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10 Days in Italy


DR  Major

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A Little long.

 

But, I want to thank those who helped me plan this trip. They really helped us plan this and we had a great trip!!!

 

10 Days in Italy

 

2007

 

 

Rahnda & I celebrated our 35 wedding anniversary and wanted to do something a little different.

 

Well we just got back from 10 wonderful days in Italy on a 2007 BMW R1200GS motorcycle.

 

Some would ask why on a motorcycle? Well, we like riding together and thought it would cost less than renting a car, be more fun, and offer a different view of things. We also liked not being tied to a group tour where we had to be at one spot at a certain time. We went where and when we liked, based on hotel reservations.

 

It did all that and more!

 

After picking up our rental bike in Milan from Rent-a-Dream BMW, we headed out of Milan going North to Lake Como region. Mistake #1. Lake Como is a BIG tourist area for Italians and on Saturday afternoon the interstate was stopped- not slow- stopped- the closer we got the worst it got.

 

Being tired and not having slept for 36 hours, we punched in our 1st night’s hotel location/waypoint into the Garmin 276C GPS and headed across country on an unplanned route.

 

Our 1st night was to be at the Hotel Torcolo in Verona Italy. This is just South-East of Lake Garda. Problem #2… Garmin can’t see the satellites when the buildings are only 10-15’ apart (one car possible). So we constantly lost satellites signal. After driving around for over 1 hour and only ½ block from the hotel and not knowing it- we ended up in a Piazza where NO motor traffic is allowed.

 

After being told I couldn’t be there (by two Police) they consented to show me how to get through the one way street maze to the hotel.

 

The hotel was very nice- very different than American- not large, but very nice and very close to the heart of Verona, a wonderful and historic Italian town.

 

The next day, we rode up to Riva di Garda via the west bank of the lake. An absolutely beautiful area and ride. Photos can not do it justice. I had planned for this to be a day that included some of the lower Alps via Trento, but the weather and cold closed in and we didn’t have cold weather clothes, so we hoped on the Autostrada and headed back to Verona.

 

After two days in Verona, we again got on Autostrada to Venice. Here we met one of our Internet friends, Alessandro Dinon. Wonderful and helpful guy who took time off work to escort us to our hotel and the next day gave us an escorted tour of Venice and explained how to get back and forth via bus. I can’t tell you how helpful this was to us and Alex is super nice to be around. You cannot drive in Venice at all, so the 1 euro bus ticket is a steal.

 

The second evening/night we had dinner with Alex and his wife Catia. One interesting aspect of Italy, they eat late. We got to the restaurant about 8:30 PM and we were considered almost too early to be seated. There was no one in the restaurant, but by 9 PM, it was full. They like to eat 2-4 course meals, but not before 8 PM. Many restaurants do not open till 8 PM.

 

The following day we headed off to Florence, via the Autostrada. I was informed that there were few if any good riding roads in that area.

 

In Florence we stayed at a B&B, I Parigi. A Wonderful place to stay. Some of the building is over 600 years old. The rooms are very nice and large. There is a tree lined entrance, many flowers, olive trees, and swimming pool overlooking the valley and mountains of the area. The birds were everywhere and sang all day long and into the evening. The smell of flowers filled the air.

 

I Parigi is only 7 kilometers from Florence. What they didn’t tell us was that the road you go out on, you can’t come back on. It took some time to find our way back to B&B, and of course, I left the Garmin GPS in the room.

 

Florence is really nice place to visit with many historic buildings packed into a “small” area. Small until you have to walk ALL day long. Here in the US, we consider an old building to be about 100 years old. There, many buildings are from the 13th-15th century. We visited the Duomo (3rd largest cathedral in world) and several other “churches”. I think I wore down the tread on my shoes that day.

 

Only someone from Florence would try to drive a car there and only if it is a SMART CAR, i.e., VERY small. Smart has a car named FORTWO. They aren’t kidding- two adults and 4 bags of groceries. Many of the streets are only one small car wide and one way. The best way to get around is scooter or motorcycle! Two wheel vehicles have many privileges! You can park in many places cars aren’t even allowed and unlike cars; two wheelers don’t pay to park! We were able to park very close to where we wanted to be. People in cars had to walk a LONG way to the edge of the historic part of town.

