Storie in Vespa
Dal diario di un centauro…Per un centauro andare in vespa é come tornare sul tricicolo.. peró, che emozione!!
Keeping a commitmentMonths ago I took a chance and booked with Umbria in Vespa to have two large (250 and 300 cc) scooters delivered to an Agritourismo (see Frallarenza review) where we were booked to spend one week. Understand that if these scooters didn't show up - we were going to be 19 km from Orvieto and public transportation - with no way of getting around. Claudia and her family business had coordinated with me beforehand for a delivery time and as we waited at the farmhouse, I heard the lovely sounds of Claudia with her cell phone jammed up next to her ear under her helmet directing in the other scooter and chase van as they came bumping down the long driveway.
july - august 2014
My Vespa love story!Vorige zomer ging ik voor 1 maand naar Italie. Op het einde van de maand huurde ik 2 dagen een Vespa. Toen ik aankwam bij Umbria in Vespa was er ook een Belgische familie aanwezig. Ik ben ook een Belgische dus het was leuk om met hen te praten. Een gewoon kort gesprekje gehad. Maar de dag erna was ik weer bij Umbria in Vespa en Claudia gaf me een klein papiertje. Op het papiertje stond 'als je me eens wil afspreken in België, laat weten' en een gsm nummer. Ik was zo nieuwsgierig dat ik een berichtje stuurde. 'Hey Vespaman, ik heb je briefje ontvangen'. We hebben nog wat over en weer gestuurd toen ik nog in Italië was. Toen ik terug ik België was hebben we elkaar ontmoet. We hadden enkele afspraakjes en zo heb ik nu een vriend, die ik in italie ontmoette op de vespaverhuur. Zo, dit is mijn Vespa love story! ❤️
My vespastory in TuscanyThis adventure began at 7pm on Sunday evening 17th August 2014 when Claudia arrived at the home of Laura Cugusi and Marco Caroti in Montepulciano. Diana and I had arrived about an hour before from Siena where we had been for 5 days during il Palio week. We were to be in Montepulciano for 2 weeks as Diana had enrolled in language classes at Scuola di Italiano Il Sasso and I planned to tour the many Tuscan hill villages by Vespa. The school had arranged home stay accommodation for us with Laura and Marco.
Can't believe the arsenal of adapters required while travelling in Europe
No matter how well you plan ahead there's always 1 or 2 you have to pickup.
Every year we pickup a car, its a guessing game as to how we're going to pipe music into our car. From previous years posts you'll appreciate the value music next to air-conditioning has on your sanity.
The first year the car only came with a cassette tape player so after buying a cassette adapter we piped in our portable CD player.
The second the car only came with a CD player. Could only play the ones we brought.
The following year we tried a FM adapter, what a piece of crap.
Luckily this year it came with a audio input. But then the cable I brought wasn't compatible so I had to find and buy another cable. Then had to locate the switch to enable the input. Now add the arsenal of chargers and SIM cards required to power camera cellphones, pocket PC, radio, mp3 players shavers.
As of late Louise says I have developed a bit of a lilt. Didn't say whether it was a lilt in my voice or a lilt in my step? I said it was because I was sad we'd be going our separate ways shortly. She says bullshit, your happy to be rid of us. Nothing could be further from the truth.
A simple sign outside a trendy shoe store in the tourist hilltop town of Montlepulciano. The sidewalk was lined with at least 50 half-pairs of shoes all the same colour a bright yellow-orange. Inside were a couple of pictures of the rich & famous, Anthony Hopkins, and maybe Jack Nicholson sporting the same gaudy shoes. I guess it's the owners response to everyone asking for a deal.
We all know the rich never pay for anything. The richer you are the less you pay.
On my Own
Between you and me I'm not suppose to be enjoying my time on my own. We'll have to start speaking in tongues.
Oops forgot Louise's also getting copied on these instalments.
I know the Umbria Jazz is starting in July and Mark Knopfler is playing in Perugia, Cranberries in Spello and Pearl Jam are playing. I realize many of you have never heard of some of these villages, (maybe even the artists are foreign to some of you). During one of our earlier visits we missed the opportunity to catch Cold Play in the little hick town of Fano. Who knew. Back in 2004 we caught the free Simon & Garfunkel concert in Rome. Interested to see what I catch this time.
On our arrival in Nice we stayed at our regular airport hotel. After checking in I exclaimed are these rooms getting smaller.
Mathew's mattress was literally a under the bed slider.
The room was so small it felt like one of those thumb puzzles where you slide 8 squares in a frame of 9.
I swear we had to play musical luggage every time we opened either the bathroom or the room doors,
Fast Forward a Month
Spent our last night together in a nice hotel in Nice.
