Italy by Motorcycle!
The Internet is a great tool to find information. On this occasion we've been able to find out about an overnight train from Holland to Northern Italy that takes motorcycles (and cars) as well as having sleeper cars. It's only once a week service and there is a British agent RailSavers that take bookings.
So this years plan takes us further afield allowing us to explore parts of Italy that would otherwise be too far for us to get to without slogging along far too much motorway to get there. Add a comment
Thursday 19th April 2012
Travel as usual by early bird special (booked last year) on Malaysian Airlines via Kuala Lumpur. Very surprisingly and a first for us is that it's only very lightly loaded. No wonder they are making such a loss. The second leg, after a welcome night stop at the airport Pan Pacific, is much busier. Not much more to be said. Add a comment
Wednesday 25th April 2012
It's raining. It's also cold. Multiple thermal layers do little to compensate and much spray on the vile M25 makes it all worse, that is until we get near Dover where gale force winds and high seas are an added bonus. My boots leak and despite three layers of thermals we are both cold.
The P&O ferry is late departing due to the late arrival of an earlier boat with most of the required crew. Despite the high seas the boat is very stable however and amazingly the weather on the other side of the Channel is a good 5 degrees warmer and dry. Go figure. Add a comment
Thursday 26th April 2012
Sightseeing in Brugge is clearly very popular. With many many parties of tourists being guided around.
Our first stop is the Market and the Belfry. 366 steps to the top, magnificent views, high winds and a splendidly complicated bell system that rings apparently randomly during the day. It's like a monster musical box up there.
The Market boasts very expensive cafes with €9 for an expresso and a cup of tea. A bit over the top you might think.Add a comment
Friday 27th April 2012
Breakfast at the Hotel Jan Brito is better than ok but they have not found a way to keep the eggs and bacon warm which is a shame.In all other respects however it deserves it's 4/5 start ranking.
The hotel lets straight onto the sidewalk/pavement outside so we have to get our bikes and park on the sidewalk while we load up.
Collecting the bikes we get to the exit at the nearby underground car park where the attendant leaps out of his booth and astoundingly suggests that "he is here to help", Auckland Council take note, and he sorts out the ticket machine, which he says can be unwilling. We are both very impressed. Add a comment
Saturday 28th April 2012
Switzerland passes mainly in the night but Mary catches some mountains in the dawn. It's certainly a lot warmer here than in Holland and we seem to have left the rain behind for the moment.
Overall despite the lengthy waiting around while loading and the hours delay in departure due to some "disturbance" while the cars and bikes were loaded this has been a wonderful experience. It would be hard to fault either the service or facilities on the Autoslaaptrein and we would unhesitatingly recommend this as an alternative way to get to Italy.
Sunday 29th April 2012
Much has been written about Florence by those far more articulate than I. For me it's grossly overcrowded and unless queuing to get into thronged museums is your thing then it's best avoided. We'd prebooked to get into see Michelangelo's David but you'd need to plan the entire trip to make the most of your time here.
Mary writes: "We are in Florence and must say a day is more than enough of the crowds. so, so grateful that we booked David. Add a comment
Monday 30th April 2012
A self inflicted and very minor medical situation requires a trip to the doctor and the hotel are most helpful however the earliest appointment available is 11am, in Florence, the place with the manic traffic. Terrific.
Sadly this visit is not enough and I have to go to a clinic (just dont ask) the closest appointment being at 6pm just outside the city.
A minor altercation with the hotel is resolved (they upped the price when I told them two people and did in fact tell me, I just didn't print that page out). There are extras for parking and city tourist tax too which makes for a very expensive stay. It seems that the city doesn't want you and unless your idea of a fun day out is playing sardines in phone boxes you won't want to be here either. Add a comment
Tuesday 1st May 2012
A good breakfast followed by a unplanned trip around Feisole (due to a diversion for a cycle race) then on to Arezzo via the back roads is great fun although the road surface is really poor in parts.
We are stopped by police in Poppi but we knew all was well when one of them took a picture of Mary's Spyder with his cell phone. Despite the help of another biker and a phone call to the local nick we were none the wiser as to what they wanted. My guess is that we were just too hard to deal with. Add a comment
Wednesday 2nd May 2012
Regrettably breakfast at the Albergo Fiorentino is a sparse affair with machine coffee and a poor selection of bread and ham. It's a shame but the owner makes up for the breakfast as we are leaving as he is most impressed by the Spyder and gives us a route down to Lago Trasimeno. He could not have been more helpful.
Lunch at the tourist infested Cortona is also pretty good and reasonably priced as is coffee on the shores of Lago Trasimeno. We've noticed that prices have decreased phenomenally from Florence (the same tea and expresso now cost around €2 as opposed to €20 in the centre of Florence. No surprise but hardly acceptable you'd think). Add a comment
Thursday 3rd May 2012
Our restful night at the Relais & Spa La Corte di Bettona was not as good a find as we thought. There are dogs that bark in the night, and bark, and bark. Endlessly. If you stay here you need to be sure that the air conditioning works (ours does not) so you can shut the window without suffocation. A trying night.