 

After almost three days in Florence, we went on to Pisa and then to Parma. After looking at the leaning tower and messing around, a rain storm came in. We put on our rain gear and headed on to Parma. After about an hour on the Autostrada, we out ran the storm (30-40 mph winds) and removed the rain gear and sped up to about 80+ mph to out run the rain and get to Parma. Here our hotel was a new business hotel. Large room and nice, yet a little pricey.

 

On the way to Parma, I noticed on the Garmin some very heavy curved roads on each side. I spent that evening with Michelin Atlas of Italy and the Garmin planning the next day’s ride on those roads.

 

What a pay off! These turned out to be some of the best scenic roads and best riding roads we were on – ever. We almost got giddy about the views. We would round a turn and one of us would say – “Gosh, look at that view!” This went on for hours, to the point of being almost silly.

 

As for the roads, well consider 300 kilometers (186 miles) with about 140 of those miles in wonderful sweeping turns, switchbacks, and passages throw wonderful country sides. One road went up over a mountain pass that was almost too small for even one car, more like a long mountain driveway. The road appeared to have been paved many years ago and only once. Not a road for the BMW LT but great on the R1200GS and NO traffic.

 

Lunch was in a small mountain pass town of Bognone. Nice to sit on the street side café and enjoy the view. Since it was still too cold for the Alps, these mountains were a really nice substitute even though they only had elevations of about 2-5,000 feet. The scenery of the Tuscan lands is wonderful and the roads really showed off the handling of the GS.

 

Our last day was in Milan and here we were met by Maurizio Naro of the BMW-LT group KOG. Maurizio manages 5 hotels in Milan and rides a 1999 LT. We stayed at his Four Corners Sheraton hotel. This is the best hotel we have ever stayed at- anywhere. A EU rated 4-Star. I would give it 5-Star.

 

We walked from the hotel to downtown Milan to see the Theater la Scalla and the Duomo (cathedral). Teatro la Scalla is a world famous opera house. Quite fitting as Rahnda and I met at Furman University in the Furman Singers and started dating on tour. It is hard to imaging how elegant this theater is. It will seat 2500 people and much of that is in the many tiered boxe seats. Gold gild is every where. The lobby floors are marble just elegant.

 

The Duomo is one of the finest specimens of gothic construction I have seen. It is on par with Westminister and Notra Dame. Beautiful stained glass windows and marble floors. You will get a stain in the neck trying to view the detail in the vaulted ceiling. Detail is everywhere. Building started in 1389. Hard to imaging they built this with out power tools or hydraulics. The workmanship is exquizit.

 

Driving in Italy- well one of the Italian riders told me to expect “Crazy and Fast”. He was correct, however, I grew to really love it in most cases. Motorcycles and scooters really have many privialages over cars and trucks.

 

First, bikes can move to the front of the line at stop lights and signs. This really speeds you through traffic!!!

 

Bikes seem to pass at any oportunity- in town or on the road. They also pass when there is a car coming in other lane- they kinda expect the car to give them room.

 

Cars really seem to watch out for bikes/scooters. I always had the feeling that cars knew I was there and they seem to expect you to pass them and but into the line in front of them at intersections. They don’t seem to get angry about it.

 

Bikes truely have huge privaliages in towns. You can drive in many areas where cars are not allowed. You can park parralel or perpendicular to streets. You can park free!! Cars pay big for parking in the larger towns, that is assuming they can find a parking space. In Milan, one of the bigger cities, bikes park on the side walk- even in the business district.

 

It is interesting to see businessmen in 3 piece silk suits riding a scooter. And by the way, don’t challenge the women scooter riders. They are as agressive as the men.

 

Scooters are everywhere! When they park in towns, they usually park perpendicular to the side walk/ or street and they park so close to eash other, there is no room between them! Literally. I don’t see how they get them parked that tight and how they get them out.

