Touring in Italy on a Ducati ST2
Especially for motorcyclists: Back roads from Siena to Bolzano in Italy.
I remember when
I was in Italy for the first time by bike in 1997, it was quite difficult
for me to navigate on the smaller roads. Often you got lost and made
unwanted detours. Today, I think that everybody might not have a problem with
bad or missing road signs. The summer vacation this year gave me some new knowledge. On
this trip we had more time and I have learned 'un poco italiano', which
resulted in a better pronunciation of the city names which again made towns
and street names easier to remember. The extra time also allowed us to
do a detour without any negative effects. We started our
vacation in the small middle age City San Gimignano a 30 minutes drive from
Siena. We went on two one-day tours from there.
The 1st tour:
From San G.
-> Poggibonsi -> Radda in Chianti -> Montevarchi. Road # SS429/SS408 a
'Strada del vino'. Among others the home of the Gallo wines. It's a trip of 60
The roads are
in very good condition, combined with a hilly terrain. You will cross
Chianti mountain(s) on the trip. One particular good thing about this road
was the very low number of other vehicles to disturb the trip. No hazardous
overtakings were necessary to enjoy the road in full extends. The Ducati
pay back time was here and it was an absolutely unforgettable trip. Our intentions
with this trip where to visit some Italian fashion house factory outlets.
In Montevarchi we visited "Prada" outlet. It is located by a huge grey anonymous
factory buildings in the south end of the town (Via Levanella Becorpi).
When you enter the almost invisible/hidden entrance, a major fashion store
reveals itself. I would guess it was at least 1000m2. This of course, sent
Pernille into the higher layers of the sky. The trip back went northwards
to Florence, to the "Dolce and Gabbana" outlet. This is located in Incisa
in Val d'Arno. It is a bit more prestigious building but equal as anonymous.
In general the cities along the Arno River are not very interesting except the
downtown of Montevarchi which is OK.
The 2nd tour:
G -> Montaione -> Pontedera -> Fuccechio -> Altopascio -> Bagni di Lucca -> Fornaci
di Barga -> Gallicano -> Grotta del Vento. The destination was originally
Pisa, but due to forgotten items in our day trip luggage we changed it to
the Alpi Apuna Mountains, north of Lucca. The first part of the road from
San G. to Montaione was really fantastic, no traffic and lots of curves
and small hills. This is a typical Tuscany terrain you pass.
Montaione the road is flat until Bagni di Lucca. The road in
the perimeter of Lucca was really awful. There were a lot of heavy trucks and the suburban
environment with a 60km/h speed limit made it rather anoying. But once we
got to Bagni
the road cleared and the Alpi Apuna kindly stretched their peaks. The scenes
became better and we passed Ponte del Diavolo which was an obvious place
for to rest. We exchanged some experiences with some German motorcyclists,
who were heading for Isola d'Elba and Sardegna. They highly recommend the
road SS63 to Réggio Nell'Emilia via this road, SS445. Well, back
to this tour. We continued to Grotta del Vento (the wind cave), there were
plenty of signs so it was easy to find. The road form Gallicano to the
Cave, were really beautifull. Small mountains covered with trees,
small streams carve their way down to the Serchio River. Tiny roads with
"curly" tracks didn't invite to fast driving but safe and inspiring driving.
Grotta del Vento is absolutely worth a visit. There were tours available
in both English and German. We almost had to persuade the guide that
we where Danish and not German, in fact of our MC gear! But we got the English
tour :-) There are three tours: 1, 2 or 3hours duration. I'll recommend
calling them and confirming the tours starting time, secondly choose a 2 or three
hour trip. The 1-hour trip was only 45 minutes. Just keep your MC clothes
on, it is only 10 degrees down there!
A few minutes from the Cave we stopped, at a nice family restaurant called:
Il Tinello. We were situated close to a merry bunch of road workers and
the real Italian dinner style was exhibited. Three courses, red wine and
finally Italian cognac and coffee. Cosiness and joy. As most Italian restaurants,
Il Tinello had fair prizes and good service.
Pisa and the 3rd tour.
When leaving Pisa
for Reggio Nell Emilia we followed the coastline to Pietrasanta, and from there we went
to Seravezza and then to Castelnuovo di Garfagnana. In Castelnnuovo we
connected to road # SS445 which I have mentioned earlier. When we connect
with SS63 we drove towards Réggio.
Later on the
tour, we were resettled in Pisa for a couple of days. We came from Lucca
and made a decent from the hills to the plains surrounding Pisa. The city
smiled at us in the prettiest way in the sunset and invited us in. We spend
numerous hours on Campo dei Miracoli with the Duomo and The Leaning Tower.
This is a unique place and you feel a divine inspiration. The paintings
in the ceilings of the Duomo are magnificent and The Leaning Tower adds
spice to it all.
These two roads
are highly recommended as an alternative to the boring autostrada payroads.
In Réggio you are on the Po plains. This plain is not particular
fun for motorcyclists but the goal on the other side is worth the drive.
Bolzano and the 3rd tour.
From Valeggio -> Desenzano
-> Saló -> Riva del Garda -> S 421 Ponte Arche -> Andalo -> S 43 Dermulo
-> Sanzeno -> Romeno -> Passo della Mendola -> S 42 Bolzano.
From the south
side of Lago di Garda we drove along the Lago di Garda on the western side
of the lake. It's by far the most interesting road of the two possibles.
You often have a great view over the lake and there's a bit of challenge
in the curves, some traffic and slow driving must be expected. In Riva
del Garda you can enjoy yourself with an ice cream and regain strength for the
next long haul. Finding road #421 north out of Riva can be difficult, but
I can promise it's there and you won't regret having spend time finding it,
when you see what it has to offer. The rise into the mountains is full
of 180-degree road twisters and every turn gives a better and better view
of Lago di Garda. But the road will take you away and give you a view of lakes, mountain
passes and small cities full of retired people, who enjoy the fresh air.
On the final part of the road you will cross the pass of Passo della Mendola
or Mendelpass, after that a great downhill tour takes you right to
Bolzano or Bozen.
Dolomites the 4th tour.
From Bolzano -> S
241 Vigo i Fassa -> S 48 Canazei -> Arabba -> Corvara in Badia -> Ortisei
On our last big
tour we took a tour around the mountain Gruppo di Sella.
This is 'manifigue' tour with hundreds of corners. I highly recommend that
your gear is in good shape as well as yourself. It's not a tour for beginners.
It's a road that will test your machine and your driving abilities. Despite
all your sweat, high pulse and hot brakes you'll get an unforgettable
view and the spirit of touring. There is not much more to say, except that
you can see a different explanation of the tour on Rukka's homepage,
see below for the exact link.
Additional info on touring
obtained several free guides and information folders/books at the Italian
Tourist Office in Copenhagen before we left. That was a good idea and I
would like to recommend the following: 'Regional series: Destination Toscana'
and especially 'Ciao Italia' a road map book with selection of touring
itineraries. See ITALIA. From the Internet
I have found great information, particularly for motorcyclists, Due
Ruote in Liberta send a fine booklet with tour descriptions as a commercial
for their services. On Le Volpi ciccione
there are many different tours described with less details, but enough to
get good ideas. On Rukka
motorcyclingwear I found a great description of a tour in the Dolomites
round the most comprehensive set of passes and curves I have ever tried.
From the Danish site italy.dk I found
many great and secret places to visit, among others, the Prada factory outlet