It was slightly more expensive than the regular one but well worth it. Its so refreshing to get a good hotel dinner and breakfast for a decent price. And all the other amenities: internet, printer, airport shuttle, toll-free phones, bicycles are "Free", a word I haven't encountered for a long time
And to top it off the "French" staff were actually "Friendly".
Oh look I used the 'F-word' 3-times: Free, French, Friendly, something never before or will ever see again in that context.
Disgusted with Us
Louise is disgusted with me again. Isn't she always? Just count the times she's not.
Saw her off from Terminal 2 in Nice.
I spotted one off those orphaned luggage carts and said to Mathew watch this we'll take both back and collect 2 Euro refund.
Louise said that could belong to someone.
I said it was orphaned, no-luggage no-people too bad. I'm doing them a favour returning it to its stable.
I slipped in the key and was rewarded by a plastic token.
She said see serves you right.
Well the Eagle has landed Again
Spent the whole day in lineups and commuting
Your flights been delayed
And what did you expect for $12 and yes that's dollars, Canadian to boot. But from a nameless carrier, blu-express, and a unheard of plane, Sunfly.
Oh well beggars can't be choosers. Actually the flight turned out to be ten times that $120 after taxes service charges, levies etc, etc but still a bargain if I arrive in one piece.
While waiting for boarding, for entertainment one of those luggage golf carts careened around the corner dropping half a dozen suitcases in front of the audience. At least the cart-jockey noticed and drove back to pick them up.
Thank god I was travelling with carryon.
I must say even for a guy its been a challenge to fit my 2-weeks worldly belongings into 5 kg. (who needs underwear anyway)
Just as we were boarding from the tarmac, notice the luggage cart leaving the plane with one piece of luggage still on the trailer. I was tempted to flag him down and inform him he forgot one.
Oh well that piece of luggage may never be reunited with its rightful owner ever again
Leprechauns Fly free on Air Lingus
Met an elderly couple while waiting for our planes. Noticed they had a accent, are you British? No Irish, Ouch sorry for the insult. And where might you be from America? Ouch touché
Later on encountered them in the passport control line-up. Are you flying Air Lingus, they said yes its a pretty small airline. Well for small Leprechauns such as yourselves.
They said I would fit right in with my colour-coordinated outfit. For some reason I was wearing a lot of green that day: shirt, jacket and travel wallet
We wished each other well, maybe run into them in Ireland sometime.
Music the likes of which you have never heard nor would ever want to again.
- "Bing-da Bing-da, Bing-da"
- "bums spaghetti"
- "Cherppy Cherppy Cheap Cheap"
Or my personal favourite:
- "I'm scumb and I'm your son"
Or was it,
- "I'm your son and I'm scum"
anyway it doesn't matter its all the same.
Unfortunately Mathew's not with me right now otherwise he could recite the lyrics verbatim.
I believe it was Voltaire that stated, "anything too stupid to be said is sung"
As in previous trips decided to check the hotel shuttle service instead of the public train. Got one for 15e same as train. Who says you need a hotel destination just say Termini Station.
As we drove into the eternal city I thanked my lucky stars I wasn't driving. The mayhem was worse than anything I imagined from previous trips.
Rome Termini Station
Sitting in a railway station got a ticket for my destination
Smart enough to grab a couple of pizza slices from one of the many street vendors. That would the last I would see that day.
The line-ups were long and sweaty as I remember.
Those kind where you never know if you're in the right one but having no better info you're resigned to stay put.
I luckily caught one of the last trains to Perugia but my transfer was a bus.
Oh great what a treat.
Thanks Mat for some of your train schedule tips. I had to run to catch my train, something reminded me to go back and validate my ticket. Even though you have a valid ticket there would be a stiff fine when the conductor comes to check.
However I didn't get away without incident apparently I was seated in 1st class when the conductor proceeded to issue me a fine and a 10e surcharge. I pleaded insanity (one thing that I'm good at) and no capito.
He disappeared mumbling something under his breath with my ticket in hand supposedly get his supervisor and chew some other passengers out.
I meanwhile snuck into the next car that was supposedly 2nd class. What gives, new seats, identical car and a air-conditioner that works.
The conductor shows up latter flapping the ticket in the air. I apologized as best I could and he gave it back to me. Sometimes acting dumb gets you out of trouble. I should be good at that.
Ever since Mantova at the beginning of our trip Mat and I have been wearing a friendship bracelet.
I fashioned it out of a couple of multicoloured threads I found on the street supposable from a previous celebration.
Naturally Louise wanted nothing to do with something we picked out of the gutter. I said its to show our friendship. Yah right bullshit.