 

Bikes- almost anything smaller than a 600 is a scooter. Most 600cc bikes seemed to be Suzuki and Kawasaki. Some were BMW 600 and 800. The most seen bike- BMW GS, 2nd would probably be the Honda TransLap and the Suzuki V-Strom 650/1000. Saw few (<12) Harleys. Saw more Buells than Harleys. Ducati was probably the #2 big bike I saw.

 

When cars pass you, they don’t nessicarily pull into the next lane. If you are over to the right of your lane, they just miss you in your lane, even at 85 mph.

 

Many of the street junctions are Round-a-Bouts. Got to really love these as it really keeps traffic moving- sometimes very fast and crazy! You have to be a little gutsy in some, as people tend to dare you to keep you place in “line”.

 

The worst part of the trip-

1. 10 hours on a plane coming home.

2. having to start driving with USA laws again. I like the way motorcycles can drive there

3. not having Gelato at every town/turn and not having to fresh bread, prescuto ham, and great cheeses. Sorry, I don’t drink, so I can’t tell you about the wines, even though we went to Chianti.

 

Miscellanious.

 

1. Bike

a. Rented from Rent-a-Dream, Milano Italy.

i. http://www.rent-a-dream.it/home.html

ii. Contact, Diego.

b. 2007 BMW R1200GS, only 3000 kilometers on it.

c. BMW expandable saddle bags, expanded.

d. BMW saddle bag liners

e. Givi 52 Liter top box

f. BMW tank bag

g. Stock BMW small windscreen

h. Non-linked rear brakes and no servo brakes.

i. Wonderfull choice for this trip.

j. Above 75 mph, it seems to drink gas At 85+ the gas gauge had a negative drop feature...out of gas much sooner.

2. GAS.

a. Well, they told me to buy only the green pump. Most gas stations had only 3 pumps, Gas Primo, Diesel, and Diesel Plus

b. The gas is GREEN in color! This is not a slight tint either, but green.

c. Paying for gas

i. Cash with our with out an attendent. They have machines that take 10 and 20 Euro bills

ii. Credit card, if there was an attendent

iii. Expensive!!!! Average was 1.35 Euro per Liter. OK, or the math. One Liter = 0.26 gallons or 3.78 liters per gallon. So 1 US gallon cost--- 1 Euor = $1.35 x 1.35 per liter x 3.78 liter per gallon = $6.89 per gallon.

3. Packing

a. BMW saddle bag liners

b. Small and Large conpression bags (rain gear and misc.)

c. Large and small “freezer” zip lock bags

d. Rubber bands to help compress clothes

e. Velcro ties to help compress clothes, rain suit etc.

f. Rok Straps, 2 to hold compression bags on top of saddle bag. I used the longer version with hooks at the ends. This really helped as I had to tie off to some interesting points. I don’t think the “standard” shorter

Rok straps would have been long enough.

4. Clothing

a. BMW Santiago jacket and pants.

i. Really nice suits

ii. Many vents help adjust the temp

iii. Not water proof- need a rain suit

b. BMW summer gloves

c. Frog Togs rain suit

d. Aerostich 3-finger rain gloves

e. Road Master rain covers for boots

f. Oxtar Boots

g. New Balance “running” shoes for me and Merrell® Women's Ultra Sport

h. Arai Signet GTR helmets with mid tinted visors with sun shade upper part.

i. 3- pair under-Armor Long leg shorts for me.

j. 3- Cool Max type t-shirts for me, and “fishing” shirts and t-shirts for Rahnda

k. Silk long sleave undershirt

l. 1- polo type “dressy” shirt

m. 2- pair Sokz for me and good CoolMax running socks for Rahnda

n. 1- support socks (for plane and long days of walking- Venice and Florence)

o. 1- “silk” neck scarfs/tubes to keep the cold drafts from coming down the colar of coat.

