Italian Idyll Tour 2007

Tuscany, Umbria and Marche with Beach's Motorcycle Adventures

by Bill and Susan Currier

As printed in THE CENTERLINE, the monthly newletter of the BMW Motorcycle Owners of Georgia, Inc.

Bill & Susan Currier visiting Poppi Castle

Bill & Susan Currier visiting Poppi Castle

Five years ago, we read an article about a couple that traveled to Paris for their 35th wedding anniversary. We changed Paris to Italy, and the seed was planted. Fast forward 2 years, we re-entered the motorcycle community with a new BMW K1200LT. Being a member of BMWMOA (&GA) we learned of motorcycle adventures in, among other places, Italy. Early in 2007, we started making plans to go to Italy with a motorcycle. We decided on the Beach Motorcycle Tour in October. We spiced up our vacation a bit by booking Rome for three days before the motorcycle adventure. Rome was excellent and we are extremely glad that we weren’t on a motorcycle. The traffic flowed like a turbulent stream (a terrifying view from the back seat of a taxi). Our LT was larger than most of the vehicles in Rome, including cars! We toured the Borghese Museum, the Coliseum, Trevi Fountain and the Vatican (including the Sistine Chapel and St Peter’s Basilica — a truly amazing work of art).

On Sunday (10-07-07), we boarded a train to Florence and met up with the tour group in Fiesole, a small town northeast of Florence. The first group activity was to take the bus to Florence for a tour of the city and a wonderful dinner. The food in Italy was great! The Italian Idyll tour was arranged to stay at a hotel one or two nights, depending on the local attractions. When we arrived at the next hotel, our luggage was already there thanks to Al in the support van (that also housed a spare motorcycle). There were 29 people (including 3 Beach personnel) and 19 motorcycles, including Rob Beach’s and one spare.

The tour started in Florence, headed towards the east coast, then south through the Apennines mountain range, then to the west coast and back to Florence. That was 13 days on the motorcycle and we traveled 2,000 kilometers ( 1,200 miles). Some folks traveled considerably more. The typical routine was to ride in small groups, stop for a morning cappuccino break, ride, enjoy an extended lunch break, ride some more, possibly an afternoon cappuccino and arrive at the hotel by 5:30. Most of the rest stops were in small little towns usually near a castle! Every night there was an incredible meal at 7:30 which included an appetizer, two courses of local cuisine (and wine) and dessert. Monday we received our BMW1200RT and most of us rode with Rob Beach. Our first day was quite exciting. We were dealing with a new bike, new country, narrow roads in towns with houses 15’ apart with the road located in between, being lead by a professional motorcycle racer. At one point, road construction took the pavement away on a steep section with loose gravel and a tight turn at the bottom; we all made it. Next came the steep hairpin turns; most of us made it through all of them (one Harley guy attempted this maneuver in second gear - oops)! Gretchen rode on the back of Rob’s bike taking photographs. I wish I had a picture of her acrobatic positions taking photos of us in the twisties.

On Tuesday, we joined Rob traveling east to San Marino, a country within Italy that is slightly larger than the Vatican. Although my GPS was pre-loaded with several different options to get to the next destination, we were often on none of those routes. We rode more sweepers, twisties and hairpins and had lunch next to a castle in Poppi. The hotel in San Marino is just below a castle on the peak of a hill. Italy’s history is measured in millenniums. The next day we traveled south through the Apennine Mountain range to Spello, a magical little town that Walt Disney must have visited early in his career. Walking on one road in Spello, we stretched our arms, touched finger tip and touched the old buildings on each side of the road/sidewalk. The next day was a “free day” that we visited Assisi. Since we have a Franciscan priest in the family, Saint Francis Basilica was a “must see” on our list. On the way back to Spello, we rode through the middle of an olive grove on a very narrow road. The next day, we continued south to Teramo. This hotel was magnificent and our room had marble everywhere, two balconies and painted ceilings. On our “free day” we traveled east to the Adriatic Sea to walk the beach and dine on local cuisine (yum! Did I mention that the food over there was great?)

On the road in Abruzzo

On the road in Abruzzo

Leaving Teramo, we went to the Grand Sasso, a high plateau surrounded by much higher peaks; awesome views! Lots of twisties and hairpins to and from this area. Livestock in this area are free to roam. Consequently, there are sheep, cattle and horses in the road; very exciting, and the fresh droppings can be quite slippery. We stayed in Cascia that evening at the only hotel that wasn’t hundreds of years old. There was frost on the bikes the next morning, but the temperatures climbed nicely, in fact, we had great weather the entire trip. We headed up the hill to Saint Rita’s Chapel and then off Todi; another hilltop town with a basilica and a castle. On the following day, we lead a ride to Porto Santo Stefano on Italy’s west coast. We took the most direct way and learned that we had missed out on the best lunch of the entire trip – a friend of Rob Beach put on a spread to die for… or so we kept hearing. The next day was “free” and Susan went shopping with the girls and Bill went exploring the area with the boys. The RT didn’t want to go everywhere the GSs did, but it was another great day exploring more castles on hilltops. At dinner that evening, our waiter brought out a huge platter with four whole fresh fish for us to choose our meal. That was another incredible dinner.

On the way to Siena we visited Banfi winery in the Tuscany Region. When we were parking our bikes, the owner met us in the parking lot. She knew Rob Beach and gave us an abbreviated tour of the facilities. In Siena, more specifically Sovicille, we stayed in a 500 year old castle. On our “free” day, we scooted into Siena to see the duomo and the piazza. The last leg of our adventure brought us through the Chianti region of Tuscany and back to Fiesole. We got back early to make a reservation at the Uffizi museum in Florence (Michelangelo’s David and much more). We made some new friends, rode some excellent roads (with magnificent weather) and had a great time seeing the sights and tasting the tastes of Italy (Did I mention that the food over there was great?). This was truly a grand adventure!

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