I bought my trusty Mt 350 about a year ago and in a 'Long Way Down' inspired moment I went on a trip from my house in London to the bottom of Italy.
Day 1: Camping outside Dover
Left London for Dover in the evening. Rough camped in the hills (early Ferry, lack of B&Bs).
Day 2: Belgium bikers and Stuttgart
The next day rode across France to Belgium, then headed south towards Germany (met a group of Harley enthusiasts in Belgium and rode with them for a while).
Got to a charming little campsite outside of Stuttgart by about 2am that evening/.. morning.
I rode at about 60-65mph (any faster and it's uncomfortable).
Opened it up on the Autobahn (she'll do 79mph tops!)
Day 3: My first speeding ticket & Italy
A few cups of coffee, a few cigarettes and a few disgruntled neighbours later I was on my way to Austria.
The ride down to Austria was very pleasant (roads in Germany are excellent).
Note to anyone crossing German/Austrian border, there is a massive, very slippery painted arrow on the exit of the tunnel.
Austria is magnificent for biking, there are bikes everywhere, fuel is cheaper than water and the whole country is one endless mountain range. See pic of me and bike with mountain range in backdrop.
Got a speeding ticket on Austrian/Italian border (I know, on an Mt350, who'd have thought it).
My next challenge came after i'd crossed the border. The windiest, steepest downhill stretch in Europe.
The route to Lago di Resia is well worth a visit. The lake is man-made, it sits under an incredible mountain range and top it all there's a church steeple sticking out of the middle of the lake (they demolished the town, leaving the church to make room for the lake).
I got to lake Gada late that evening and settled down in a little campsite on the shore.
Day 4: Verona, Vinencia, Padova & Venice!
Rode to Verona (said to be the Las Vegas of Europe in the days of the Roman Empire).
Verona features Roman amphitheatres, theatres, bridges and gardens.
From Verona rode to Vicência (very pretty but with a slightly socialist feel about it).
According to friends back home, you can eat cat in Vicência. After asking the locals in my pigeon Italian it turns out (to my great embarrassment) you can't.
From Vicência I rode to the University of Padua in Padova. The university is well worth a tour (it has an incredible surgical theatre).
It was a busy day but I finished up in Venice. Rode her right onto the Island, had a cheap dinner in an Osteria and headed back to a B&B on the mainland.
Day 5-7: Venice
I'm sure you all know what Venice is like. Beautiful but full of Tourists.
I was lucky enough to join some friends of friends studying in the city for a few days. Had a lot of nice home cooked meals and some excellent evenings.
Day 8: Italy's most dangerous road
Dragged my hungover self out of bed, said goodbye to some new friends, loaded the bike up and got ready for a long day of riding.
From Venice I headed to a place someone recommended called Basano di Grapo (it's where they make the delicious fortified wine Grapo). Basano di Grapo is in the hills north of Padova and was a bit of a mission to get to but well worth it (see pic).
From Basano di Grapo I headed south to Florence.
Note: Take the motorway from Bologna to Florence. Ended up taking Italy's most dangerous hill pass to Florence (80km stretch with a death per month), in the dark, with rain.
Needless to say, arriving in Florence, soaked through and having witnessed two car accidents I was a little shaken up.
Day 9-11: Florence
Highly reccommend St Croce (house the great and good of Italy) Gardino Boboli (rennaissance Garden) and Casa di Buonarotti (Michaelangelo's house).
Day 12: An incident with a pig
From Florence I visited Vinci (hometown to Leanardo Di Vinci) and then rode to San Giminiano, passing Volterra right in the heart of Tuscany.
It was quite late by the time I got to San Giminiano and the campsite was expensive so I took to a little rough camping in the hills opposite the town.
Getting to the clearing in the woods was my first bit of off-roading on the bike and I despite what I keep hearing she behaved herself very well.
I did have a bit of an incident in the night, a wild boar came into the clearing where I'd pitched my tent and parked the bike. A bit of quick thinking told me to ditch the entrenching tool and rev the engine on my bike instead to scare it away.
Worked a treat!
Day 13: San Giminano to Sienna
A pleasant visit to San Giminiano and then it was off to Sienna for my last few days in Tuscany.
Day 14-16: Visiting Sienna
A pleasant few days in Sienna, visited some amazing sites and met a lovely Canadian couple in the campsite.
Day 17: Isola Elba
Left Sienna and Tuscany for Piso (you don't feel like you're in Italy until you see the leaning Tower).
Visited the Piso. Piso has a bad rap amongst Italians for some reason, it had slightly less museums than most Italian major cities but still very much worth a visit.
From Piso I headed towards the Isola Elba.
The Island of Elba is where Napoleon was held prisoner for a year before he escaped back to France.
The ferry across was expensive (apparently there's no such thing as a return ticket!!?). The Island itself (apart from the odd touristy town) is completely wild (lots of abandonned coastline). If you're ever in the area I would strongly reccommend a day out there. Riding around the Island was great and a dip in the crystal clear water was even better.
From Isola Elba I headed towards Rome.
Note: I should probably mention at this point that my normal habit was to ride the bike into the woods and find a nice quiet spot to rough camp in. However, by the time I decided i'd made enough progress after my day out on the Island it was already dark.
I came off the motorway and stopped at a little Osteria serving wild boar (how suitable).
Cut a long story short, the restaurant owner offered to put me up for the night free of charge! See below for pic of my bike parked in the outdoors cafe area.