5. Electronics

a. Garmin 276C GPS wired into the Autocom

b. Autocom Pro-7 intercom

c. Both wired into one power take off from bike

d. LED mini flash light

6. Maps

a. I found that i really needed 2 maps- Michelin and AAA and the Garmin. Each shows something different. The Michelin Italy Atlas shows scenic roads highlighted in Green. They also have a GREEN Map that shows even more than the Atlas. Would suggest that. I found wonderful riding and scenic roads with the high lighted roads.

b. The Garmin got lost X-number of times. Some I fully understand- it can’t see the satilites when the streets are only one car wide and 3-4 stories high with buildings. However, She (Garmin voice) did get lost sometime and had us going in circles, especially in the cities. Some of these are due to roads recently being made One Way but some were just not fun. I would turn Her off for X- blocks or miles and turn Her back on and usually she was OK. I also tried RECACULATE in Shortest or Fastest route. This usually didn’t help

c. Michelin Atlas of Italy [really good]

d. Italian Touring Club map

e. AAA map of Europe [less detail]

f. Garmin City Navigator Europe v9 [must have]

g. Miscelaious city maps as we went to those cities. [must have]

7. Camera

a. Cannon Powershot S3-IS, 12x zoom and fairly fast lens.

b. 2 g Flash Memory x 3

c. Spare batteries and charger

d. Gorilla Pod, tripod, [http://www.joby.com/]

8. Miscellaneous

a. Sun Block

b. Aspirin/Excedrin

c. Pen and pad

d. PacSafe security

i. PacSafe 55 duffle bag protector to lock compression bag or jackets to bike.

ii. PacSafe Wrapsafe cable lock for helmets and etc.

iii. PacSafe Pouchsafe 200 secure travel organizer for use to keep passports, money, driver’s license and etc

iv. www. Pacsafe.com

v.

 

9. Hotels

a. We chose mostly 3 star hotels- trying to stay out of dumps and knowing we needed good sleep. I used TRIPADVISOR.COM a lot to search for them. Also help from BMW people on

i. http://www.kog.it/forum/index.php

ii. http://www.advrider.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=31

iii. http://www.bmwlt.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=33

iv. www.rtwride.com

b. Pricing. Most hotels were in the 80-130 Euro range. Cheaper is possible, but I thought a little risky and we later talked to some students who confirmed this. Some riders suggested just riding till you get tired and finding a hotel. However, I found the street price and the internet price of hotels vastly different. The internet was usually 20-30% less. Also, by the time you found a hotel in your price range, you would spend a lot of time and gas.

c. I chose hotels in or near the side trips we wanted to see or ride. The exceptions are many. Hotels IN Venice are extremely expensive- finding one under $2-500 a night is HARD and risky. Same for Florence and Milan. Outside the big cities, you can find less pricey.

d. I did a lot of research for hotels online with many different sites, but found TRIPADVISOR.COM most helpful. It would do searches of Obitz, Expedia, and etc.

e. I found that if I contacted hotels directly, I could get pricing even lower than the online rates. Exception was in Parma where Expedia saved us about $50 a night.

f. We stayed 2-3 nights in a hotel. We really liked this as we didn’t completely live out of the saddle bags. Also got to know our way around a little.

g. Verona- ***

i. Small 14 room hotel located on side street just 75 yards off the main historical square, Piazza Bra. Really nice people. Breakfast not included -8 Euros each, and served on side walk café.

ii. Great location, but very hard to find. GPS gets lost in the narrow tall streets.

HOTEL TORCOLO

Vicolo Listone 3 (Piazza Brà)

37121 Verona – Italia

Tel +39 045 8007512 – 8003871

Fax +39 045 8004058

Web site: www.hoteltorcolo.it

e-mail hoteltorcolo@virgilio.it

h. Venice- 3*

i. This was a get what you paid for hotel…we went Economy. Fancy hotel and superb location- 1 block from bus stop into Venice. Our room was the size of a Micro-Tel room, or smaller with double bed. The “full” bath was literally in the closest- a double sliding door closet. 36” deep and about 6’ wide for the shower, toilet, bidet and sink.

ii. Great breakfast included

iii. Only 1 Euro for bus into Venice & Murano (glass blowing)

iv. Fantastic place to park bike- secure behind private gate

v. Hotel Venezia - Via Teatro Vecchio, 5 - Mestre Centro - Venezia (Italy) - Tel. +39 041985533 Fax +39 041985490

http://www.hotel-venezia.com/eng/index.asp

 

 

i. Florence- 3.5*

i. This was Rahnda & mine favorite place. A small castle on top of a hill 7 kilometers out of Florence. Tree lined entrance, flowers, birds and just beautiful. Some of the building was 600 years old. Large rooms with a breeze coming through. It only took about 15 minutes to get into Florence.

ii. Included breakfast

iii. Very nice people. They helped us plan our attack on Florence so that we wasted no time.

