Trip to Italy.

Done a "Ewan & Charley"? Been for a fried breakfast and taken pictures? Share the tales of your adventure in here

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Trip to Italy.

Postby bins » Wed Nov 13, 2019 10:49 pm

Some of you may recall a few years ago I wrote about a trip to Italy organised by Neil and Ann Leigh, I have done their event about 6 times, sometimes riding there on my own and sometimes with company, much as I enjoy riding with similar people, when you’re on your own different things seem to happen.

Recently in October I left home alone to join the other participants at our base for a few days near San Marino, it may be the right time to remind those who know me, (and to tell those who don’t), I’m a constant embarrassment to my travelling companions, I believe I speak clear and uncomplicated German, also Italiano perfetto, I steer away from French due to their inability to pronounce many letters in their words and the obscure accent. However I am not always speaking to either German, Italian or French recipients, therefore we don’t have a common language! Also the days of me leaving home at 5.30 to catch a 9 o’clock boat are gone, especially when it may rain.

So, 7.45 a.m. and I’m on the road to Dover, 3 miles to go and there’s a torrential downpour, off the other side and it’s dry all the way to Mons for my first stop in a youth hostel, I share the room with a 22 year old French student, we chat (in English) late at night about bikes, his mother is a nurse and she’s not keen on him owning one, after telling him of my travels and showing him pictures on the internet he’s determined to take his test. On other trips I’ve done I feel the holiday starts when I’ve done the auto route to Mons, from there I take to the smaller roads, I call in at the circuit of Mettet, I’ve got to know Stephane Mertens, he runs track days there, he and his instructors are genuinely pleased to see me, they’ve been following my recovery over the last 2 years, (I collided with the ground after leaving a ladder), (some of you may not have heard), (I blame my loss of memory on a knock on the head, however it seems to have regenerated my usage of brackets). I drop into Neil and Ann's, aeaventures, near Spa for a coffee. I meander down to Vianden hostel hoping for a bed only to find they’re full, the proprietor remembers when I was there 3 years previously with 2 others and phones through to another and books me a bed. The (male) receptionist is taking his bike test and comes to look at my R1200RS, he sees the track day sticker on the top box and later on we talk about all things 2 wheeled. Much as I dislike social media it has it’s advantages, I’m now a legend in Luxembourg, (well at least in the village of Lachotte).

Next morning I head south through some beautiful scenery in sunshine without a care in the world, on entering a village a cop steps out and beacons me in, “O dear, I’m nicked again” luckily I was only doing 68 in a 50 (kph), it cost me 49 euros but if I’d been doing 69 it would have been 149, I felt I’d got good value for money and paid up, I told him I was going to Italy but he didn’t want to chat! I more cautiously enter Germany along the Saar valley but pass Saarbrucken using the autobahn. Back into France and past Bitche, (I was nicked there for speeding back in 1978, I remember it cost a weeks wages then). Across the Rhine, into Germany and follow the compass, (south or south east will do) roll into Schaffhausen and find a backpackers hostel, twice the price of the Luxembourg establishment and the waitress does not speak English, I never realised the Swiss German was so impossibly difficult to understand, never mind she had a gorgeous smile and seemed to understand me, (I suppose turning up at 6 in the evening, looking tired and saying zimmer frei, it was obvious what I needed). That evening I wandered around the town and it’s then I miss a companion, however things were to take an upturn when I returned to the dormitory, one roommate was cycling from Munich, understandably he was tired and needed sleep, the other was Italian and spoke no English, after 5 minutes we let the German rest but carried on our questions and answers in the morning when he was gone, he gave me an apple, banana and some nuts. We exchange names, ages, abitos, (homes) method of transport etc. all in Italiano. I then ride along the southern side of that big lake, I’ll call in Lake Constance, if I was in Germany in would have been the Bodensee! it was raining again and a camera took me completely by surprise, forward facing it flashed at me, I couldn’t believe it when I saw a flash in my mirror, honestly I was going slow enough to stop and wait for someone else to go past it for the second picture. I found out later from my compatriots they have 360 days to notify us of a fine, (some had just received theirs from the previous year, apparently if you pay within 5 days they give a discount).

