It’s 10 0’clock on a clear, sunny morning and I’m weaving through the picturesque Italian countryside of Tuscany, a landscape sprinkled with fairytale hamlets and a patchwork of vineyards and olive groves about three hours north of Rome. The soaring notes of El Divo’s Nella Fantasia are playing through my headphones and I can feel the warm engine of my BMW humming effortlessly beneath me. I’m in a t-shirt and jeans travelling with four other riders and our Italian tour guide, Enrico Rubaldo Fulvio Grassi (above).
This – I remember thinking – is as good as it gets.
Certainly I’d hoped for as much. Italy on a motorbike has been on top of my Bucket List for some time.
There’s a lot to be said for appreciating a landscape more intimately when you’re moving through it on a motorbike – when you’re working through the gears and shifting in the saddle to adapt to its undulations and curves; when you’ve synchronised body and bike to the sweeping bends, and you’ve found a sense of rhythm in your riding. It’s about the subtle changes of temperature that splash your face as you plunge into shadowed valleys from their sun-kissed heights. It’s about the fleeting whisps of roasting coffee beans or baking bread that curl around you as you pass through the tiny country hamlets, or the rich, earthy smell of the newly farrowed fields.
And, of course, it’s about the power at your fingertips straining to be unleashed. In just three gear changes, you can accelerate from zero to more than 100 miles per hour in less than 15 seconds. Cars in front of you seem to come to a standstill as you wind on the throttle and pass, before shrinking into the depths of your rear view mirror. At such speeds, your senses are heightened ten-fold as the scenery ahead races to meet you. It’s exhilarating. An intoxicating mix of power and control. Effortless, explosive, acceleration coupled with the thrill of riding to your limits or slowing to take in your interests.
Driving in a car, by comparison, is comfortable, more detached – like watching a movie in the comfort of an arm chair, with the scenery framed by your vehicle’s windows.
….And so ends some of the early impressions I’m left with from the first day of my motorcycle tour of Italy. I’m sitting scribing this note from my room in a charming hamlet overlooking a sprawling Tuscan valley, hoping to capture and recall this experience. Accommodation for the next 10 days is booked, our route onto Corsica and Sardinia has been plotted – we just need to arrive and enjoy everything in between.
Below: A map of our route, and some of the snaps captured during the tour.
Below: Photos captured on my I-phone (I left my camera gear in Rome, determined to distance myself from my work, and not miss a second).