Sadly the hotel fails (in my view) to deal with our complaint, a very Italian shrug is really not an answer, nor is blaming local ordinances that prohibit heating after the end of April and air conditioning before 1 June (July?).
So you need to take care that if you stay here that the air conditioning is working or that you avoid the room with a view. Pity it lets the place down! No sleep!
Following our book we carry on to Trevi for lunch via Spello (magnificent views) and Bevagna then on to Spoleto and a very comfortable =, albeit more expensive Palazzo Leti. Dinner near the Dummo was local and ok but a bit fatty for our our taste.
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Friday 4th May 2012
We've decided to stay a second night at the Palazzo Leti in Spoleto as it''s both quiet and charming (breakfast ok).
The walk around the town takes several hours and the Roman Aquaduct and Theatre are both well worth a look around. Most enjoyable. We also atke a look around Italy's oldest church (the Basilica San Salvatore) and it's splendid associated graveyard, Italians live on after becoming defunct in great style it must be said. The church is empty of furnishings but quite imposing none the less.
A brief ride into the hils in the afternoon is most enjoyable too.
Dinner at Il Mio Vinaio is excellent and more than too much. Phew!Add a comment
Saturday 5th May 2012
Today was yet another interesting and exciting day. We decided to stay another night in Spoleto due to Bob having a sore throat and what looks like the beginning of a cold.
Breakfast at Palazzo Leti was again very nice. Off on an explore on the bikes. First stop Bar del Cacciatore where Signora had no idea what we wanted so our wait for tea was in vain. We were entertained by a group of Italian young bikers in very fancy track leathers which left nothing to the imagination about their physiques.Add a comment
Sunday 6th May 2012
A lateish start as we don't have too far to go and can't get into the rental villa in Amendola until 4pm. More to the point my cold has taken hold and I'm in no rush to get out of bed early.
There's a choice of route as Amendola is the other side of Mount Sibillini from Spoleto, a large mountainous national park but either way takes us over some of yesterdays ground. Our pick is to go north through Visso.
This time the 'Ace Cafe' at Cerreto was deserted by bikes, odd for a Sunday we thought. One detour to a nearby hilltop town (photoed) where the church was just emptying of the crowds of well dressed patrons, not like UK then. Lunch at Visso was interesting in a take away with chicken and chips, deep fried calamari and shrimps (my choice), baked tomato and other interesting and tasty foods. Add a comment
Monday 7th May 2012
Woke up nursing something of a cold, no great surprise due to yesterday's soaking I suppose. Today planned as a quiet day catching up on rest and the laundry, we are now out of clean clothes (actually have been for some days but have been able to find ones that pass the 'sniff' test, mostly).
Sadly the washing apparatus at the apartment makes all the right noises but fails to actually wash anything. Finally we complain to the housekeepers (who are right onto it and offer to do it for us) but also tell us about the towns laundrette, just what we need, an afternoon at the laundrette.
Luckily the forecast is for rain and as usual this comes mid afternoon just as we come back to the house in our still wet gear. Add a comment
Tuesday 8th May 2012
Mary has likewise come down with the cold and is very unhappy. On the other hand the weather is back to cloudless and tolerably warm.
We are still able to make a small outing to buy tea bags at the English store in Sarnano (the most expensive tea bags ever at €15 for 100) and then on to the Adriatic coast where we have real scampi for lunch at Porto Sant'Elpidio. The beach is deserted but clearly will not be when the weather warms up a bit. Add a comment
Wednesday 9th May 2012
The cold has hit Mary hard and biking is not an option today.
There are some chores that I can do, the first being to get some waterproof boots in case, Heaven forbid, it should rain again. The old boots are still damp and after some reserach I set off to Motolive in Montecosaro.
The owner at MotoLive is very helpful but a little light on English so what with the phrase book and Google Translate we do make a go of it and I walk out by 1pm (closing time) with a new pair of genuine all Italian, guaranteed waterproof boots. He is very uncomplimentary about Schubeth helmets shoing me one that has been dropped. His preference is Lazer, but then he does sell them. Add a comment
Thursday 10th May 2012
A much improved Mary finds us on the fabulously scenic roads south out of Amandola to Arquata del Tronte. The Mt Sibillini park is utterly spectacular and luckily mostly blessed with quiet roads.
We ended up at Ascoli Piceno for a pleasant lunch and a short walk around what had become a very warm town. Around 28 degrees. The Roman ruins were very busy with bus tours so we gave them a miss and returned to the mounatin foothills as it was a) cooler and b) much more attractive.
A gelato at Montefortino rounded off the trip.Add a comment
Friday 11th May 2012
Another day trip from the really very useful "Marche" by the Touring Club of Italy, an AA Travel Guide.
Up to San Ginesio then on to Belforte d. Chienti and Tolentino, the latter a larger town and like most of the others it does not seem to be very attractive. The smaller ones are by far the more interesting (and cleaner and less grafitti and the like). Add a comment
Saturday 12th May 2012
The Conero Promentory south of Ancona is "an area of outstanding natural beauty", well once perhaps. On a sunny and got saturday in mid May it's difficult to make out what it's like as it's so overrun by people. The picture may give an impression of what it was once like.
