October 4, 2012 – Imola, Italy
We are at a B&B right downtown. It is a typical old building and our house occupies the second and third floor of the building. You get to it from the street through a courtyard, which is where our bikes are parked. The big doors to the street require a key to open so our bikes are very safe. In the foyer of our building appear to be two or three other apartments and we go up 25 steps to the main floor of the house. Our rooms are up another 25 steps.
We are in the kids rooms with a balcony of our own and there is a huge bath. A small car would fit in it, minus the fixtures. Lots of angles and ceiling windows and barely a 90 degree corner in the placed. Our host is a very attractive woman “of a certain age” named Alda. She speaks excellent English and her day job is as a translator for the orthopedic surgeon to most of the MotoGP stars Dr Claudio Costa. She told me she has lots of friends who ride and would be happy to introduce us. That might be a fun day or two.
We left our overpriced and over heated hotel fairly early this morning and headed for the coast. We passed Chioggia and continued south and east and went out to Rosolina Mare and on to Caleri. Rosolina looked like a neat little tourist seaside village, but it was buttoned up tight. I guess the season is over. Caleri was not much more than a muddy parking lot and a few folks fishing from the two remaining good piers. The rest of the place was in tatters, and worse, as was the road getting there.
We doubled back to the main highway and continued south until we found a nice place for lunch. Lots of cars in the parking lot and a nice looking building. It was inexpensive and quite good. After lunch, an hour and 45 minute ride around Ravenna to Imola and the GPS brought us right to the door here.
The three of us walked the local streets where cars are few and discouraged. We got a bit of something to eat or drink here and there, with the highlights being the panini based mediterranean food and the gelato. I don’t remember the name of the food we ordered, but it was the best of its kind I have eaten. Really good. The shop was very busy with kids and older folks like us and many more. There were big concrete benches outside to sit on and we did. The gelato place is right near our courtyard door and is called The Sixth Sense in English. Debb had a small cone of very dark chocolate and I had a chocolate dipped vanilla ice cream bar. Both were yummy.
We have our request in for a Ducati factory tour tomorrow and we are waiting for word that we have a reserved slot. Fingers crossed.
Today was a perfect day to ride, weather-wise. 70 degrees, barely a cloud, some haze off the ocean and most all the traffic was being Italian. Which is to say they were keeping a brisk pace and not being stupid. There were a couple of Fiat Panda drivers that need to be slapped upside the head. At one stop for coffee this morning, a big bus full of army or reserve troops pulled in and unloaded. About 10 were standing around our bikes and I heard “Washington” and “America” more than once in their conversation. One tall thin guy in uniform looked at us and said “Suzuki! Very powerful!” Clearly, a gentleman of fine taste.
Day trip to Bozzo
October 6, 2012 – Urbania, Italy
About 15 miles due south of San Marino, for those of you following along.
My badly spelled note from last night was from an Agro Tourist B&B slash farmhouse that was just southeast of Santa Sofia on the way to San Piero in Bagnio. This place has been in the family for several generations, but the granddaughter and her husband who were running it now had been there about 5 years. I thought she said 7, but each of us had a different number, so who knows.
It was a lovely setting in a building originally built for the farm manager but now used for the B&B. They have a second building with more rooms and a meeting room and I got the impression it was popular with some new-age feel-good folks. There were lots of brochures to that effect. It was fun to have a big family-style dinner, including a little girl who could barely walk and an elegant matriarch of 89. The food was plentiful, but like the wine, only so-so. A bit on the pricey side, IMO. She encouraged us to post a review on Trip-something.com, which she said was “Very important to us.” Hmmmm.
After dinner, Debb showed all the ladies her bike and they were all laughing and giggling late into the evening.
Yesterday, we rode from Imola south over the mountains to Borgo San Lorenzo. An excellent ride with an excellent lunch at the end of it. Interestingly, Debb and my bikes used exactly the same amount of fuel when we filled up. Either my BMW is doing well or the Strom is suffering a bit. In any event, it’s about $80 US to fill them both.
After lunch we continued southeast to Dicommano, then turned north back into the mountains and eventually to Rocca. Southwest again through Galeata and Santa Sofia and the farmhouse. Excellent riding, plenty of switchbacks and brief territorial views as you wind up and down the hills.
