To those who haven’t experienced the rapture of leaning into a winding mountain road on a motorbike or can’t relate to the exhilaration of powering out of a corner at full throttle, this might be the best time to, well, get off.
I’ll pick you up in a couple of posts.
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 (above). The soaring notes of El Divo’s Nella Fantasia are playing through my headphones and I can feel the 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.
This is – I remember thinking – 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 aroma of roasting coffee or baking bread as you pass through the tiny country hamlets, or the rich, earthy smell of the newly farrowed fields unfolding around you.
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 quickly shrinking into the depths of your rear view mirrors. At such speeds, your senses are heightened ten fold and 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.
Driving in a car, by comparison, is like watching a movie framed by your vehicle’s windows. You’re moving through exactly the same setting – comfortable and protected – but physically detached from it all.
It’s a world away from the freedom you feel with every sense of your being as you lean into a corner with the wind on your face, elated and completely immersed in the scenery around you.
….And so ends some of the impression 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 the 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.
What an amazing way to see Italy.