Days 42, 43 & 44 – Mandello del Lario, the Home of Moto Guzzi

Our ride from the northern end of Lake Como to Mandello del Lario was a short but enjoyable journey along the shoreline of one of the world’s premier addresses.

The trip that we’re on was inspired by a project proposed by the Moto Guzzi Club of Victoria, Australia. The idea was to crate up as many Moto Guzzis as owner’s wanted to and ship them to Nijmegen in Holland where they’d be ridden by their owners to Mandello del Lario, the birthplace and manufacturing hub of the Moto Guzzi motorcycle, to celebrate the 95th birthday of the marque. In the end two container loads with some 48 bikes left Melbourne and are on their way to the party as I write this, along with thousands of other Guzzista from all over the world.

I was very taken by the idea but wanted to spend a lot more time in Europe than the proposed 4 & 6 week timeframe allowed for so we organised an individual freight. The thing is that we’re here now and the party’s not for 9 more days which is a shame. But the upside is that we’ve pretty much got the whole town to ourselves. And what a lovely town it is too.


 For The Guzzista Amongst Us

By some incredible quirk we had booked 3 nights accommodation at Antica Officina B&B. When we talk of the birth place of the Moto Guzzi motorcycle, this is it. This is where it was built, in the blacksmith’s shop of Giorgio Ripamonti. 20160831_090418



Now run by Giorgio’s great nephew, Trincavelli Giovanni, it is something of a museum/shrine to the prototype Guzzi of 1919 and well worth a visit to the still functional workshop at 8 Cavour, Mandello del Lario, and a mere 50 meters from the Piazza where Carlo Guzzi is immortalized in stone.


The Guzzi Museum / Factory

i won’t bore you with all the pics taken in the museum, if you’re that keen you’ll be visiting it yourself in the near future, but needless to say it’ll have massive drool factor for most of the MGCoV members who’ll visit it.

Just a couple then.

We’re now ready to leave Mandello, but we’re still waiting for our passports to arrive from San Marino 😦 Oh, yeah, they’re in the post alright.


Days 40 & 41 – To Stelvio Pass and Lakes District

Yesterday, Friday 26th of August we left the beautiful town of Moena with it’s mirror of Austria and headed west toward Stelvio Pass.


The day turned out to be a bit of a transit and began with an unplanned detour up a toll road – “I think we should have taken the center lane there.”

Nevertheless it was another very enjoyable ride through ever changing scenery with  down and down, then up, up and still up, over that pass and down, down and ever down again before repeating the exercise with glacial snow on the high peaks “just there” and traffic and corners and “how did that truck get around there?”

I’m a bit disappointed that I didn’t get any photos but between the constant haze, wrong sun angle and the high possibility of getting run over if we stopped where we could have, it was a futile effort.

The plan was to ride Stelvio Pass first thing in the morning on the morrow. We arrived at Bormio mid afternoon amid the press of what appeared to be ever increasing traffic. We checked into our apartment, had a rest and wandered down to a local superette for some groceries where we ran into 3 Brit bikers who’d just ridden the pass ‘because it was going to be closed tomorrow owing to it being closed for 10 thousand cyclists’. Oops!

So on with my gear and away I went. OK, there’s heaps of these sorts of roads in Europe but this one is the highest paved mountain pass, at 2757m, in the eastern alps and the second highest in all the alps by a mere 45m. It certainly carries a mystique and everyone wants to ride it.

I rode the 27 hairpins of the southern side, there’s 48 on the other side, and arrived at the top along with what seemed like half the biker fraternity  of Europe. My AUS registered and individualized DAREV plate gained a fair amount of attention so I spent an enjoyable hour chatting before getting the photo, buying the sticker and doing the run back down which was alot more fun because there was hardly anyone coming up at 7pm. I’m hoping I can get some new brake pads soon.

Tick that one off. Not sure that I have a bucket list but there are some things that are good to do. Not a bad day. 325klms.

Day 27 Bormio - Stelvio 325k

Today was an easy run down to the lake district.

Day 28 Lake Como 125k

Day 39 – The Dolomites

Today was all about the view. Once again totally spectacular and my little Canon S8000 doesn’t do any of it justice. I really need a 3D camera 🙂

We did the toll road for the first 80ks then pretty much stuck to the A roads, in this case S51. We took a right instead of a left in the middle of Cortina and had no end of fun untangling ourselves from their one way system.