2010.8 Italy, Day 1, July 2, 2010
By the time I reached the outskirts of Siena I thought I had better start looking for accommodation. With the world famous Palio celebration taking place tonight I had my doubts.
I passed a hotel but it looked beyond my means. A few villages further I asked at the local market. He indicated there was nothing else till Siena, and recommended the hotel I had just passed.
I went back and they said a room was still available and the rates was 79e. With little to no sleep the night before I took it. Breakfast included.
I got to my room and was shocked to find a room straight out of the pages of Architectural Digest.
Huge basin sink, glass shower stall with foot diameter showerhead huge bed.
Immediately I had this sinking feeling in the heat of the moment I may have mistaken the price and that I had signed for a 179e a night room. Although they always seemed to be meaningless the figures posted on the back of the door were well into the 200s.
After just taken a long over due shower I knew I was stuck.
I feigned misplacing my passport as an excuse to go back to the front desk.
Sorry I'm sure I gave it back to you. and I threw in "and that 79e included breakfast?" 79e, yes it did. What a relief.
Did you say Breakfast Included
These breakfasts are putting the Americans to shame. None of this coffee and pastry crap. No, it had scrambled eggs, bacon, 4 cheeses, toast, cereal, ham, prosiuitto, fruit, yoghurt and you could freshly squeeze your own orange juice if you had the patience.
And I didn't have to eat anything till at least noon.
Sienna Palio Horse Race
Coincidentally (July 2) my intended destination, Siena was hosting its world renowned Palio horse race.
Where 10's of thousands cram the city square to watch a fixed 90-sec horse race.
I was tempted to attend since for the first time in history I was riding the only vehicle allowed within the walled city.
I declined after a long day on the road with the little to no sleep the night before. Anyway I had less than 30-mins before they closed the city gates.
Instead I choose a shower and a nap before a fine pasta and wine dinner in the little village of Cassette. More expensive than our little village in Umbria but only 10e and that included half a litre of wine just for myself.
Can you spell Alcoholics Anonymous
Vespa Easy Rider
Its the first day on my own on a Vespa.
What I have is a new Vespa 125, with automatic transmission, Basically a twist & go. Leaves a lot to be desired when you need to merge with traffic.
Its probably has an order of magnitude less power than my BMW at home, 10 vs 100Hp
But that's what I bought in to, to slowdown my travel.
No longer tempted to blip the throttle and pass a bunch of cars in one swoop. Now I just hang left allowing cars to zip past me.
Personally I think I would have preferred something a bit bigger, preferably the size permitted on the autostrada, 250cc. Occasionally you get so tired of searching for that proverbial "vecchio" road that you just want to blast past those last km in one shot.
Some of those Umbria and Tuscan hills bring my Vespa to a crawl or maybe it's just my weight
All I'm carrying is the original 5kg carryon backpack from my cheap flight. Camera, cellphone, PocketPC and creditcards.
Everything I own fits inside the Vespa under lock & key. Gives you that peace of mind to leave your bike and explore.
Funny what a difference the mode of travel makes.
There was a time we cursed every sign post like a carrot promising superstrada access just around the next bend. End up driving for hours before hitting the superstrada.
Now I cuss and swear at the same signposts that desposit me at the entrance of the autostrada exactly what I'm trying to avoid. Greeted by the same pictogram of my Vespa along side pictures of people, bicycles and horses portraying the type of transport not permitted on the autostrada. Funny how quickly your prospective changes.
Vespa's kind of neat you just sit on it as if you're on a throne and twist the throttle. I'm not sure if I'll ever be able to straddle my BMW again. I just may have to sit sidesaddle.
Its getting pretty hot even on a wind blown Vespa, but I'm not complaining
2010.9 Italy, Day 2, July 3, 2010
Even through I missed the race I decided to checkout the aftermath and I'm glad I did. With the Vespa I was able to park inside the walls of the city. I could possibly have ventured further but wasn't sure of the driving restrictions.
I just parked the Vespa along with the hundred of others and best of all its free, my favourite word.
I wanted to pick up the winning teams scarf, team Selva. At least that I could easily pack on my Vespa. And here I thought this dumb horserace was just something put on to entertain the tourists. But the shop owner reported that it was a war and was reluctant to sell me the wining enemies crest. He showed me his family's ring and pendant explaining why they were the better team and should have won. But the shop owners are required by law to display and sell all the opposing family's crests equally.
He claimed people started filling the mosh-pit late the night before. They're packed in worse than sardines, at least they have oil to swim in. Squished for 6-8 hours with no possibility of going to the toilet! I wonder how they manage.
