✍️&📸Trace Downing and Nick Marer
In Italy with a bag full of stickers and T-shirts, we're off! MotoGP at Mugello, Hire Bikes to trip around, and finally a Ducati Factory Tour.
Trace and Nick, the Black Sheep from Nelson, and Henry, the DOC President from Dubai went from to Olbia, Sardinia airport to fly to Bologna. Flying can be pleasant and stress-free, not that day. Passport numbers not aligning, Bags overweight, Language barrier, thinking we were connecting to Dubai and required a visa!! Two hours later, we literally were the last to board. Funny now...
Welcome to the Mainland! Hooked up a rental at the Airport, the next morning at 0530hrs, cranked up the violet Citroen C3 and got on the road. Ducati parking permit onboard, we are good to go. It had been raining a bit in Italy during the week, and even Jeremy Clarkson's Lambo Tractor would struggle in the mud of the car park, suffice to say the wee C3 got bogged completely. We abandoned it where it stopped and hoped by the afternoon it would have dried out.
MotoGP in Mugello is Ballistic! The atmosphere, The noise, 100,000+ hyped-up Fans... sensory overload in a good way. We were sitting in the Ducati stand ready to go by 0830 and then realized we had completely missed Brekkie... so half a pork leg on a bone, chips, and beer sorted that. At the GP, we ran into a few people, Andy Harworth from Nelson. He has been working in Rome and had come up for the day; being the decent chap he is, he bought Pecco a beer. Seemed to do the trick as Pecco won that afternoon with Martin a close second and Zarco third. Trace managed to catch up with Claudio Domenicali as well, and then it was time to drive back to Bologna. Getting the C3 out was the easy part; the slow grind on the backcountry roads was a three-hour crawl.
Monday morning, up early as we had a Freccia Rossa train to catch. If you have followed Pecco Bagnaia, you may have noticed the FRECCIAROSSA sponsorship on his leathers; these are loosely translated to Red Arrow and are as fast as the Bikes! An hour later, we were in Milan at the HP Motorrad shop to pick up our hire bikes, Ducati 1200 Monster and 1100 Scrambler. Looked at the weather, decided on a route and we were off. Not to bore you, but there was a bit of planning, and the plan was... Milan-Bellagio-Lake Como-Chur Bernina Pass-Julier Pass-St Moritz-Livigno-Stelvio Pass-San Leonardo Pass-Jaufen Pass-Vipiteno-Dolomites-Cortina d'Ampezzo-Arabba-Corvara-Piz Boe, around the Mountains. Bolzano-Fondo-Passo del Tonale-Castro Lake Iseo, and finally, the A4 back to Milan. And you were probably worn out reading that... Try Riding it... We had booked no accommodation and just winged it. Trace had the TomTom, so led the way, sometimes on the back wheel, taming the beast. It was my job to find Hotels; Google is your friend. When in St Moritz, we had a chat with the staff and they said we chose the best time of the year to travel as the holiday season didn't start for another two weeks. Tinned it. The temperature variation was 28 degrees in the valleys and 4 degrees on the mountain passes. A real pain if you happen to do SIX Passes in a day. Gear on/Gear off... Bike trips never seem to be as long as you had hoped and always seem to finish way too soon. Four days, no rain. Then we were back in Milan, dropped off the bikes and on the Red Arrow again.
The last three days were full-on. We did a Ducati Factory Tour, then the Ducati Museum Tour. While there, we caught up with Sam McCaffery on his very last day at Ducati. (Sam is from Wellington and is part of the design team on the Streetfighter, among other things, and a super nice guy.) Nick got some nice shiny boots from the Ducati Shop; then we did the Luxury Handbag Shop... I kid you not. Cranked up the Fiat 500 for a ride in the country to Modena where we found the Lamborghini Museum and the Ferrari Museum. And yes! the Bolognese do make the best Spaghetti... Thanks so much to April and Chrissy for letting the Gentlemen have a blast; maybe next time, Girls...?
It all seems a distant memory, flicking back through the photos, brings many smiles and a lot of laughs. Would I do a self-guided bike tour in Italy again, in a heartbeat!!