The rest of the ride was the usual oohs and aahs and look at that, interspersed with a couple of “Heck this is a seriously sharp switchback, I hope nothing’s coming the other way”. These are the sharpest we’ve encountered so far..

More rock from Cortina to our digs at Moena.

Another beautiful day in Italy. We covered 230k.

Day 26 Moena 230k

Tomorrow it’s Stelvio Pass – woohoo.

Days 37 & 38 – Venice

Tuesday 23rd August was day 37 of our travels.

Once again we left as early as we could after breakfast and once again it was down and down further to the plains of north east Italy. The day’s ride was very uneventful except for the traffic. If I hadn’t have become an Italian for the day we’d still be out there on the road somewhere 🙂 Norma doesn’t like Italian drivers and much less Italian motorcycle riders 🙂

The drama of the day occurred when we arrived at our hotel near Venice to receive an email that informed us we’d left our passports in San Marino. Now that’s a whole lot more annoying than leaving my laptop behind, especially as it wasn’t my fault, but it was my responsibility. The hotel staff had as usual taken our passports for details, I’d asked for them back but “The copier isn’t working, we will return them” Right! They’ll send them to our hotel in Mandello de Lario. Hoping hoping.

No pics on day 37, pretty boring journey actually. 217klms and I hope no tickets 😉

Day 25 Venice 210k

So today is day 38, August 24th and we were woken by messages from concerned relatives and friends as to our wellbeing in the wake of the 6.2 magnitude earthquake that had struck the Umbria region in the early hours of the morning.

We were of course just fine but that would possibly not have been the case if this had happened 3 or 4 days ago when were riding through some of those exact same towns that have been devastated, and indeed we stayed in Castelluccio, which reports extensive damage, on Saturday and Sunday nights – it’s the place I had to return to for my wayward laptop.

It is easy to see why these very old, and I mean really old, villages have been demolished to such an extent because they are so weathered and time worn – basically stones and mud really. Beautiful for sure and with such romance and nostalgia they draw tourists in their droves, ourselves included. Such history, such culture, such a pity.

Today it was Venice. We caught the bus early and had the place virtually to ourselves for all of 20 minutes. Bought a coffee and macaroon (cos it was the cheapest thing on the menu) at Caffe Florians in the Piazza San Marco and listened to their four piece orchestra and paid the man 36 Euro for the pleasure – ain’t going there again 🙂

We walked the lane ways, crossed the bridges, battled to tourist hordes, took a long ferry ride out to the outer islands, braved the tourists once again and took far too many photos. Here’s just a few.

A few more. And yep, that tower in the bottom picture is leaning that much.

Just a couple more.

And that’s enough.

Tomorrow we head into the Dolomites in the Italian Alps. Norma can’t wait 🙂

Day 36 – San Marino

We left the beautiful Castelluccio after another hearty breakfast with the intent of being in San Marino nice and early to do some shopping. We went down and down to the valleys below, passing through the usual idyllic countryside interspersed with small and bigger towns.

Everything was going sweetly until we were leaving Cagli some 150ks into the 210k journey. My phone rang, it was the owner of the hotel in Castelluccio, “Mr Blackmore you have left your laptop computer here”. That is such annoying news.

There’s always a solution so we turned around and went back into Cagli to a friendly looking servo, off loaded all the luggage including the pillion and I headed back to collect my wayward computer. There’s always an upside, in this case the fact that I beat TomTom’s estimated arrival time by 35 minutes – both ways 🙂 it was a spirited ride there and back.

We continued onto San Marino through some truly remarkable country as we entered the Republic. Ploughing was in full swing and we seemed to be going up forever with amazing views out to the coast and back to the mountains behind.

Needless to say shopping in San Marino didn’t happen 😦 We visited the mountain top fortress and took the required photos.

For me it was a 550k day. I slept well.

Day 24 San Marino A 210k



Days 34 & 35 – Castelluccio

Day 34 was spend entirely playing in the Parco Nazionale dei Monti Sibillini, a magnificent 700 square kilometer national park in the heart of Abruzzo and Umbria.

Day 23 Castelluccio 185k

Essentially it was a case of going up and up from where we were staying at Santo Stefano di Sessanio onto a vast high plain which is completely snow covered in winter but in summer is the home of small pockets of grazing sheep and cows from the lower lands and also a vast horde of tourists, also from the lowlands – and some from Australia even 🙂

The vistas were magnificent.