He claimed more than 80-thousand people attend. I step outside and figure that can't be right. I went back in and confronted him on his figures. he took offence.
Wikipedea: The Palio is not simply an tourist event as a true Sienese regards this as a almost tribal way.
You could sense the animosity between the old-timers on the street from their cheering and taunting.
The whole centre square was under demolition; seating, bleachers, barricades all being dismantled and not to mention excavation of the half a foot of sand covering the horse race track.
What a difference sunny weather makes. The last trip we arrived in Volterra it was dull and dreary. Now I'm starting to see ever more tourists. You can see the fretting over parking as carpark after carpark reports 'completo' full. I just zip past and park the Vespa at the very top.
That's the way to do it.
Upon Leaving Volterra I stumble across La Sterza the home village of Andrea Bocellie. We had visited about 3 years ago. It was closed for siesta and I wouldn't have any room for wine anyway. The only downside of travelling light. I took a few pictures of their families' winery and cooled off for a few minutes in the shade. It was hitting 38c.
Pontederra (Vespa museum)
This being Saturday I had my doubts the Vespa museum would be open. But so it was including the Vespa souvenir shop, not that I had any room to carry anything but I did manage a keyfob and one of those classic Vespa babes on a plaque. Isn't that the only reason guys ride Vespas? To pickup chicks. Almost bought one of those Vespa helmets but it made my fat face look even fatter. Is that possible. I already had a helmet and I wouldn't know where to put it.
They put on an impressive display of Piaggio and the growth of the Vespa line and it was all for free.
This being Saturday I thought I'd postpone my arrival to Livorno till Monday and stay the extra day in Lucca. Looking forward to a day of non-travel. On the way in I tripped across our old hotel in Luca, hotel Carignano. They gave me a regular room for 50e a night, breakfast included.
I located our old favourite restaurant Trattoria Italia. (via da Luna) but chickened out to try something new, Trattoria da Leo just a few blocks away. It was packed always a good sign and tourists no where to be seen. Matterfactly owner and servers. My tagliatelle al pomodoro pinoli e basilico was excellent.
The Umbria Jazz festival is just the tip of the concert tours throughout Italy. Every small centre has its own. Here in Luca its Mark Knofler, Crosby Stills and Nash, Simply Red along with many others. In these small cities if you don't buy festival seating, I can't imagine how you couldn't experience the free concert half a block away.
Day 2: Seina -> Lucca (5562km)
- la Sterza (Andre Bocelli)
- Pontedera (Vespa Museum)
- Lucca (hotel Carignano 50e)
2010.10 Italy, July 4, 2010
Spent the Sunday tuttling around the countryside. Some of the roads felt like endless versions of the Stanley Parks' tree covered parkway.
I went for swim in the Serchio river that circles the city. I use the term swimming loosely, it was more like a dunking. The rivers' rather fast flowing and if I let myself get caught in the main stream my next stop may have been Rome, or whatever may have been downstream.
Its still really hot 38c and the dip was quite invigorating
Best Seats in the House
Last night just to prove you don't need tickets to see a concert in Lucca. The opening night featured Ferrella, some guy I never heard of. I sat at the table of a closed restaurant less than 100m from the stage. Couldn't see the stage but the acoustics were great.
While waiting for the Macdonald's to open in Perugia I met a British chap hoping to reach Siena in an hour and a half. For us its at best a 5 hour expedition.
I hate being the bearer of bad news but I told him he didn't have a hope in hell.
They shoot the messenger just as assured the new guy on a Star Trek episode is a goner before the first commercial break.
I said this being Siena's biggest events, most of its hotels were probably booked half a year in advance. And good luck finding parking they probably offer shuttle service from outlying villages.
Wonder how he made out.
Sitting in a overheated trattoria at least for me. Hard to imagine there was a time a year ago I was shivering in my sweaters. Now I'm timing the sweep of air-conditioning fan. Not complaining.
Had a nice visit with the Marco Quaretta the Vespa maestro depicted in the books 'Vroom with View' and 'Vroom by the Sea' the books that inspired me to tour a bit of Italy on a Vespa.
He spoke very good english and showed me some of the Vespas that were the main characters in the stories 'Sophia' (as in Loren);1960 125 , 'Marcello' (as in Mastriani); 1972 Rally 200cc. (the Rally was actually out on the road with Peter)
He showed me some of his scooters and memorabilia that were part of his shop/museum collection. And even the green Vespa Kinder Surprise toy that became the quest of 'Vroom with a View'. You'll have to read the book
Red Vespa Rally 200
Is picking up a Kinder Surprise Vespa from the fleamarket the same as finding the prize after cracking open the egg. Sure either way you find a prize.