Today was more of the same. South over Passo de Mandriola to Bibbiena, then east through La Verna to Pieve Santo Stefano where we hopped on the freeway south to Citti di Castello and then rode the best stretch of two days. West on S257 over the hills to Bellaria. At the top of the pass is a Cafe and there were two dozen bikes parked there. We stopped and hung out with ‘our people’. Lots of serious hardware and many of them with their tires scrubbed to the ragged edge. Wonderful! A bit later, we crossed over another pass and there was yet another Cafe with more bikes parked in front. One was a BMW K13 and its tires were shagged! And two Yamaha TDMs. They looked newer than the US versions. Maybe they exported them here longer. Nice looking machines.
I got two coffees for Debb and me and the young man who made them is named Alex. He came by a little later and asked if he could photograph the bikes. We said sure. Then his Mom came over. Idiot me, I didn’t get a picture of her, but she got a lot of us and of our license plates. She said they were the first Washington plates she had ever seen. Idiot me because she was as cute a Mom as you will ever see. Brilliant green eyes and a page-boy haircut that suited her perfectly. Her English was way better than my Italian.
A couple of riders left just before we did and Gary took off after them. He stayed with them for a bit but then lost them as they passed cars with way more abandon that he felt comfortable with. And they knew the road very well. Tough to tangle with the locals. On the way down the hill several riders passed us at full song up the hill. If they weren’t 100% they were awfully close. Seriously fast. The last two days we have been treated to some great road bikes and some serious riding. If you want to play with these guys, bring your A game.
Best bike of the day – A Husqvarna Nuda 900. A naked street fighter with lots of attitude. Some nice upgrades including top-of-the-line Ohlins suspension. The pilot was wearing well-scuffed leathers. I want one – for at least a week. 🙂
We turned northwest at Bellaria and just before we got to Urbania we saw a sign for a BikerHotel B&B. This is an ADAC associated place and it is a lovely spot. Debb and I are going to stay here for at least 2 nights, maybe more.
No restaurant here so Gary went into town and brought back dinner. Bread, cheese, thinly sliced meat, beer, wine, and chocolate. We ate on the veranda watching the sun set.
Life is good.
October 7, 2012 – Urbania, Italy
First we had an out of country experience, then we had one that was out of this world.
After a leisurely breakfast, we said our goodbyes to Gary and headed north. Our destination – San Marino. It’s a whole other country! It is also a whole other experience getting there from here. We took the most direct route and it included some very minor country roads. If the GPS hadn’t been so positive about where we were going, I would have had second thoughts.
But before you know it, we are on top of the hill and in the Most Serene Republic of San Marino. Lots of info on wikipedia. We stopped for a coffee and while we were sitting there several of the patrons made the trip to the parking lot to check out the Washington plate. Not an uncommon occurrence on this trip. We continued up to the actual town of San Marino which is on the top of a mountain at about 2000 feet.
Spectacular views of the entire Republic and all the way to the Adriatic. We walked up and down the streets looking in all the shops. Some were very exclusive, some were the opposite, few of them seemed to have many customers. The restaurants on top were busy and we should have contributed there but for some reason we decided to ride for a bit and get something later. Well, it is Sunday and there isn’t much open except gelato stands and gas station fast food, which is what we finally settled for. Eventually, it didn’t matter in the least.
Once I got down out of San Marino, I pulled over and told the GPS to find the fastest way back here. It did – east to the sea, south along the sea, then southwest up the hills to here. Longer, but even with Sunday evening traffic, much faster than our morning route.
As we got closer to our B&B, we started looking for any place that was open to get something to eat. I passed a place with a big sign with today’s date on it and a lady with a white apron was sweeping. Looked promising. We continued into town and tried a couple of places including a grocery store but they were all closed. So back we went to the apron lady. The huge sign said – I think – Grand Opening October 7. A smaller sign said 18:00 opening, so we parked and waited. Several folks went in and out, but all of them were making a point of closing the door behind them. There were several older gents also waiting, but they kept their distance. We waited.
Finally, I went in. A young woman behind the bar did her best to help me and finally drafted a young girl as translator. In fact, this was the “Inauguration” day of the restaurant. I asked if we could eat and she said yes. I asked if it was expensive and she said no. Okay, we’re in. The clock on the wall showed ten ’til six. We sat inside and waited. While we waited, lots of folks were going by with lots of food on trays. Debb had peeked in the window and said it looked buffet style. We sat and waited.
