July 2018, a small group of Bendigo friends headed off to Italy for an adventure through tour company ‘Hear the Road’. Mitch and I arrived in Roma about 1pm, on 22 July, and were greeted by our driver from the tour company and he drove us to our first little apartment in Roma. We opened up the gates that led us through to the internal gardens and right to our apartment, the apartment was fantastic, once we checked the place out, down came the blinds and zzz’s.
After our snooze we went for a walk, and we found that there were cafés on every corner, pizza, PLUS a street and underground market, score – ten out of ten for location. After coffee, pizza, and Affogato we headed back to our apartment for more R&R. Geez it was humid.
Our bike tour wasn’t due to start till 24th so we had a couple of days up our sleeves, and I had booked and paid for ‘skip the line’ tickets to the Vatican … What a croc. After eventually finding the Vatican guide, she pointed us to the ‘skip the line’ line, where it was probably 40 mins of waiting in the steamy rain facing the other way, before we decided it wasn’t worth it. So, we rebelled, walked off and headed to St Peter’s Square instead, no lines there. We like Roma but prefer the non-touristy locations and routes around the city.
The 24th of July arrived and after another fabulous brekky on the corner café, we packed up our things and headed to our hotel where we met Enrico, our tour guide and our Bendigo friends. Once Pete and Richard arrived, we all headed to get our bikes. I put my name down for a Hyperstrada, Mitch a Scrambler, Pete a Multistrada and Richard a BMW1200RS. Mitch chose the Scrambler in case I couldn’t reach the ground on the Hyper, and without any weight in the bags I had no hope, so I rode the Scrambler and he rode the Hyper back to our hotel.
Out the back in the courtyard, we had complimentary snacks and drinks whilst introducing ourselves to Enrico, then we headed out into the back streets of Roma for a bit of culture, history, dinner and gelato. Enrico showed us some amazing sights, those little hidden secrets that are off the main tourist routes and there’s something special about walking cobblestone streets, eating gelato, on a balmy night through Roma. Dinner that night Enrico leads us to a quaint little pasta restaurant, caprese salads, spaghetti and introduced us to the Italian way when it comes to eating pasta … mix … no bread before meal!
Day 1: Discovering Tuscia
July 25th – also my birthday. Couldn’t think of a better place to celebrate it. We leave Roma and head north towards Tuscia. I ended up staying on the Scrambler for the first day. Didn’t fancy stopping in Rome and not being able to touch the ground. So, I’m bumping along wondering if the suspension is actually working, lucky we were just on the highway for the first hour, once we got to Ronciglione, I hoped off and asked Mitch to fix my suspension, please, now, please!
Suspension a little better, and we headed into the café for our first coffee break, I was amazed how they managed to build these little towns on the side of hills and mountains. After morning break and fabulous coffee, we rode along the twisty shores of Lake Vico and Lake Bolsena, as a birthday prezzie Enrico took us to Civita di Bagnoregio, there’s no easy way to describe it, but it’s a huge city built on a small mountain … my photo doesn’t do it justice. It was magnificent!
Lunch was at Radicofani, another city on a mountain, caprese salad and chinotto are fast becoming my favourite things in this hot weather. I also made friends with a black cat. After lunch we rode through the very picturesque countryside of Tuscany, stopping at various little villages to explore a little and then onto Montefollonico, where we stayed for the night.
Our apartment was so pretty, and we had a spectacular view of the Tuscan countryside, the swimming pool also had a bird’s-eye view of the countryside, which we made a b-line for once we unpacked. That night we experienced traditional Italian food, I struggled to come to terms with the fact that pasta is an entrée, and we’re yet to have the main and dessert. How Italians stay so slim amazes me. Dessert was something special, as Enrico and Mitch had organised a profiterole cake for my birthday. It was so lovely and delicious. After dinner we went for a walk, through the cobblestoned streets, making our way to a bar where there were locals, dogs, cats, and kids all enjoying some music.
Day 2: Travelling toward Florence, Livorno and Corsica
Breakfast and oh so wonderful coffee before we saddled up again, this time I hopped on the Hyperstrada and Mitch rode the Scrambler. With all the weight in the bags I was able to touch the ground. We headed down the mountain, through some marvellous endless twisty roads, and I was falling in love with the Hyperstrada, the aggression coupled with body position and flick-ability, I was having an absolute ball on it.