We stopped to brew a coffee and were joined by a lovely young couple on the final week of their month long honeymoon. They’d spent the first 3 weeks in Australia and were spending the last week travelling through Italy’s southern national parks on their Triumph Tiger 1050.

You’ll notice a white dog sitting under the rear wheel of our bike. It was just there, no collar, no apparent owner, and certainly no concern. As we left this particular spot we came across a mob of sheep which were being loosely guarded by a couple of the same breed of dog and further up the road we came across a couple of others in the same mode and yet another one further on just wandering across the plain. They’re Maremma Sheepdogs, a breed of livestock guardian dog indigenous to central Italy.

We moved on to Corno Piccolo / Campo Imperatore which is the highest road point in the area with walking tracks up to the high ranges behind. There’s a motorway tunnel running directly under this place – tunnels as a road access solution certainly don’t seem to be a problem to the Italians, they’re everywhere. They need to be because there are mountains everywhere as well.

So then it was down down down. No twisties here boys, just endless switchbacks where I’m virtually looking over my shoulder going into them, and Norma’s hanging on for dear life and doing a magnificent job of spotting any vehicles coming the other way. Awesome lady.

Then it was up and up to the lovely Castelluccio basin. Interesting read here:

At 1450m and with 150 inhabitants (and triple the tourists) the fields on the slopes below the village are cultivated and in springtime are famous for their colour – in summer they look like any other fields. The pic with all the colour is from Google Images.

Day 35 was a layday so we spent it wandering around town, which took about 20 minutes, and lazing around, which took all day.

Tomorrow it’s on to San Marino.

Day 33. To Santo Stefano di Sessanio

Yesterday, Friday 19th August.

We escaped Rome early and headed west for the Abruzzo region and the beginning of the high plateaus of central Italy. As you move east you begin to come across what seems like an endless procession of villages/towns built on the side escarpments and cliff faces. These are quite spectacular to see from the road but virtually impossible to photograph.

One of the biggest, and only 40k east of Rome, is Tivoli which has some very interesting fountains and water features so we decided a tourist visit was in order.


Apparently that’s what they look like. TomTom had a little trouble finding them and we found ourselves heading straight back down the escarpment on these very windy steep cobblestoned streets, all the way to the bottom because there was nowhere to turn around.

We kept heading east and pulled into this place for morning tea.

As we moved further east the towns were on ever higher hill tops which getting roads to back in the day must have been quite a feat. The amazing thing is that now there’s a freeway that runs through the region and it doesn’t take the low road, it takes the high road, one range top to the next via these massive and very impressive viaducts.

If you look over the top of the first column of the first pic you’ll see a hilltop village. That’s the one in the photo above which is where the second pic is taken. This viaduct is actually twice as long as can be seen.

To the hills of the Abruzzo region and the Parco Naturale Regionale Sirente-Velino.

Before arriving at our hilltop medieval village of Santo Stefano di Sessanio in the Parco Nazionale del Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga. An interesting and essential read here:

This place has become quite popular in recent years because now it’s only 2 hours from Rome to a large extent via the fore mentioned freeways. There is much restoration going on as there was a major earthquake in 2009. But very medieval and our wander through town and it’s varying levels by stair, lane and alleyways was very interesting.

As mentioned there is lots of restoration going on.

We had dinner at a local restaurant and encountered our first genuine attempted rip off which is pretty dumb when Norma’s paying the bills. “No, that doesn’t add up to E36, it adds up to E28” They weren’t impressed that we called them out, but it did take a bit of the shine off the place.

Day 22 Santo Stefano 185k

185k for the day.

Days 31 & 32. To Rome an’ Ruins

Wednesday 17th August was promising to be another hot day as we left Cassino early and headed for the coast where we stopped at Sperlonga for the usual. I have to hand it to these people they know how to hang buildings off cliffs and do sun umbrellas and deck chairs on beaches – kilometers of them all colour co-ordinated.

And so on to Rome sweltering in it’s summer heat, blasting horns and tourists like blowflies on a carcass. The ride in was uneventful albeit attitude challenging as these little cars travel in which ever lane they like whenever they like, which is OK except I swear Italian cars don’t have indicators only horns and hand waving drivers. Mamma Mia.

