Here we are a small tour agency from Croatia, organising motorcycle tours all around. This time, more specifically October 2-16, 2016., our goal was known, our destination known, but what will happen, was unknown. Ain’t that a great beginning of every adventure! Trailering our BMW motorcycles from MotoTrip’s headquarters in Zagreb (Croatia) to Venice (Italy) was an easy start of a 16 days motorcycle tour in Italy and France- through Tuscany, Sardinia and Corsica. So, let’s start!
Meeting old (and some new) friends at our hotel in Venice couldn’t have been a happier rendezvous! Riders arrived from all over: United States, Australia, Canada, even some crazy Kiwis got here! Time for some chit-chatting, round of drinks, and off to a big conference room for our ‘Welcome briefing’. By the time we went through whole official part- motorcycle paperwork, tour itinerary, traffic rules (some call it ‘traffic recommendations’), many of us got hungry, so hitting the ‘ground floor’ button in the elevator took us right to our first restaurant on the tour. Let’s get this party started!
In short- this motorcycle tour in Italy and France, is planned in a way we spend first four days riding around Tuscany. Then we embark on an overnight ferry to Sardinia. Four days on Sardinia (Italy), followed by three and a half days on Corsica (France). Before getting back to Venice, itinerary sets us at Cinque Terre for a day- it’s an amazing National Park of ‘five-villages’ at the northern Italian coast (feel free to check out the detailed version of the tour at our website HERE).
Tuscany- motorcycle tour in Italy, part one
There’s few good things and one bad about starting this Italy motorcycle tour in Venice. River Po is a river that flows eastward across northern Italy- with its delta projecting into the Adriatic sea just a bit south of Venice. Often, rivers for us mean beautiful canyons, great viewpoints and maybe even a swimming stop. Well, this isn’t that type of a river. ‘’Pianura Padana’’ in Italian, or the ‘’Po Valley’’ is a 400mi (650km) east-west positioned fertile land valley- translated to us riders, this means only one thing- it is as flat as hell. Taking into account all benefits like visiting Venice, easy to get to, plus often direct flights from USA- Venice still makes a perfect choice. Additionally, most important, is the barrier we need to cross to get to Tuscany- it’s the Apennini mountains range. Great add-on to every motorcycle tour in Italy, this 700mi/1200km mountain range offers twisty and challenging roads, low traffic and picturesque surroundings.
Everyone was eager to start riding. In the morning of October 3, we turned our engines on, and off we went. Quickly through the Po Valley to Apennini range, we reached a small village called Rocca San Casciano just in time for lunch. Surrounded by green forests, perfect ‘get-to-know-italian-food’ was ‘’Tagliatelle ai Funghi Porcini’’ or pasta with porcini mushrooms. It took only one single day and our riders realised how friendly Italian people are; along with amazing accommodation we stayed at, we had the chance to meet the owners, try local domestic food, and be awaken by a rooster and cow bells. And that’s just the beginning.
Following days, we showed our riders that Tuscany really does look just like in movies. Perfectly aligned Cypress trees, stone pines, green meadows and endless curvy roads made our day; with ‘must do’ stops for espresso and cappuccino in towns like Castiglion Firoentino, Montalcino etc. I personally don’t drink coffee (weird guy, I know), but an espresso in Italy is like nowhere else in the world. That Italian loud and lively atmosphere is so easy to take in, and be affected with it. Getting back in the saddle of our BMW Motorrad R1200GSs took us to San Gimignano, our home for next two nights. Although it’s one of most touristy hill-top towns in Tuscany, San Gimignano makes a perfect base for exploring around on the rest day. Whether you’re up for a ride, a nice little quiet walk in the morning, sightseeing, a shopping excursion in the afternoon, or just relaxing by the pool with the most enchanting view there is, we were at the right spot.
San Gimignano is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, known for its historic Centre and 14 still standing towers. Believe it or not, in the old days, there were 72 tower houses- with the main purpose- showing wealth and prestige. The higher the tower, the wealthier the family (often merchants). The bigger, the better? Well that’s a topic to discuss over a night cap after a great days’ ride. Let’s move on to gelato. There’s a World Championship in gelato somewhere out there (seriously). And by coincidence, there is a small Gelateria (ask us for the name!), right in San Gimignano, that won the championship few times. So we had to try it out. Delicious. Yes! The best? I’ll ask you!
Ain’t a rest day if we’re not riding. Say again?
Our group showed no mercy to myself as the tourguide. And I thank everyone for that. Our first rest day we spent in, literally, roaming around Tuscan roads that we in MotoTrip carefully picked, bypassing high traffic and mostly sticking to the smaller back roads. Imagine a lunch stop surrounded by green meadows and a few village houses, where our bartender had to call his mom to come and cook something for us; where we met his grandma too, and had phenomenal, yet simple ‘’Spaghetti alla Carbonara’’. Still not known who was in charge for the recipe- grandmother, mother, father or the son. OK, we can cross the son out!
