, then went off to visit the famous site of San Gimignano.

    San-Gimignano-in-the-rain

    Citing wikipedia.org: "In Italian medieval walled towns, rich families competed in the erection of high towers that served as lodgings, fortresses and prestige symbols. While in other cities like Bologna or Florence, most or all of the towers have been brought down due to wars, catastrophes or urban renewal, San Gimignano managed to conserve 13 towers of varying height which are its international symbol."

    "San Jimmy" is situated just a few kilometers east of Volterra. As we arrived there the rain was still pouring down, but that did not stop thousands of tourists from visiting the site, too. We packed the GS onto a car parking (yes, it rained, and yes, the motorcycle parking lot was full - !), and went for a visit. Keeping the helmets on kept us dry and made sure that we got lots of looks from the other people - mostly amused by the ladies, and somehow intrigued looks by most of the men :lol2 This did not stop us from enjoying the visit. It would certainly have been more fun in a dry state, but we even asked the waiter in the restaurant if he had some plastic covers ... to avoid that we'd soak his chairs. Ah yes, and this was my first encounter with Pan forte, too - it looks like chocolate cake, but it is a rather compact matter with lots of taste :dg:.

    San Gimignano, flowers in the rain
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    San Gimignano, it's still raining
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    San Gimignano, view from Rocca towards the east
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    San Gimignano, curious cat
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    San Gimignano, wine shop
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    San Gimignano, near Piazza del Duomo
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    San Gimignano, Piazza del Duomo
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    In terms of food, Italy is - of course - the right place for any AdvRider. A specialty of that region are the Mandorlato cakes, which have nothing to to with the conventional idea of a light sunday afternoon cake ... they are rather "solid" and share some of their roots (and ingredients :D) with Nougat. AFAIK these are made mostly from honey, white of egg, sugar and almonds ... plus some spices, a lot of skills and, of course, family secrets!

    On, those sweet cakes ... !
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    ... and more of them!
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    San Gimignano, even more delicious stuff
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    San Gimignano, typical shop
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    Later on, the rain stopped, and for the second part of our visit we could take the helmets off. The only bad surprise was the parking ticket; a full 6 EUR for three hours is quite a lot - the same price as for a car, and fiercely confirmed by the, uhm, "dragon" at the information. Note to self: next time, take one of the other parkings, e.g. at the other end of the village.

    Back to Volterra, we took a shower and some rest. In the evening we took the walk uphill into the old part of Volterra. Being an old etruscian city, Volterra is surrounded by a huge wall, and since the rain started again this gave the scenery a truly menacing look :evil. Strolling through the roads of the city we discovered a number of beautiful places, and after a visit to a shop (too many beautiful things!) we ended up in the restaurant Etruria ... quite a good "culinary accident" :dg, since this turned out a perfect occasion to warm up after such a rainy day. The restaurant is apparently well-known in the region (no, make this: at least in the region), and its interior indicated that it exists since the 1970s (at least). The food was delicious, and the service perfect!

    Volterra, Palazzo dei Priori, detail
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    Volterra, Piazza dei Priori ... in the pouring rain
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    Volterra, Ristorante Etruria (and this was just the starter!)
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    Volterra, Ristorante Etruria, detail
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    Volterra, gelateria
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    Volterra, some door
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    Volterra, Porta all'Arco
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    Total of the day: 137 km. Not a lot, but a lot of impressions!
    #20