Further south from Numana on it seems to be one long ribbon development along the coast with grotty apartments, cafe's, running alongside the main autostrada and railway communications links. Add a comment
Sunday 13th May 2012
Rain is forecast for today and it's our departure from Amandola at 10am. The sky seems overcast but we are happy to be on our way, The holiday rental has been OK but not a stunning success, more on this later.
Our plan is to head south to the Abruzzo area as this is well spoken of in the Back Roads Italy guide book. Given the forecast we've take the precaution of booking a room for a couple of nights at the Valle di Venere in Fossacesia, south of Pescara. The hotel is a little way out of town and Doreen guides us unerringly to a disused electrical substation next to a very grand cemetery at the end of a one lane track. Add a comment
La Scuderia - Amandola
We very much wanted to like La Scuderia, our holiday rental in Amandola, Italy. It is a great location, central, quiet and private however we were disappointed with the presentation which we felt was a lacking and did not live up to the advertising. The owners have it on the market and in fact had an inspection while we were there. So it may soon have new owners at ymmv.
Here's where it fell short of our expectations:
- The advertisement says that there is a "Shower Enclosure, ...., Bath with Shower" there is in fact only a bath with a shower hose.
- The advertisement also says that the kitchen has a "tumble dryer, spices". There is no tumble dryer and there was not even salt and pepper nor any spices.
- The pictures on the web sites vary from the reality as some of the indoor and outdoor furniture is now gone.
- The well equipped kitchen pictured on the website is now pretty spartan
- No pictures on the wall (the web site shows at least one) and the hooks remain Add a comment
Monday 14th May 2012
The rain sets in overnight and over breakfast we talk to four young people working here in Italy teaching English in schools by means of theatre. See http://www.acle.it/.
By midday the rain seems to have cleared so we head off for a spot of sightseeing and lunch. Sadly this is harder than it ought to be and after 30 minutes sheltering under a bridge we carry on. This is well out of season and the places we see are all closed. Add a comment
Tuesday 15th May 2012
Much discussion about how best to return to Alexandra for our return train journey. In the end we decide that the best plan for tonight is to get to Todi in Umbria via a mix of Autostrada and back roads and then consider our options and the forecast for Wednesday.
Our lunch stop at L'Aquila proved very interesting as we were unaware of the 2009 earthquake and found ourselves in the 'red zone' where the are many deserted buildings. The place is in a very poor state and clearly efforts to rebuild, as in Christchurch, are not well advanced either due to aftershocks or perhaps money. We left. Add a comment
Wednesday 16th May 2012
After some discussion we've decided to spend a second night in Todi, partly for a look around, it's a very picturesque town, and partly to do some laundry as there just is not enough left clean to get back to UK.
First off we've made a hotel reservation for tomorrow night in Lucca and a booking for "A Night at the Opera" there. We shall see.
The highlight of the morning is the climb of the church tower for the magnificent view of the surrounding area. After this is starts to rain so we hang out in one of the cafes on the piazza. Add a comment
Thursday 17th May 2012
Breakfast at the Residenza D'Epoca San Lorenzo is not a quick affair. When S. says 8am he means that the nice lady arrives then, or shortly thereafter so breakfast is realistically at 8:30 or so.
Our day takes us via the autostrade to Lucca near Florence via a short coffee stop at Lago Trasimino and an a modest lunch at a motorway service station.
The B&B Anfiteatro in Lucca needs the GPS to find it and it's still not obvious. The town is pedestianised and all the better for it. Add a comment
Friday 18th May 2012
Our last day and we have to make for Alessandria to catch the train tomorrow. We do have time however to visit Portofino for lunch (actually Santa Margherita a little before). Portofino's a pretty wee place a bit overrun by tourists but the cars (and motorcycles) have nowhere to go so there's no choice but to walk to it.
The beach at Santa Margherita is clearly a man made construct and the staff are busy painting the beach changing rooms while we are there. The place will be just bedlam in the season. Add a comment
Saturday 19th May 2012
A swift and uneventful ride into Alessandria to spend the rest of the day messing about waiting for for loading and the train to leave. We did intend to have a look about the town but were defeated by the rain that started. A coffee in the railway cafe opposite was as much as we could manage.
Knowing the ropes was a big help and knowing what to expect made it all much more straight forward. We were able to watch a movie on the iPad before another excellent dinner as we rattled through the Alps in Northern Italy and Switzerland in the dining car.
Our steward made up the beds and had to wake us shortly before we arrived in Den Boshe.
This motor/rail trip a definitely an experience that we would recommend heartily. Fabulous
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Sunday 20th May 2012
Despite Doreen choosing a curious route across Holland and Belgium and a rubbish forecast for rain we made excellent time to Calais. The forecast decided us to make a run for home unless it actually started to rain.
The only incident was the Spyder stuned on it's oil light and needed over a litre of oil. A very helpful Belgian garage owner helped us get the right grade of oit, something I though would be impossible ofna sunday.
P&O were able to put us on a ferry a day early and we were back in the UK and the nikes tucked up before dark. A big day however.Add a comment