A little sum up of the first couple of days riding through Italy.
Initially, the plan was to get through Switzerland, enter Italy in the north and stay at a campsite near Lago Maggiore. The day before, I rang some campsites and basically they were all closed...
This meant going the Airbnb route. Fortunately, there was an amazing little lake house available right near were I was planning to go and the owner was a really friendly guy who told me all about his memories. One of the best ones apparently was him eating some tomatoes and mozarella at a greek ruin south of Napels (which is on the list for a visit). Lovely guy.
This was also the site of the first bike drop. The house itself was on a higher terrace than the lake house. I had a lot of luggage to take down and it was a bit of a mission to carry it all down. The steep hill towards the lake-house had some ice on it but when I walked down, the bit that didn’t have ice wasn’t too slippery. I got on the bike, started my epic descent (first time doing something off roady on the 701), it felt good, I was going nice and slow but all of a sudden, rear wheel locks up and I’m down. 0.001 seconds it felt like. Haha. Ah well, shit happens. Pick her back up, ride the last bit down, fully unpacked the bike and road her back up (different route). Needless to say, I just carried my bits and bobs up instead of riding up fully packed.
The Nippozano area is situated east of Florence and is a place I know rather well. I did two Ducati Riding Experience’s (DRE) there and was anxious to get up there so I could give the bike a proper shakedown. All the work I did on the bike took up so much time that I couldn't do that in the Netherlands.
The closed campsite thing turned out to be a bit of a trend, so another Airbnb was booked. The view was equally stunning (see image in header). One of the guys from the DRE recommended me a section of roads starting on top of a hill and taking me through the forests. On the map it looked absolutely epic. Unfortunately, when I got on top of that hill, snow...
Whenever I’m riding offroad, I always find it easier to ride (fast) going up a hill, than down one. Gravity makes for quick stopping. As the snow in question was on a downhill slope, I figured I could easily just go down to check it out as going uphill was going to be easier regardless. After about 300m of pure snow and ice, the road cleared (the sun side of the hill was kicking in) and I figured, let’s keep on going and see. The hill started to decline a bit more and I found another patch of ice. Combined with the steeper descent, this part didn't go to well. After dropping the bike and thoroughly looking at the route (to see where the sunny side of the hill would start again), I decided it would be best to head back up. The easy bit, remember. Boy was I wrong. The moment I release my clutch, the rear wheel dug itself into the snow I went exactly nowhere. After a lot of swearing and picking the bike up numerous times I finally made my way back up.
On the way down (on the normal roads), I remember the advice of Gianluca, the owner of the previous Airbnb, saying the best thing to do in Italy is to get lost. He couldn’t have been more right. After taking a couple of wrong turns and going down through the hills I find the exact gravel roads the DRE used for its last day trip through the Italian mountains. This time a lot lower down, so no snow. My luck had turned, I found some renewed energy and had a blast riding the hills for a couple hours, even finding some grounds we didn't touch on the DRE.
While this sounds to me like a bad name for an Italian porn movie, it’s actually a famous road through the Chianti area. I got recommended this and it was really nice. I learned that my navigation application actually had a system for all true "off roady" bits and I noticed I could easily detour from the normal road to get into a bit of harder stuff only to swing back around to the regular route. And some hard stuff I found. At one point I took a left and straight after a right into what seemed like a little farmhouse track, I remember thinking if this was a good idea as the track didn’t look like it was being used all that much, but that feeling quickly subsided with me thinking, what the hell. Let’s go.
To paint the full picture, in the morning, I fully fuelled up the bike (all 33 liters) and maybe 3 liters of that were gone on the way up to the route. Combined with the full luggage I expect the bike is about 40 odd kilo’s heavier than the day of offroad riding in Nippozano.
The road I encounter is something in between a set of steep stairs and a mix of at least fist size rocks and lumps of boulders sticking out of the ground, all on something like a 30 degree slope. Tricky. This is on par with some of the harder stuff we did in Morocco, but now I’m not on a light 450 enduro bike , but on a fully loaded adventure / rally bike. I’m extremely grateful for my past self spending a full day at the suspension guys switching out the forks and rear shocks to a 300mm setup. On the stock setup, this would be absolutely horrendous.
Having gone through that, I decided it would be better to take the easier roads and found some amazing sweeping gravel roads right through wine country (sometimes literally through the vineyards), ending the day at a slightly mediocre Airbnb. Fortunately, one night only.
The Windy Day
Being woken up a couple of times by some heavy winds, I figured this day was going to be rough. And rough it was. I’ve done some sketchy stuff on a bike, but this was a bit insane. Constantly having the feeling that the front wheel is just going to slip out from underneath you or that the wind will just push you into the little fence on the side does not make for enjoyable riding. I noticed my whole body tensed up and I think that a couple of days in these conditions and my neck muscles will be so massive I won’t need a neck brace anymore.
Arriving at the hotel, there was no electricity, so no water (neither hot nor cold) and no heating (should be fixed in 2 hours). Fortunately, being Italy, the view is amazing and they set me up with some amazing food and wine. This also gave me some time to do some writing. Unfortunately, I’ll leave this quite amazing place tomorrow morning, heading to Napels for some bike maintenance and later next week, the ferry to Israel.
The bike has been holding up great, apart from the exhaust area. The rubber around the mount melted away a little bit and the bolt holding it in place came off. Fortunately, I grabbed some bolts and spacers on my way out so I was able to fix it (this time using a nylock bolt instead of the plain one). I'll try and find some rubber tape around Napels. The guys at the motorcycle garage must now of a place to get it.