A customer came by that was having trouble with her bike. It was an older vintage model with a classic grey colour. It looked in immaculate condition, probably one of Marco's restored Vespas.
She was also immaculately dressed in a bright yellow sundress with matching high heels. Her helmet was half propped suggesting she'd toss it at the drop of a hat..
She was also sporting those bug-like sunglasses that covers half the face
that are all the rage. You never know they may be quite effective in stopping bugs on a Vespa.
She was having little success in getting the bike started. It pained me every time she kicked down expecting at any moment the heel to touch down and snap off.
Peculiar where most men would jumped at the chance of helping a pretty damsel in distress, Macro just calmly stood aside and gave, I'm assuming encouraging advice in Italian but made no attempt to take over the task.
Finally after a dozen strokes it started to burble a bit different until finally it sprang to life buzzing like a chainsaw.
What this girl needs is a modern Vespa with electric start and fuel injection. But obviously she was after that retro 'Roman Holiday' look.
Later after she left I asked Marco if these older models are particularly temperamental. No its all just a matter of feel, the right amount of throttle and kick.
Moby Dick Sucks
Try rearranging those 3 words like an anagram.
The snotty cashier should have given it away. Surely two side by side competing ferry lines would have pretty much identical pricing?
The 33e quoted for one Vespa and driver seemed high. For the hell of it asked what a car and driver would be, 37e, that's pretty much the same! she said no it was 37e. Okaay
Since I had time to spare thought I'd check and see what the completion was charging, 25e. Wow that's a big difference. 32%. Popped back to the Dick cashier said her tickets were a lot more expensive than her competitors and I'll be writing about it in the travel magazine. She just shrugged her shoulder something all Italians learn from birth.
2010.11 Italy July 5, 2010
Isola de Elba
Weird docking procedure
"Only operators of vehicles please return to car deck to farting motor vehicle", I swear I heard 'farting' in the english translation.
All other passenger are to stay onboard.
This was something new. Sure enough all women and children crowed the stairwell impeding my way to the cardeck.
Made it just in time to untie the knot to the bulkhead that Luigi had tied so well assuring me no harm would come of my Vespa. I received only a single toot from an impatient driver.
As I was driving off the ramp I noticed most vehicles veered off to holding zone supposedly to collect their loved ones after they disembarked down the gangplank. I didn't have any loved ones.
What a relief past years disembarking meant an almost comical mad dash to get off the ferry and onto the single lane thoroughfare heading out of town.
I was determined to find an information centre the moment I got off the ship. Something easier said than done. I was given a hotel directory and obviously starting with the most economical. Prices seemed confusing but I started by calling the ones with the lowest numbers. Thank god I had a cell, couldn't imagine doing this from a payphone. I was becoming disillusioned after first few calls turned up full.
My third attempt proved fruitful. In broken German they said a single was available but the hotel would be full by the weekend. I didn't have a clue where it was but I knew it was near the hilltop town of Capoliveri.
On the way up I came across a familiar name but I couldn't remember who I called. This one was way too nice to be in the budget class, yet the wording was different but the name was the same. Le Pilates vs Pilates.
Sure enough the receptionist recognized me and after some haggling we agreed upon the price of 50e, breakfast included.
After handing over my passport I looked over the overly complicated seasonal fee structure. Realizing we had just crossed a seasonal boundary a couple of days ago. I pleaded ignorance of today's date and remarked you're breaking my balls, "Che rottura di palle!", Angelo a phrase I picked up from one of Peter Moore's books that originally inspire my Vespa trip.
He reluctantly agreed to give me the last season rate and I believe he remarked, "you're breaking my balls"
Anqelo a really nice guy It was the second day before I realized they had 2 swimming pools out back.
On the Beach
There was a time I could clamber all day over the beach rocks in my bare feet. Mind you there were a lot of things that were tougher in those days.
I was even known to have hiked up Diamondhead in bare feet with Mathew on my back. Now the soles of my feet have become so sensitive I can barely hobble, like a girly-boy the 10ft from the waters edge where I left my sandals.
You can definitely tell Elba is in high season. Where the beaches were once sparse and you could own a small section for yourself, are now crammed packed with tourists and all their beach paraphernalia. Often time I'll take a picture of how crowded it is and after showing it back home you can hardly see the people? Shrinkage?
In the evening the streets light up with carnival like atmosphere of stands, hawkers and busters and lots and lots of tourists.
