Vacation in Italy

Two weeks ago, I went on a week-long vacation on my motorbike. Originally, I planned Spain, but a friend (Petra Kiliánová from Prague) needed a partner for Italy, which is almost as good. See the pictures or read on for a detailed account of the trip. It's long and I'm no writer, so don't feel bad if you don't read the whole thing. 8-)

Petra started on Saturday, visiting a friend Daniela in Torino. I set off from Innsbruck on the cold Sunday morning. The first 200km of the trip followed the river Inn upstream, going up-hill all the time for some reason. Not that the bike cares, but it meant that it wasn't getting warmer with the advancing day, until I reached Malojapass, where I left the Inn (now a stream) and dropped 1500m to Italy. Switzerland was very pretty and neat, more so than Tirol, I think.

Italy, on the other hand, is totally different - probably poorer (relatively), certainly more dusty and dirty and hot. I even had the pleasure of riding through Milano and lemme tellya, Italians drive like mad.

Using a number of short messages, we agreed with Petra that I'd come to Torino's main train station and there I'd be picked up by Petra and Daniela, who would guide me the last few miles. The plan worked out perfectly, except that finding the train station was probably harder than going directly to Daniela's place. No grudge though, at least I got a glimpse of Torino.

After a delicious dinner cooked by Daniela, Petra and I packed all our things on the bike (not a trivial task) and set off down towards the coast. For the first night we selected Ventimiglia, a coast town very close to France. There is a direct route from Torino to Ventimiglia, but it's not exactly straight for it goes through a bit of the Alps. I mean, I like curves, but not that much, especially in the night.

At about 1am we finally reached the coast and a camp which closed at 11pm. Well, the second one did as well, but they let us in anyway and gave us a tiny spot for the tent for the one night.

Monday morning we took rode the short distance to Monaco. Parking the bike in a city garage for under 2€ for the day did not even attempt to hint at the rest of the prices we'd face in Monte-Carlo that day. But it is a city/country for the rich, after all. My impression of Monaco is that it would be a very nice place to be able to afford to live in.

To answer the obvious question - no, we didn't see the casino. We chose the beach instead.

For the next night we rode back to Italy, planning the next stop in San Remo. There's a very nice camp just before San Remo - it's big, just by the sea, and it boasts three stars (I didn't know that camps had stars...) - I totally recommend it - Villaggio de Fiori.

Against all weather forecasts, the next morning it was raining, so we decided not to pack, but to stay another night here. We walked to San Remo, getting rained on and then drying in the sun multiple times. There is a very nice Russian Orthodox church to see in San Remo, a sight very rare in the Roman Catholic country. Other than that, there is the promenade and the old town, both also worth seeing.

Since the weather got gradually better, we decided to take a ride in the afternoon, after visiting what we deemed appropriate in San Remo. We took the nice but slow coastal road with its curves and views. First we stopped in Cervo, a really distinct town built on a big rock, and then we continued to Albenga, again with a very nice old center and a pretty unique group of three towers. After an unexpectedly cheap dinner in the heart of the town we took the highway back to San Remo and then we enjoyed a bottle of local rosé wine while sitting in chairs about 5 meters from the sea attacking the huge wave-crasher boulders.

On Wednesday, we were mostly on the road. First we took the highway past Genova and from there continued on the coastal road number one. We didn't even stop in Genova because we couldn't give it all the time it would require. Instead, we stopped in a tiny town with a pebble beach (each and every pebble very pretty and begging to be kept as a souvenir) and then tried to locate Cinqueterre, five towns that a guidebook described as almost inaccessible nice tiny fishermen villages. Now everybody knows about them, they have good roads leading to them and are packed with tourists - in my opinion not worth it.

We had a good spaghetti dinner in La Spezia later that night and then finally we ended up a few kilometers outside the town, this time in a big, cold and almost empty camp without hot showers. As if to remedy that, the next morning was hot so we decided to spend the noontime in the sea - on a long, straight beach strip around Forte dei Marmi. The wide, shallow beach was complemented by big waves so it was basically impossible to swim, but standing knee-deep in water at one moment and being violently swept by a huge wave a few moments later was really cool.

When we were salty enough we rode on to our final destination, Pisa. The Leaning Tower and the cathedral are the only major sights, but major they are, and I think everybody should have a tourist picture either supporting the tower or pushing it, depending on their nature. And the leaning souvenir mugs are also cool.

Before sunset, we left the city and rode some 50km to the next camp. This one was again in the mountains and it was, like, freezing. A hot tea with a healthy dose of slivovice (Czech plum brandy) helped us survive the night so we could continue the next morning on the final leg of the trip.

Going from Pisa to Innsbruck, one only needs to follow the road number 12 and that leads directly the right way - this was quite a pleasant surprise. During this day, we stopped in Verona for lunch (finally a pizza), nevertheless the cca 500km-long trip took the whole day. And guess what - it was hot half of the day and freezing the other half, but then, after a week of the same, it was no big problem. For Petra the trip was not yet ended, but she stayed with me in Innsbruck for the weekend and then we parted at last, until the next time.

All in all, this was the best vacation I've ever had, combining a lot of motorbiking, visiting two new countries (never visited Monaco or Italy before that), having fun in the sea and also seeing some pretty mountains, and of course all the sights also count. Gotta do Spain next year though, in a similar vein.

Congratulations if you read it all, and please let me know. 8-)

Posted at 0616 on Sun, Sep 5, 2004 in category Biking, Personal, Photos | TrackBack