About 6:15 we watched one of the best foreign language stage shows I have ever seen. More older cooks and chefs came through. A small crowd was gathering in the lobby. Everyone chatting away. Finally, an older guy in an apron came out and quite literally threw everyone back out the doors. We got up to follow and the lady behind the bar yelled at us and insisted we sit down. We obeyed. In the meantime there is a lot more food and wine and water and trays and all kinds of things going into the dining room. More people in chefs aprons and serving gloves and more yelling and more food going into the dining room. We waited.
At 6:30 the outside doors opened and about 20 older folks came in and began chatting away. I told Debb, no one is throwing these people out. No way. They talked, we sat patiently and waited.
At 6:40 we all went in. If there was some sign or announcement, I missed it. It was indeed buffet style and there was food of all kinds in two long rows down the length of this dining room. One one side was meat and fish. Freshly sliced prosciutto, salmon, turkey, pork, and salami. On the other side was pizza, pasta, salads, wine, and water. There were big stacks of plastic plates and big plates full of plastic forks. It was madness! I don’t mean this in a negative way, but Italians don’t do lines very well. 🙂 Especially some of the more senior ladies. It was every person for themselves for awhile there.
We sampled some of everything but the wine. We’ve had enough for a day or two more, I think. For the first 20 minutes, Debb and I were the youngest guests there by several years. Eventually, some younger guests started coming in. By then we were getting pretty full and I started looking around for the lady behind the bar to see about paying. In the meantime, Debb has found a young woman serving pizza that speaks pretty good English and she explains that in Italy it is customary for a new restaurant to have a big buffet on opening night and it is always free. And here we were an hour earlier wondering if we were going to find anything to eat at all!
I got some pictures, but only after the big rush, so it isn’t as pretty as I might have liked. The salmon was served whole and sliced open below the head to create a big oval of fish. The accompanying salad was in the middle. Quite artistic. I did get a video of a real Italian gentleman making real Italian pizza that involved a lot of pounding and tossing. I’ll try and get that up this evening.
Sometimes it is very good to be lucky.
The weather seems to be holding. It was 70 degrees as we rode the three miles back here this evening. Florence is supposed to have that for a high for the next few days with little or no rain. Works for me. (oops – some rain in the forecast for this week. Horrors!) I believe we will continue south for a few more days. We are ready for a more traditional B&B or pensione after these last few days of Agro Tourist places. We want to be in some town and enjoying a glass of wine in a sidewalk cafe as we do our people watching.
I wonder if there is a web site for restaurant openings?
October 8, 2012 – Sirolo, Italy
Just south of Ancona on the Adriatic.
After a couple of poor choices of narrow roads, we finally arrived at the center of Sirolo. A neat spot high above the water with big cliffs rising dramatically out of the sea. Full sunshine and a very light breeze make it perfect. We start looking for a place to stay. The first two places I check are full. I walk out of the second and down two parking spots to the bikes and Debb. We are talking about where to try next and suddenly there is the guy from hotel number 2. He ask how many nights and I say two or three. He says forty Euro each. I say okay. He tells us to park our bikes right in front of the hotel door in the yellow loading zone. We do. I get my jacket off and take our passports in to the desk to sign in. On a piece of paper, the the hotel guy has written E35 x 2. All of a sudden I’m getting a discount. I nod my head and say thanks and he helps lug our gear up to our room. When I came back down he has another piece of paper with writing on it and I thought wow, maybe the price is going down again. Nope, just breakfast hours – 7:30 to 9:30.
A very nice room right over the front door with a small view of the ocean. This room is the one pictured in their brochure; same bedspread, same photos on the wall, same everything. It is a bit noisy during the day with all the traffic, but now at 9:30PM, it is almost completely still. We are here for at least a couple of days. We will go out exploring tomorrow, probably Ancona and the big rocks on the edge of the cliffs descending into the sea.
Lunch was a small sandwich, a cold drink and some great gelato. That stuff is so good. Debb and I will be back on the juice for several weeks to make up for this!
There were not a lot of choices for dinner and so we picked one and went in. A waitress asked if we had made reservations and indicated there were no tables available without one. We turned to go. She said we were welcome to eat outside if we like and we could be seated immediately. Sure, the weather is perfect. She led us through the restaurant, through the kitchen and we sat in the outdoor dining area in the alley behind the building. That’s a first for us. There were two other tables and before we left they were also filled. This was a seafood restaurant and they did our food very proud. The hot and cold antipasto appetizer was a medley of seafood including a superb cooked octopus and potato combination served in a small jar with a lid. Delicious! Shells from the sea, small clams, crab, and anchovies served in separate plates with our main plate covered in a fish paste. Yummy and a bit messy. Our main course was grilled fish and it was two whole grilled fish and cheeks of another. We only ordered one entry of each and we could hardly eat it all. Wine, water, and the best Tiramisu EVER completed our dinner. The only downside to eating in the alley was that is was quite dark. Debb had good light, but most of what I ate was in the dark. But it was really good.