Two hours for easy-going lunch, surrounded by friends and great company. That’s Italian idyll and a proper way to ‘behave’ while on a motorcycle tour in Italy. Don’t get me wrong, still we managed to put over 120mi/200km on the odometer, ride through world famous Chianti region and buy some wine to take home. Which makes me wonder- did anyone manage to save a bottle to take home? After all, we did have another 13 days of the tour!
On our way to Livorno, we stopped by Leonardo da Vinci’s birthplace, visited the museum and a small town appropriately called ‘Vinci’ (no, Vinci is not his birthplace). Definitely a recommended stop for everyone riding in the area. One just can’t believe how many inventions and patents he made. A short walk through the museum, shows you how it was being in his shoes back in the 14-15 hundreds. Whether you’re a technical geek or not, this will be a cool and unforgettable stop.
If anyone doing a motorcycle tour in Italy, finds himself on the way from Vinci to Pisa, do think about riding up’n’down a mountain called ‘Monte Serra’ before reaching Pisa (the ‘Leaning Tower of Pisa’ does still lean, but don’t worry- it is secured for another 300 years time and won’t collapse if you get there two hours later). With elevation of 3000ft (917m), it’s not the highest mountain of this MotoTrip, nor the nicest, but makes a great getaway from all the traffic and tourism that you will soon see in Pisa. Riding twisty challenging roads with a few glimpses of the coastal view, will soon be replaced by riding in challenging traffic surrounded by scooters, trucks and tour busses so, take your time and enjoy the nature.
Yes, we did stop to check out the ‘Leaning Tower’ (‘’Torre Pendente di Pisa’’ in Italian) and ‘Square of Miracles’ (‘‘Piazza dei Miracoli’’) in Pisa. We enjoyed a nice walk around the sights with a local guide, who explained our riders all about the history from Ancient times to today. To cut the story short here at our Blog (many other online resources are available if you’re interested; or even better- join our tour and hear it live!), I’ll just write down an interesting fact- engineers first noticed the Leaning tower is- well, leaning, at the time it was being built (5 years after the work started). That’s why, if you take a better look at it, you will notice the difference in construction. As one side was leaning due to clay mixture in the soil underneath, they wanted to compensate by adding more height to the floors on the other side; unfortunately, that didn’t do the trick.
Quick question: Why was the tower built in the first place? Answer is simple: to hold the bell on the top. I asked my daughter (a 3 years old) the same question and, after looking at the ‘bell tower’ for some time, she gave me the exact answer. Smart kid; don’t know where she got it from
Well, it was already after 5PM, and we still had to make it to our overnight ferry. We can’t be late for that one; it’s not like there’s another one just around the corner. A short ride and we’re there. Checking in was easy, everyone got their rooms (that ferry is pretty huge; every room has a private bathroom and double/twin beds; everything was pre-booked by our side). Dinner, few drinks and off to bed.
Sardinia- motorcycle tour in Italy part two
7AM in the morning, here we are on Sardinia- heaven for motorcycle riders. We at MotoTrip again prepared a mix of carefully selected roads- although honestly, it’s really hard to go wrong on Sardinia. Some of our riders, that did the Alps before this tour, agreed that Sardinian roads actually offer better riding than the Alps. We knew that, as our first miles on Sardinia were made over 10 years ago; so we’re almost like home there. Sardinia doesn’t offer as high mountains as the Alps do, doesn’t offer that dramatic scenery and excitement that you feel on top of each mountain pass you ‘conquer’, but when it comes to perfectly aligned curves, great asphalt quality and slow to fast sweepers, it’s unbeatable! If you still wonder- yes, we had a great day!
Beaches on Sardinia
Sardinia is also known for some of the most beautiful beaches in Europe. As next day was our rest day, most of us hopped on a boat (actually, two boats) and enjoyed a nice day out in the waters. Scuba-dived around a ship-wreck too (remember to bring your license if you’re interested). ‘’Golfo di Orosei’’ is Sardinian largest National Park which boasts with amazing beaches, dramatic cliffs and many hidden bays. It was exactly like that!
Just when you think we are done with the best riding on the island, there comes a new riding day. Curves, curves and more curves. Oh yes, and a lunch stop somewhere in between. We reached our next overnight stop- town called Bosa in the afternoon, just in time for a great sunset. The day couldn’t have been better.
For our last day on Sardinia, we had a few gems prepared. First was riding a beautiful coastal stretch of the road, from Bosa (where we started from that morning) to Alghero. 28mi/45km of fine riding to wake us up. We quickly bypassed the high traffic in Alghero (although Alghero’s Old Town is worth a separate visit- put it on your list if you’ll have the time) and continued towards charming Castelsardo, city on the northern Sardinian coast. After deciding not to separate there (there was a ‘long’ option available for that day), whole group stayed together till the ferry to Corsica. Well, we didn’t mind the view where we had to wait. And, the burgers were awesome. At least I heard (cccc, too slow waiter).