Day 21 Rome 190k

We’d taken a room 200m from the Colosseum which was another stair climbing exercise but the air-con worked fine 🙂

Cleaned and rested we entered the throng of tourists, touts, varying hustlers and a very strong security presence. We organised a guided walking tour of the Colosseum and surrounding areas for the morrow and played ‘which restaurant for dinner’.

Thursday, yesterday now, was another scorcher. We picked up our tour at 10:45 and were glad we had taken a tour as we jumped the 200mt queues and even had our own entrance. Dennis, our guide, had spent 4 months in Melbourne and I’m sure it’s all the English he had – a sort of Italian with an English accent, quite hard to understand. Never the less he knew his stuff and 10 of us traipsed around the Colosseum and surrounding places of historical interest with the tour ending 3 hours later at the very place where the famous phrase of “Et tu Brute” was uttered.

The follow are a number of pics taken during the walk which became something of an ordeal for some in the heat. It was a good day for a sun tan.

And there’s more. After all we’re tourists as well 🙂

We did the Vatican this morning as we left town at 7.30am to beat the traffic and the crowds – a fail on both counts.

Days 28,29 & 30. Dubrovnik to Bari to Vado della Lota to Cassino

August 14th we caught the ferry from Dubrovnik Croatia to Bari in Italy. Some pics leaving port. That big thing belongs to the Sultan of Somewhere.

However, before we even got onto the ship we ran into this delightful couple, Evan and his lovely wife Danila from Rome, who were returning from a weeks jaunt through to Bulgaria or Hungary, I can’t remember, where they’d attended a motorcycle rally. They’re involved in this group: I’ve got the sticker 🙂 We shared the world’s best foccassia together in Bari and one day they’ll make it to Australia if they can get over their fear of all the poisonous and deadly beasts we’ve got Down Under – way too many docos Evan 🙂


August 15 we travelled from just outside Bari to our good friends from Melbourne Angelo and Victoria Borzillo’s place at Vado della Lota just north of Benovento where we spent a lovely afternoon and evening with relatives and friends who I’m sure all thought we were toally crazy – they may be correct 🙂 We ate and drank home made wine and other concoctions and played boccee and laughed a lot.

It was a long day. 260k

Day 19 Angelo 260k

After a sumptuous breakfast of Italian and Aussie cuisine we departed from Angelo and Victoria’s and headed for a place called Caserta where it was suggested we visit this must see attraction It certainly looks amazing but after riding around for 1/2 an hour in 30c in a totally absurd 1 way system we found our way in to it only to find it’s closed on Tuesdays – guess what day it is? Thanks Angelo 🙂 So we’ve retreated to the next best thing which is coffee and cake.

Onto Cassino arriving mid afternoon where we did what has become our standard practise; have a shower and lay around in the air conditioning until it cools down a bit outside, then venture out to explore and a have a late dinner followed by 1 scoop of ice cream – 1 scoop only Vasily 🙂

Next morning I took an early run up to Monte Cassino Abbey, the sight of a significant battle during WW2 with many thousands of casualties. It was a bit of a waste of time really as there  are so many trees nothing can be seen.

Day 20 Cassino 140kjpg

Day 27. 13th August – Dubrovnik

On another lovely day on the Adriatic Sea  we left Orebic and headed for Dubrovnik passing the 2nd longest stone wall in the world at Ston. 7.4klm and it looks pretty impressive.

Holiday traffic was still prolific so we pulled into Slano for the regulatory morning tea of coffee and cake. This place was lovely, a nice resort with some beautiful boats in the inlet and surprisingly uncrowded. This would be my pick of ‘stay for a while’ locations so far.

And so to Dubrovnik with its crowds of tourists and hundreds of cafes and double the prices of anywhere else in Croatia. We lugged our gear up a hundred stairs to our lovely room and took a wander down the hill to the Old Town.

Some places require a guided tour to get the most from during a short stay and to hear the story. So we did the Walls and Wars walking tour of the walls of the Old Town – 2klms of continuous stairs and 2.5 hours of great commentary by our Croat guide who had no time for the Serbs who’d had a good shot at destroying the Old Town during the ‘Homeland Conflict’ as she put it.

I took lots of pics. These from ground level.

And these from the walls.

Today was a relatively short travel day of 110klms. Tomorrow it’s on to Italy.

Day 17 Dubrovnik 110k

I notice i’ve omitted to include the travel maps in my last post so here they are from BioGrad to Orebic via Makarska – 310klms all up.