I bought the Austrian Vignette and set off for my favourite town, Innsbruck, it was raining hard so I did the Autobahn, after a while it becomes a normal road, I make a mistake and fail to see the cars stop in front entering a tunnel, double white line but there’s just enough room to squeeze past and miss the oncoming vehicle, very close but I got away with it, good thing I don’t have panniers! Not far to Innsbruck and I arrive at 3 in the afternoon, I find a hostel but it’s full, they tell me of another but I cannot find it, 2 cops, (one was an absolutely beautiful young female) have stopped an Audi, I notice a few notes in their hand and one of them was definitely a 100 euro, I thought don’t get nicked here it’s going to be expensive! I ask “vo ist ein hostel, Rennstrasse, (which is where we were) bitte” I showed her the leaflet, after quite a bit of thinking she googled it on her phone and it was on a street just off where we were. It turned out to be shut and I headed out of town to another which was also shut. I ended up in a small hotel near the Brenner pass, after eating a delicious chilli con carne served by a wonderful barmaid, (she had the best chest I’ve never seen), I spoke with 2 men at the bar, one was from Vienna the other was local and used to be a schoeplatler dancer, he spoke no English but understood when I asked about lederhosen. In between serving beers the barmaid kept returning to ask me more questions, we spoke about the ski jump, cable cars and the Wilten Basilica, her son serves in a cafe near the golden roof and after 3 strong beers the social media played it’s part and we showed pictures of our travels and families. A wonderful evening rounded off with a kiss and a hug, (from the barmaid).

The next morning I went under the Europa Bruck, stopped and chatted with a German trucker travelling in a motorhome, after getting frustrated trying to understand me he looked at my number plate, the conversation then continued in English. I went on the old Brenner road into Italy, went up the Timellsoch, saw some snow so turned and rode down again, went a bit further south and turned right up a lowish pass and found some good roads but through villages, I kid you not in one there was 5 or 6 speed cameras in the space of a mile, (1.6 clicks), I was following a Gold Wing, (on the open sections going quite quick), when a Punto on Italian plates overtook us both at way above the limit, the camera did not flash, he obviously knew something we didn’t! Near Trento I put Hostel into the sat nav and it showed one beside Lago di Garda, dreadful traffic all the way from Riva del Garda down the west beside the lake, turned out well in the end, single room and a wander round the town finished off with a lasagne al forno.

Just by chance I met with 10 of the others on the trip in a garage near Mantova, we went a long way across the Italian flat land heading for Cattolica near San Marino, average speed camera signs everywhere, I’ve just started drawing my state pension, the thought crossed my mind about opening a European bank account to have it paid into, then a management system to distribute it to the necessary penalty notices. We do the last 30 miles on the Autostrada and pay the fees to reach our base for 5 nights.

8 of the group entered a track day riding Misano, I was on my R1200RS so when the sun shined I wished I’d brought the S1000RR, never mind I wandered round drinking free coffee, eating complimentary cake and engaging in conversation, (may have been a bit one sided) one time 3 of us were watching the others from a grandstand, I could not help asking an Italian couple questions, (I got and understood the answers), (no it was not 2 words, (second one “off”)), (or the Italian equivalent). They do track days a bit different there, participants are issued with a transponder, after 2 sessions they are graded into equal speed groups for subsequent sessions, at the end of the day the riders wanting the last session are lined up in the pit lane in speed order, they have brolly girls and a photographer gives the pilots their moment of stardom, they then do a lap behind an instructor and when they pass the start/finish line their transponders start timing them, they do 6 laps and the fastest rider wins the race!

Another day we visit San Leo for dinner, (lunch if you’re posh), after eating I notice a viewing area, 3 of us walk through and there’s an Italian couple, turns out they know Valentino and show me their picture with him, I show my picture with Barry Sheene and next thing we’re friends on face book, (much as I dislike social media, it has it’s advantages), their friends son is in the academy and I’m friends with them now! later that day we got split up a bit and I was riding slowly waiting for others to catch up, I noticed a camera in the distance and I was watching the sat nav do the count down to it, a truck in front of me stopped and caught me by surprise, my goodness me that 1200RS will stop in no time, it was not a problem, however, I locked the rear wheel, stalled the motor but started it again without putting my feet down. It really unsettled me for a while, years ago I swore I’d never have a sat nav, I blame the speed camera!