Exile on Elba
I've become stuck on Elba first 3-days, then 4 and now 5. Just like Bonaparte voluntary exile. How can I find something so good at such a reasonable price. The weather's perfect, people are friendly, diners out are cheap, 10e with wine. Plenty of towns and beaches to explore. Think I'll time my departure and head back to Lucca and catch the Ma concert as in 'best seats in the house'
That's how island life works drop into a small deli and ask if he knows of a knife shop that sells small pocketknives with corkscrew. He says yes just a couple of 100ft down the street but its closed until 5:00PM. Here you can have mine just bring it back in a couple of days. That was Guillio.
Bet no one ever heard me say that before. Would not believed I'd be embarrassed about anything. I feel embarrassed and apologize every time I go for a fill-up. At 1.4e litre the pump jockeys are use to the 70-80e tank fill-ups. Yet when I arrive they can barely squeeze in 6e. At least I don't insist on having my windshield cleaned.
Essence of a Vespa
The beauty of the Vespa is you see a gelateria you pull up on the sidewalk and grab an ice-cream. Some have been seen to leave the key in the ignition, some even running.
In a car you're doomed to circle for parking spot until you forgot what you came here for.
Travelling the small country road is that there's little to no traffic. The yahoos have hit the autostrade and the cars seem not to mind a Vespa, they can pass you anytime they want.
By no means are you resigned to the small villages. On the contrary the Vespa is the ideal vehicle for Rome Florence, Amalfi coast,
No problem getting around and parking is free everywhere. But its not for the faint of heart
Vespa club of Elba
I was introduced to Franco Raele the secretary of the Elba Vespa club. He owns and operates the La Stella hotel in Seccheto, Elba. He and his wife took time from their busy schedule and we had a drink together. He showed me his two Vespas. I was given one of their commemorative Vespa vests as well as a couple of hotel baseball caps.
During my brief stay in Italy I've met quite a number Italian Vespa Clubs: Citta di Castello, Umbertide, Returning with a bunch of their commemorative plaques, keyfobs, decals, etc..
Is it just me or are more people willing to lay down big coin for a nothing lunch. I know Louise will say its just me. While I popped my head into a self serve luncheon counter. I noticed a young teenage hand over 25e for what looked to be tray of lukewarm junk food: pizza slice, lasagne, pop, French fries. Got 3e back in change. That's approaching $30.
I pay 10e for a nice dinner with wine.
After diner I returned to Capoliveri for a drink and explore the village. What a crowd, it was even more congested than when I first arrived.
Turns out they were hosting the annual 'Festa del Pesce Poveo' complete with fish barbecue, marching band and projection movie depicting the cities rich mining history.
The centre square was decked out with dozens of tables and benches.
They were serving a buffet style diner with different courses being filled throughout the piazza.
There were different kinds of fish, octopus, wine, pasta, french fries, watermelon.
Mile long line of cars
Sign of a good beach is a long line of cars parked on the shoulders long before the entrance to the beach. Not a problem just pull up to the entrance and park the bike.
Pity the Cyclist
I pity the cyclist because they pretty much are confined to the same roads I am. Only when I get led astray all I do is cuss under my breath and backtrack those last few kms. I'm sure those cyclists swear and then huff and puff up or down the last hill.
I chuckle every time I see travel ads advertising cycling tours of those idyllic Tuscan countryside visiting the romantic hilltop town villages.
First Let me dispel the myth. There is nothing idyllic about Italian roads. They are narrow, often in rough shape with potholes and little to no shoulders. If there is a shoulder, its the width of a white line.
So you basically have trucks, cars, motorcycles zipping within inches of your elbows. The funny thing is it doesn't seem to bother the Italians. They're often seen meandering on the road two or three abreast leaving their fate to god or the drivers.
Rather than relaxing I usually come back frazzled, thankful to be alive.
Second, the keyword is hilltop. In medieval times the villages were situated as high up as possible so that they could see the Huns coming, giving them enough time to prepare the boiling oils, diseased cows and batches of excrement to hurl upon the invaders.
Is it my imagination but are a lot more dogs going on vacation. Here in Italy where there are no rules, And so what if there were. They can be seen everywhere: shops, restaurants, grocery stores, shopping carts, swimming at public beaches, airports.
And their servants are no better at picking up after them than they are in North America.
They say the streets of Paris are lined in shit. Can you imagine Paris Hilton ever bending down to pickup after her pet mouse.
The dog squats down dragging its ass over the cobblestones leaving a dashed line of turds as his servant tugs on its leash. Eventually the servant notices and pretends to pickup after invariably leaving most behind.
2010.13 Italy, July 10, 2010
Well I'm back in Lucca one of my favourite Italian cities.
I decided to catch the Mark Knopfler (Dire Straits) show in Lucca 'alla cheap'. I caught the morning ferry and yes this time I choose Toremar and their rates were lower at 28e. This being Saturday I expected their prices to be higher. I must admit past visits to Elba with the car were timed based on weekday rates.