Day 18-21: A few days in Rome and many angry Italians
A few days in a Youth Hostel in Rome.
Rome's expensive but fantastic what can I say.
Made friends with some really friendly French Canadians at the youth hostel too (met up with them in Naples later).
Did have to replace the rear brake callipers though (too much hill riding in Tuscany) which turned out to be a real blast. As I'm sure you will have guessed there are a lot of scooters/bikes in Rome and you can get your hands on just about any part.
Mind you if you ride in on a Mt350 you better know what other bikes share the same parts.
Visited the Appian way or Via Appia Antica, an old perfectly preserved Roman road South of Rome. The Mt might be built for going off road but that was no smooth ride I can tell you.
Note: Care is needed when parking a heavy bike in a bike bay full of vespas. Accidently knocked over at least 20 to the dismay of many passer-bys.
Day 20: The city with an under-cover police Rolls Royce
From Rome headed towards Naples.
Now i'm not sure how much you know about Naples and the south of Italy but it's a very different world to the north. In the south the mafia own everything, the police, tourist sites, dustbin disposal companies... the lot!
So you can imagine the culture shock when I rode in through the Naples boulevard to find loose paving stones sitting on the road and 2 week old rubbish blocking the side walk.
It was shortly after reading a caption in my guidebook that suggested in no uncertain terms not to leave a car/motorcycle unattended in the city that I shit the proverbial brick.
Instead I decided to find a hotel with a large wall surrounding the car park and have a nap instead.
I did manage a small outing in the evening to a renowned pizza restaurant (pizza was invented in Naples).
Day 21: Lovely southerners and an even lovelier sunset
The owner of the Hotel (an old Italian lady) offered to look after my bike while I visited the ruins at Pompei.
I should probably mention that my stay at the hotel was probably my first insight into the seemingly bottomless hospitality southern Italians have to offer. They simply cannot do enough for you!
The surroundings may be a little different to what you're used to but the people are just simply first class.
In the morning met with the Canadians from Rome and had a smashing day out in Pompei.
After waving goodbye to the friendly Canadians I headed towards Sorrento and the Amalfi coast.
It was mid afternoon so I pretty much raced to Sorrento to get to the Amalfi Coast before sunset.
The Amalfi coast is probably Europe's most scenic bit of coastline it is simply glorious to ride along that coast as the sun sets.
Note: Take care of speeding Italian cars.
Some left over pizza and a few cigarettes on a honey spot later I headed towards mainland and a cheap hotel.
The mainland the other side of the Sorrento peninsular is pretty industrial so didn't want to risk a B&B.
Day 22 Where the Mediterranean meets the Adriatic
Long day of riding.
Rode from the SW to the Santa Maria di Leuca in the SE right on the tip of Italy.
From SMDL rode to Otranto (the final destination) to visit the castle of Otranto (setting for the first Gothic novel).
From Otranto rode to Alborobello. City of Trullis. See photo of bike outside Trulli.
Day 23: A room full of creepy Italians
Spent the morning in the market and then prepared the bike for a really long ride up to Bologna.
Got to Bologna about 9pm, stopped in a youth Hostel outside of town.
Was sharing a room with some very peculiar middle aged Italian men so decided to treat myself to meal in the town.
Bologna's night life mainly revolves around the university and like Vicencia and Padova has a very socialist feel about it (in a good way!).
Day 24: More bikers and bike factory
Today's journey, Lake Gada and the Motto Guzzi factory.
Note: The motto Guzzi factory only opens to the public between 3pm and 4pm Mon/Sat.
Noteworthy was my encounter with some Italian HD enthusiasts outside of Milan on their way to the HD Eurofestival in St Tropez.
After a quick dip in lake Como and an amazing visit to the factory I decided to change my plans and rendez vous with the other bikers in St Tropez.
Got to the Eurofestival, set up camp and partied at a rockabilly gigg on the beach that night.
Day 25-26: The Harley Davidson festival
Spent the day perusing the various stands.
Was invited to bring my bike to the expo along with another military HD.
After lunch joined the 20,000 strong ride out of St Tropez!
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All in all, fantastic.
Did have a little hitch after the ride out though. Having finished the ride out I collected my touring gear and was about to head towards Calais when I noticed there was something wrong with the bike.
She was riding like a real pig, like the fuel mixture was all wrong. Initially I though the spark plug had collected to much carbon but as it turns out (after a bloody long search) it was a tear in the carb to engine hose. As a veteran of the carb to engine hose dilemma I was well aware of the importance of always having a spare so it was an easy fix.
After power napping on the side of the motorway I rode through the morning and the next day to get to Calais.
Had two incidents on the way back.
The first was the springs coming off the main stand. The main stand dropped while I was on the motorway (going straight, thank goodness) and it was an easy fix tying the stand to the body with exhaust clamps.
The second was being pushed out of a lane travelling at 60mph on one of the motorways around Paris by some penis in mini.
Day 26/27: Curling up in a small ball and a home full of drunk people
Having finally arrived at Le Shuttle I curled up in a small ball and had a little nap during the crossing.
By the time I got back to London it was very early in the morning so I headed straight home only to find a bunch of very drunk people in my house celebrating what was supposed to be a surprise welcoming home party!
Anyway, I hope you've enjoyed reading about my trip and looking at my photos.
This is my first post on the forum so it would be nice to get to know some of you.