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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 A siluet from a park in Florencemade 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 km. 
A great road, where you will cross the Chianti mountains The roads are in very good condition, combined with a hilly terrain. You will cross tA happy Pernille after shopping at Prada Factory Outlethe 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:
From San 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.Typical Tuscan hills, close to San Gimignano  After passing 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 Great road in Alpi ApunaBagni 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.
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.

The marvelous Duomo at Campo dei Miracoli
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. 

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.
The road from Riva del Garda to Bolzano

Dolomites the 4th tour.
From Bolzano -> S 241 Vigo i Fassa -> S 48 Canazei -> Arabba -> Corvara in Badia -> Ortisei -> Bolzano
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 in Italy.
Pernille had 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 in Montevarchi.

From Bolzano we took the autozug back to Berlin a great pleasure



Updated the
1th May 2003