Mitch and I were talking to each other on our Sena’s, comparing our steeds and generally chatting away, and then as we came up to an intersection, I pulled the clutch in to change down and heard a twang, and had no clutch at all. I may have sworn a bit, especially when I realised, I couldn’t find neutral, and I was about to stall, I could touch the ground but only just, so I had to prepare myself to hold her up.
I told Mitch I had no clutch and he turned around, a little later the others came back, we searched the road for the little ball bit, but no luck, probably bounced into the grass. So back onto the Scrambler I hopped, feeling disappointed as the Hyper was uber fun.
Mitch rode the Hyper without a clutch back to Ducati Siena, where they were no help at all, they were too busy to fix the clutch and it wouldn’t be ready to pick up till 5.00pm. Funny cause the whole time we were there I didn’t see anyone work on any of the bikes they had there. We entertained the idea of fixing it ourselves, cause it’s a pretty easy fix, but it could have voided our insurance, so decided not to.
Mitch and I hopped onto the Multistrada and Pete rode the Scrambler. I have got to say I am the worse pillion ever. Just ask Mitch, he almost turned off his Sena. I can’t relax, I try to set up and ride into and out of corners, I had to close my eyes so I couldn’t see. So, Mitch had me singing, I was singing all of the Simpson’s songs, such as ‘see my vest, see my vest” etc. (and yes, I am an old school Simpsons fan).
We rode through the Tuscany countryside to Florence, where there was a brand new R1250GS waiting for Mitch, another thing I noticed about being a pillion is the lack of air flow, geez it was bloody hot. We didn’t stay in Florence for long, as we had to get to Livorno and the day was getting away from us, so Mitch on the BMW, and me on the Scrambler, although they weren’t our preferred mounts, we didn’t let that dampen our enthusiasm for what lay ahead.
Into Livorno, and we checked into our accommodation, The Hotel Universal, right on the water’s edge, crystal clear Mediterranean seas right on our doorstep. We settled and made our way down to the courtyard for happy hour, before we headed out to another hidden treasure that specialises in seafood bisque. So yum, so amazing. Another balmy night and after dinner we walked the Esplanade, to the local show, that also had a bike show and shine, where Mitch fell in love with a Vitpilin. Followed all of this up with gelato on peer. All the while we were introducing Enrico to Aussie slang, and he was introducing us to Italian. Hehehe.
The next day brought more blue skies, and warm weather, as we boarded the ferry to take us over to Corsica. I’m not good on boats and knowing such I was prepared. I took half a Travacalm tablet and waited to feel the wave of sleepiness take hold. What I wasn’t expecting was the Mediterranean being as smooth as silk (first clue should’ve been when I noticed they tie the bikes down with just bailing twine), so the whole time I was sleepy and slurry for no bloody reason at all. Lesson learnt, good to know.
As we approached Bastia in Corsica, the humidity rose and was extremely high, as the Island makes its own climate. We rode off the ferry and headed towards Ferayola. The rugged roads, we christened the bumpitidy bumpitidies. I also wished I had the suspension of the Hyper at that point. Corsica is the perfect mix of spectacular coastline roads, huge cliffs and twisty fun mountain roads. We stopped at Nonza, a tiny city on top of a mountain with an outdoor bar and down below black sandy beaches, apart from the tourists who thought towing caravans through was a great idea, this little place struck a chord with me. It had a really great vibe and was just wonderful.
On to Ferayloa, secluded pretty villas perched on the mountain side overlooking the ocean, it seems the French don’t do great coffee, but the food was outstanding, our table was on the balcony that over looked the sun setting on the horizon.
Day 3: Arriving in Sardinia
We pack up and head to Bonifacio, along the challenging coast line, riding through the spectacular red mountain cliffs and twisty roads of Les Calanche de Piana. I loved these S-bend roads and had the little Scrambler zinging. Our first little coffee stop was along here in a tiny little town, and the owners of the café appeared to be major supporters of Valentino Rossi, flags and memorabilia everywhere. I made friends with another cat too.
More twisty pretty roads, cliffs and country sides and onto Cargese for lunch, pizza by the bay, doesn’t get any better than that. We reached Bonifacio and boarded the next ferry to Sardinia, I was totally ready for the trip and didn’t even take any anti-nausea drugs. We were on the ferry for an hour. Go me!!!
Once off the ferry and into Sardinia, we made our way to our accommodation at Nuraghe Tuttosoni. This place was very cute, it felt like a scene out of a spaghetti western, with cacti, donkeys and little white villas. Dinner tonight was in the dining area, under a huge tree lit by fairy lights, their speciality was black whole fish encrusted in sea salt, herbs and spices It was something really special, especially when the full moon came up. Enrico sure does know where to take his guests that’s for sure.