This time I choose a different route going back to Lucca stopping at a few beautiful towns recommended by Marco the Vespa mechanic: of Bolgheri, Bibbona.
I headed for my old hotel the Carignano and luckily I got the last room available, a handicapped room. How did they know I was handicapped? Still only 50e I was expecting to have to pull out my previous invoice. Not a lot of bargaining power when its the last room. Still not bad for 50e.
And my wireless password was still valid so free internet to boot.
I often wonder if they automatically quote you a roomrate 5e higher, then when asked if they could give you a special price they just knock it back to the original rate makes everyone happy.
Sight for sore eyes
The beaches are littered with many sights
some are a sight for sore eyes:
while others make your eyes sore:
And if you left home without them you can always pickup a replacement from the bubblegum machine.
Some of you younger readers may not appreciate the following accomplishment. What a relief I've actually nailed the correct concert on the correct date in the correct city.
That's how that works
Returned to my favourite restaurant, Leo's trattoria. Sorry all the seats are taken. Meanwhile Marian the owner spots me from my previous visits. Could you wait 10 minutes? Sure would like a glass of wine while you wait. Sure
Had another fine meal and he threw in a limoncello to boot.
Walked over to my cheap 'frontrow' concert seats. What do you know my seat at the closed restaurant is still vacant for me. Funny most Italian come over grab a chair to sit down find they're all chained together give up and walk away. Doesn't seem to register that a few people are sitting at the tables on the chairs without a problem.
Wouldn't it be nice to enjoy the concert while sipping a limoncello.
Not a problem, it maybe 10:00pm but drop in to the coffee shop around the corner; do you have limoncello? Yes could I have 2 in one glass. Sure that'll be 4e, better make that 3, 5e not a problem.
Return to find my table and chair still sitting vacant for me. Stymied those Italians again.
How good is that a glass full of limoncello, at a table less than a 100 yards from Mark Knopfler: 'Money for nothing and your chicks for free'
He played for a couple of hours some of my favourites:
-Sultans of Swing
-Brother in Arms
Some you may be saying what a cheapskate he could easily afford frontrow seats.
But you just don't get it, the most memorable experiences are those you have when travelling 'low off the hog' rather than 'high off the hog'.
Can't remember where I got that expression from but basically you're not going to get IT travelling first class and staying at the Holiday Inn express.
Pie-eyed on 2e how good is that? Only a rubby would love that. Maybe I am a rubby.
Elba was as good as it gets.
I had originally planned for a visit to my old stomping grounds on Sardegna. But subsequent visits and other comments have led me believe its become very touristy.
So I elected to go to Elba instead: 1-hour ferry ride, competitive restaurants and accommodations but still the classic aqua-marine crystal clear blue waters, (pictures to follow). Everything you could want.
Turning into a Leprechaun
And what's with all this green. I've always been a blue kind of guy. Every since the green iPod and that was Mathew's choice. I've been defaulting to green in my clothes selection and not your sublime pale green but often shocking lime green bordering on fluorescent: green jacket, travel shirt, green wallet, greenslime.
Has it something to do with my transplant? Maybe my donor was a Leprechaun?
2010.14 Italy, July 12, 2010
The lift in from the airport in Rome reminded me why I wouldn't want to drive anything in Rome, Florence, Amafi, etc.. Never saw a single vehicle that was inside a lane if lines were visible at all.
However I did do what I swore I would never do and that is ride a Vespa through the centre of Florence. Somehow I had a premonition that this would happen. Even though I planned only to skirt the city, it draws you in like one giant blackhole. Next thing you know you're in the bowels of the city.
You'd figure the more lanes the better in relieving congestion but 3 lanes is more dangerous, now they can hit from both sides.
So far I've only a couple of run-ins with the police.
One time I attempted to go down a one-way street the wrong way. I say attempted because my path was impeded by an oncoming police car. Then there was the time I pulled a Ueee in front of a police car, I kept on going and never looked back.
I was having a hell of time getting out of Pistoia, all roads led me to restricted auto and super stradas on-ramps. And everyone I asked either didn't know or only knew the main highways.
That's the down side to travelling the old roads, they're either slowly forgotten or the young generation never heard of them.
I saw a cop and asked him. He offered several alternatives even conferring with his partner all ending with a 'damn'. In the end he said just follow me. There I was getting a police escort down the superstrata. How cool is that.
Often I'm zipping down the street and I see a cop, oh-oh I better slow down. I look down and see I barely doing 50kph. Vespa makes you feel like you're doing a 100.