I Parigi Bed & Breakfast

Via Luigiana, 12, 50125 Firenze (FI) Italy

http://iparigi.hotelinfirenze.com

j. Parma- 3.5*

i. A new business hotel and convention center. Very nice room and the food was good. Large excellent breakfast bar included. Dinner was pricey.

ii. Good location on out skirts of Parma with some of the best riding roads and views we had the entire trip and maybe ever!

iii. Hotel Parma & Congressi

iv. Via Emilia Ovest, 281/A - 43010 Parma - Italy - tel +39 0521 676011 - fax +39 0521 675642

v. http://www.hotelparmaecongressi.it/home.htm

k. Milan – 4*

i. This is a true 4 Star rated hotel. I would give it a 5 STAR!!! It is managed by Maurizzio Arno, a fellow BMW-LT rider and member of the Italian LT group KOG. I think Maurizzio rolled out the red carpet for us! We truly thank him. What a pleasure. Our room and the service were absolutely first class!!!! The sheets needed to be called linens. There was a Turkish bathrobe, slippers, etc, etc.

ii. The food was wonderful and a well stocked breakfast bar is included.

iii. The staff treated us extremely well.

iv. Hotel is spotless.

v. Four Points Sheraton Milan Center

vi. Via Cardano 3

vii. Milano, Italy

viii. +39.02.667461

ix. http://www.fourpointsmilano.it/sito/index.php?option=com_frontpage&Itemid=1

10. Food in general

a. Pricey. It seemed VERY hard to stay under 15-20 Euro ($20-$33) for any meal. This was at restaurants, bars, street café, or hotels. It was like everyone agreed on one price

b. Food was good. I like the very thin pizza and the flavors are super. Fresh Prescuto ham, parmesan cheese, mozzarella cheese, mushrooms, and etc.

c. All food seemed VERY fresh.

d. Water- you’ll pay for it- 1-3 Euro for about 1 Liter

e. Sodas, not many available and about 2-3 Euro

f. Fell in love with Gelato and hard bread rolls

11. Shoes

a. Better have some REALLY comfortable shoes/boots.

b. Best to have boots that are water proof

c. Walking shoes need to dry quickly and with out developing smell. Mine didn’t after a soaking in Venetian rain and tidal waters.

12. Clothes

a. Need to be very comfortable

b. Need to dry quickly. We found even the Coolmax clothes seemed to take a long time to dry.

c. Rain gear needs to be at hand this time of the year.

13. Season or time to visit.

a. Many of the riders said we picked one of the BEST times to visit-

i. We agree- it is Spring and the hills are green and flowers everywhere.

ii. Weather was 55-85 degrees F.

b. The week before we got there, it was 35C/95f in Milan.

c. September is also considered excellent time to visit and ride

d. July and August are too hot and Italians take their vacations in that time.

e. April is heavy tourist and into first 2 weeks of May.

873550-MuraglioneItalyUS-gs-small.jpg.a7d3a4f3c589b4e857c678b91e50b50e.jpg

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My jet lag says it did happen!! I went for 240 mile ride today and had to remind myself I was back in USA and had to drive slower and MUCH less aggressive.

 

REally like the Italian way of riding!!!!!!!!

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bart_vanreeth

Hey David !

 

Glad you like the southern-european riding style. wink.gif For me it was interesting to read. You describe things that we, here in europe, don't even notice anymore. You're right about the cars passing you in the same lane : it is dangerous. It reminded me - when I drove to Sardinya - a Fiat Panda floored me in a 3-lane boulevard in Livorno.

Ride safe,

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