Day 4: An itinerary through the beautiful Sardinian landscapes
After the most delicious traditional breakfast and great coffee (back in Italy) we leave and head south, to take on the beautiful challenging roads of Gallura and we’re all enjoying our bikes. The Scrambler skips along a bit when I’m having a go.
Our first coffee break was at Tempio Pausania, a very cute old town well known for its coloured pavement. Oh, what a special little place, this was one of my favourite places we visited in the whole trip, the coloured pavement was fabulous. Enrico introduced us to some locals, and we sat and drank coffee with them, very lovely.
Back on the bikes, we rode through Monte Limbara, known for its cork products, it was very cool to be able to ride the mountain roads through the cork forests. We also visited Elephant Rock, a striking dark trachyte rock sculpted by the wind to resemble an elephant, nature really is splendid. After having lunch with the Elephant, we headed towards Alghero, and ancient Catalan town to the Mediterranean Sea. We visited the beautiful old town, had gelato, then we rode the scenic coastline road that brought us to Bosa, then up to Tresnuraghes where we will be staying for two nights.
We each had a little apartment in Tresnuraghes, after we settled in, we went for a walk to the local bar for some drinks before dinner, Enrico was in fine form and had picked up the Aussie slang well. The dining experience was something else, we walked a couple of kms (I also made a horsey friend along the way) to our very own private country kitchen, where we had the local speciality of wild boar. Yum doesn’t even come close to describing the food, the whole experience was outstanding.
Day 5: Time to relax
Today was supposed to be a rest day, but we wanted to explore some more, so we all donned our bathers under our bike gear and Enrico let us along the challenging twisty coastline roads down to the beach, where we spent most of the day swimming in the spectacular sea, we ate pizza, pasta, salads and drank at the beach “shack” whilst in our togs, and eventually made our way back to our accommodation.
Our little building back in Tresnuraghes was in a sea of other buildings, but it had its own green lush courtyard, and right down the back is where we had dinner the second night, under the stars and fairy lights, I made friends with more cats too.
Day 6: Bathe in nature
We packed up and headed south east towards the scenic roads of Monti del Gennargentu, a vast wild area, crossed by deep gorges and canyons. This road was probably one of my favourite roads of the trip, I had a ball, we stopped briefly at Fonni for a bite and then down to Cala Gonone, and to our Hotel Bue Marino accommodation, another superb motel right on the water edge. After settling in, last one down to the beach is a rotten egg. Mitch and I couldn’t find our crew at the beach, that was until we hear koo-ueee, oh dear, Enrico has mastered the koo-ueee. Yep, we found them.
Most of the evening was spent on the beach in the water and drinking. I may have had a wee bit too much gin and I was feeling a bit tipsy, what’s in Italian gin, wowsers!!! Dinner on top of the roof, watching the ocean, and sunset.
Day 7: Last day in Sardinia
Today was a short riding day, we rose the beautiful coastline mountain roads from Cala Gonone to Villasimius, this was an extension of the days before road that I loved, we all gave it the beans and had a ball swinging though the S-bends and tunnels. We stopped at Villasimius for lunch and a refresher. As it was so hot, I played in the sprinklers in the streets, after having gelato.
Back on the bikes and we took on yet more of the spectacular mountain roads down to Cagliari, where we caught the ferry back to Civitavecchia. This ferry trip back to the mainland takes 13 hours, so we slept on the boat, and I didn’t even need my tablets, the water was ridiculously calm going across.
Day 8: Back to Rome
Off the ferry and we head towards Roma, but along the way we made a detour for Enrico’s property, tucked away in the olive tree forests in Tuscany, where Enrico and his mate made us traditional tomato pasta and an array of delicious treats. I also made friends with Enrico’s cat Nina.
Afterwards we rode back to Roma, to deliver our bikes back. I was sad to say bye to the little Scrambler, as much as I wanted to ride the Hyper, the Scrambler was a lot of fun. That night we all had dinner together one last time, at Enrico’s favourite restaurant, followed by affogato and another night-time walk before bidding farewell.
This was the second time we’ve been on a Europe tour, and this trumps the first one. Enrico was the perfect tour guide. He knew the best places to take and show us, he introduced us to the Italian way and the locals, we stopped a bit so we could enjoy and experience the locations, it took us off the main tourist routes, he let us go on ahead if we wanted to have a crack, it was brilliant.