Day's going well
- had breakfast
- hit one of the few banks that is willing to give me money from my Interac card and it worked.
- Rode to Arezzo to settle our freeway fine.
All before noon
Oh I didn't tell you about our encounter with the freeway fine?
In our race to get to Nice we missed the turnoff to Genova. We ended up travelling up to 40km before we had the opportunity to turn around. We took the turnoff then looped through the AutoGrill, (freeway restaurant chain) and followed the on-ramp back to Firenze.
On the way down again we missed the exit a second time even though all eyes were looking. The signage really sucked because of construction.
So basically we're back to the same freeway entrance where we started.
The clerk didn't appreciate the fact that our start and end destinations were the same, and so issued us a ticket for 45e. Supposedly the round trip to Bologna and back. I told you in past instalments Bologna is Baloney with our pending appointment in Nice and the growing line-up behind us, it had to be resolved later.
I thought I would wait and show it to our Italian friends. Surely being a lawyer he would be fluent in these matters and suggest a way to resolve the situation. He just shrugged his shoulders as most Italians do. I said one option is just ignore the fine, the car is from France and I'm from Canada surely they wouldn't bother pursuing it? He just shrugged and said maybe.
Went by myself to the PuntBlue office in Arezzo to plead my case: insanity.
Okay fine you say Barberino that will be 3.40e please sign here to cancel the fine.
Well that wasn't so bad here I came prepared with my napkin sketch of arrows, names and curlicues.
Got to spend a few hours wandering the streets of Arezzo and saw where Elvis Presley got his haircut and Roberto Bennie shot his movie "Life is Beautiful"
I've always been enamoured with that old hippie tune: "Signs Signs Everywhere a Sign"
And used it as our jingle for our sign making business.
Of late the other verse seems most apropos: "Thank you lord for thinking about me I'm alive and doing fine"
Nuclear Free Zone
What is it with these 'nuclear free zone' signs at entrance to many little villages including ours in Pietralunga.
Is this some kind of profound statement? I'm sticking my neck out here and I'm putting my foot down by declaring our village a 'nuclear free zone' And does that mean the ones that don't advertise could be harbouring a giant nuclear reactor?
2010.15 Italy, July 14 Bologna
Ducati Outlet Store
Couldn't help but notice the surrounding area of my hotel looked familiar sure enough its not far from the Ducati factory. Again just like a black hole that draws you in I couldn't resist.
I have neither a Ducati nor desire to own one and I've already visited the museum. (see previous years instalments) But I've got a couple of hours to kill maybe I'll checkout their outlet store.
Analogous to women incapable of skipping the Prada outlet store.
At least I don't think I'm a woman, although Louise once accused me of having breasts.
Locked up Tighter than a drum
Still inconceivable how most shops in cities great and small get locked up tighter than a virgin on her first date on Sundays or every daily siesta.
Surely the concept of a vending machines for soft drinks is not such a foreign concept? Give me the exclusive rights
Had a particularly long day driving to Perugia, dropping the Vespa off, catching the train to Bologna, getting to the airport, getting to my hotel. Had nothing to eat or drink all day I felt I deserved a coke from the hotel mini-bar. I know what you're saying you idiot don't you know those are a total rip-off. To hell with it. I inhaled that coke.
Later I hopped on the bus into town I spot a convenience store and figure I should pickup a resealable bottle of something to drink for my day at the airport tomorrow. We all know airport rates are not much different than mini-bar prices.
Anyway I spot a can of coke identical to the one I just quaffed for about 38cents, that's about 10 times less than what the mini-bar charges. I figured I'll just buy one of these to replace the one I just quaffed. You say no he wouldn't do that would he?
I wonder if you could actually replenish more than what you take out, then maybe a dozen cans of coke would pay for your room.
What's with these people that sport pencil eraser size goitres on their chin or cheek, some even having sprouted the odd hairs.
Presumably for less money than having a tattoo laser removed why on earth are they still walking around with these things on their face.
Is it a some kind of a birth or beauty mark to be cherished?
Try looking away. Its like that scene from 'Gold Member'
Bums Eye for Clothes
"man you've got a real bums eye for clothes" another one of my favourite quotes from the Tragically Hip.
The working class men seemed to have adopted knee-high knickers with tassels and either sleeveless wife-beater T-shirts with "I have sex with only the best women" complete with a naked silhouette embossed on it or golf shirts with the collars always turned up. At first you think it was by accident but then realize they're just mimicking the Jetsons. The women come across like 'Gary Glitter' or whoever he was. In silver spray painted running shoes and metallic embossed T-shirts with sequins. Maybe I've fallen into an alternate universe.
With observations like these you can see I have far too much time on my hands.