On the last night I develop a cough and cold, unusually for me I do 174 miles on the motorway and it gets me up to Verona and back into interesting scenery, (at least there’s no speed cameras), I ride into Merano heading for the Timmelsoch, (Merano is a very easy place to get confused in), and into Austria, (I trust you’re not getting too confused with my use of brackets, my mind wanders a bit, (I’ve had a knock on the head remember)), this time it’s not snowing but the temperature warning comes on and it’s 0 degrees, I cannot find a hostel but end up in an expensive ‘cheap’ hotel, (I’ve read it again and to me that makes sense), (the hotel did not make sense).

Next morning I ride through Austria and out via the Fern pass, not my favourite but I’m heading for home, I set the sat nav so it’s impossible for it to direct me onto Autobahn, interesting countryside but I’ve got a headache, I stop in a town by a shop and go to buy something for it, I’m not in a tourist area so Deutsch may be needed, I find some water and ask the girl at the checkout “Ich hab eine problem mit mein kopf, haben zee eine (and in a somewhat hesitant way) paracetamol?” I detected the corners of her mouth turning upwards and she may have said “nine” I thought I only want a couple and nine is a somewhat unusual number of pills to pack, I ask “ist eine pharmaceee” and point up and down the road, (you have to imagine me with a somewhat broad Norfolk accent saying pharmacy), she points up the road and says “zweihundert metre” I leave and think I bet she’ll tell her parents about me when she gets home! I go through the same vocabulary in the chemist and there’s a few people there, none of them broke into uncontrollable laughter and I got my pills. As I walk back to the bike I take 4, (I never read instructions, especially when it comes to medication), drink some water and my headache is gone, something was apparent here, either the pills were very strong and worked, or I was very dehydrated, or it may have been I was so chuffed at conversing it took my mind completely off any pain.

Back on the road and I’m heading north west, I put hostel into the box and it shows one in France, I cross the Rhine on a very impressive bridge and there’s massive locks for the barges to one side, I end up at a non hostel but the lady sends me 4 clicks to another, I park the bike on the pavement, as I walk up the steps another lady greets me wearing a short, tight dress and thigh boots, undeterred I use my total vocabulary of the French language asking for a room for one person for one night, sil voo play! she welcomed me in better English than mine and asked if I’d like to eat. Later after a shower I ate something like a pizza but with a very thin base, she and her husband ran an American style cafe and bar, rock and roll music playing, posters of Marylyn Munroe and Elvis on the walls, I asked if she’d heard of Si Cranstoun, she played Dynamo and then put his play list on, they must have liked it! We chatted about bikes, travelling and music all evening, in the morning she made me coffee and we discussed different nationalities and attitudes.

Another day followed in sunshine, a leisurely meander back to another hostel in Luxembourg, I shared a room with a cyclist from Gent, he’d cycled up the Stelvio before it was tarmac, around Tunisia but never owned a motorcycle. 20 miles before I got to Dunkerque the next day there was a terrible storm, (first rain since I entered Austria on the way down), I was running late for the ferry as I’d took a wrong turn in the road works around Mons, 50 MPH was all I dare do, by the time I was near the docks it had stopped, I did 100 in between the roundabouts, they waved me through the customs and when I got to the lanes they enthusiastically waved me on, I did 60 across the lanes and the staff were all laughing as I rode up the ramp to the boat, if I’d been on the RR it would have been appropriate to pull a wheelie! the doors closed as I strapped the bike down and we were away. Home later, 2800 mile trip.

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Re: Trip to Italy.

Postby Paul » Thu Nov 14, 2019 8:53 am

Sounds like an excellent trip (great write up too :wink: )


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Re: Trip to Italy.

Postby popsky » Thu Nov 14, 2019 10:38 am

Really enjoyed reading that, thanks for taking the time to write up :D

R1200S and loving it !


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Re: Trip to Italy.

Postby boxerscott » Thu Nov 14, 2019 9:10 pm

That track day sounded fun and scary.

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Re: Trip to Italy.

Postby nab 301 » Sun Nov 17, 2019 5:45 pm

Thanks for taking the time to share your trip

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