Our ferry from Sardinia to Corsica was an experience. While some enjoyed, I myself had to go inside the ferry and definitely not look outside. Not often sea-sick, but who wouldn’t mind a 25-foot wave on a ferry. Yes, later I was told that waves were probably around 5 feet; and that everything added was in my mind- but who can tell
One of sights one can never get bored with, is a sight of Bonifacio old town from that same ferry (OK, Captain and crew had probably had enough). Bonifacio, city on the southernmost point of Corsica, was built on the edge of limestone cliffs back in 828 AD. Having survived rough history, today boast as one of the most visited cities on the island. With plenty to see (city’s citadel, beautiful harbor, Bastion d’Etenard- the stronghold, ‘Staircase of the King of Aragon’- a really steep staircase cut into the cliff below the old town, visible from the ferry etc.), we agreed to meet directly at our restaurant for dinner, allowing everyone to pick their way.
Corsica- motorcycle tour in Italy became a motorcycle tour in France
First morning on Corsica didn’t look that good. We ‘sailed off’ from a wet parking lot of our hotel, wearing rain gear and hoping for the best. And it was. Well, not best, but better. Overcast most of the day, but that’s good enough already. I had a few sights planned for the day, but we had to cancel some due to slower paste; no one minded as safety always comes first, specially when it’s wet. For those of you who will be planning a motorcycle tour in Corsica, do know that Ajaccio (try to pronounce that one!) is a birth place of Napoleon Bonaparte (1769), famous French military leader known as ‘storm’ for his blasting conquers throughout Europe (and outside) in early 1800s. A stop by his ex-house/today a museum makes an interesting stop along the way.
We soon reached the famous ‘Les Calances de Piana’ rocks close to town Piana. This nature reserve, that’s a part of Regional Natural Park of Corsica, is also one of UNESCO World Heritage Sites on this tour. Depending on where the sun is, dramatic red rock formations change their colour from golden, pink to red. As it was pretty cloudy, we kind of missed that, but still loved riding that narrow twisty road.
Calvi was our base for next two nights. Rest day was nice. No rest, of course. While some of us took an optional ride to ‘unknown’, some spent the day in relaxing, doing the laundry, walking around Calvi Old Town etc. Followed by a fantastic group barbecue in the evening (thank you everyone for joining!), it was simply a great (rest) day! P&B- happy anniversary!
Optional morning adventure riding:
Still, our exploration of Corsica wasn’t over. We had almost two more days on the island. Although a bit spoilt by weather, we enjoyed a great ride through Corsican northern mountains, we did (actually twice) a ‘must do’ road from Urtaca to Saint Florent, and after re-scheduling a few of my personally picked ‘crazy roads’ for the following day, we reached Corte- beautiful town in the heart of Corsica. Having some extra free time before dinner, some riders went for a walk/shopping (?) through the town, visited the fortress (‘’a citadella’’) etc. We organised dinner in a nice little restaurant with spots right by the wood-fired oven, and witnessed how some great French food was being made. Bon appétit!
Talking about ‘crazy roads)?
The Ferry. ‘Take two’ on French motorcycle tours
Well, ferry was scheduled for 2PM. We were supposed to reach Livorno port (back on mainland Italy) around 6PM, having just about enough time to arrive to Cinque Terre National Park before it gets too dark. According to the plan. Huh!
First thing to say- no, we did not miss the ferry!
Unfortunately, there was a big storm announced for that afternoon; and fortunately, it came in a bit earlier. After waiting couple of hours (in a restaurant) as the ferry was delayed, we had to wait additional hour in the ferry queue. Out on the open- that’s a nice ‘thing’ to do while it’s raining. Luckily, rain stopped soon while we watched all cars with exclusively Swiss registration plates enter the ferry ahead of everyone. I’m sure one of our group riders knew what that was! Arriving late at Livorno (3.5h later than planned), it was already dark but hey, no rain at all. All that waiting tuned to be a favour as we obviously let ‘cats and dogs’ play before we arrived. So we had a nice and dry ‘night run’ to our hotel. It’s interesting how fast a rider can find a bar after a long day like that. We all met for drinks and enjoyed another great evening!
Last day before getting back to Venice. We’re at Cinque Terre. I’ll let the pictures do the work here and say it was a phenomenal (walking) day for everyone!
Before reaching that ‘straight as hell’ river Po valley again, we had to cross over Apennini mountain range one more time. So the morning was an absolute enjoyment and, as we were leaving Cinque Terre behind us, I couldn’t help but wonder (yes, I know it’s Carrie Bradshaw’s catchphrase!): is this adventure really coming to an end? I remembered all the laughs we had (no one from this group will never ask ‘How did you sleep last night’ anyone again), I remembered all the great riding we did and how lucky we were with the weather actually. So many miles, so many smiles. Great memories, and great friends! Hope to ride with you again!
Our motorcycle tour in Italy and France- came to an end. Thanks everyone!
For inquiries, bookings and details about joining one of our future tours, please contact us without hesitation- we are happy to answer all questions! Ride safe!