Just after we arrived, there were several big sport and dual-sport bikes two-up that arrived and growled to a stop. Right behind them were two of the smallest scooters you ever saw. Quite the contrast. Also parked here is one of the new VW Beetles, a single-seat Twizy by Renault, and quite a few old Fiat 500s. Tiny little machines, even in a land of small cars. Even with the windows rolled up, the Twizy doesn’t completely seal closed. Very unusual. Must be a hoot to drive. Think Smart car divided in two – lengthwise. Looks like there is room behind the seat for a large backpack.
[Update: This is an electric car. Twizy info on Wikipedia.]
Debb and I were talking geography this afternoon over a couple glasses of red. There are several oceans between us and home – in either direction.
October 9, 2012 – Sirolo, Italy
We felt right at home today – low clouds and rain and chilly. It brightened up enough to lure us out on the bike to Ancona, but we got drizzled on getting there and poured on once we parked. Some days a rental car would be really nice. We did find a small bar on a busy intersection and enjoyed a coffee and people watching for an hour or so. Nice thing here is that no one gives you the stink eye if you loiter over your meal. Take all the time you want. We did, as did a lot of other folks.
The road between here and Ancona is through a park and along the coast and we had high hopes for some scenic views. Alas, no views. In fact, it didn’t look any different than hundreds of miles of other Italian countryside we’ve been through. We did get an occasional glimpse of the ocean, but no postcard views we hoped for. Coming back we were lucky to see the road. Wet, wet, wet.
So kind of a down day here, but I did get some photos organized and sent a couple emails and things drying out for tomorrow. The nternet connection here is wifi and it has been intermittent today. The upload speed is quite modest so no videos to YouTube yet.
Not so lucky with dinner tonight as the last couple of nights. Both places we went to yesterday, one for wine and the one for dinner have signs saying they are closed for the season. Our next choice also closed for the season today, so we settled for a pizzeria and wine at Rick’s Cantina – no apparent Mexican or Spanish theme that I could see. The wine was good, however and you always get some munchies when you order wine. We got a bowl of big green olives and a dish of Ruffles potato chips. American music on the sound system, music videos on the muted big screen tv and one of the waitresses on Facebook at the shop computer. The boss paid her no mind.
We have stopped at a cafe on the square several times and they seem to never close. The small three-bite sandwiches are cheap at 1 Euro, but a can of Coke is 2.50. A coffee is between 1.00 and 1.80 depending on your choice. Most of the coffee here is excellent, but anything with milk in it is not nearly hot enough for our taste. A straight espresso is hot, but a cappuccino is only warm. A coffee latte is hot espresso and fairly warm milk served in separate containers. If you order an espresso you will often get asked if you want a water. They will serve you a small juice glass. Otherwise you buy bottled water with your meals. Lots of things seem like inordinately small servings, but our meal last night was just one order and it was easily enough for two. Our pizza and calzone the other day were enormous.
I would never have guessed that American music would be so dominate here. I think I have heard maybe one song in a hundred not in American English. A fair number of them sung with Italian accents to be sure, but you would think there wasn’t an Italian music industry. Pretty much the same in Germany.
Cars are the opposite situation. Rarely do I see a car here that I’ve seen in the states. Today was an exception as there were two BMW X6s parked right by the hotel. And a lady pulled up in a big MB SUV. Oh, and big touring cars, though they seem a bit different when you get close. Lots of Audis, MBs, and BMWs blast by us on the Autostrada. There are virtually no pickups, no large American cars, and few of the small cars here are available in the US. Some are very close cousins, but not the same. I think I have seen one or two small Chevy compacts, but lots and lots of Fords. Fiat, Peugeot, Renault, Opel, Alfa, and VW are plentiful and many are diesel. And lots of older, tiny Fiat 500s. 🙂
From 7AM until 10PM the church bells go off every 15 minutes. At 5:30PM the bells ring for 5 minutes or more. Call to mass?
We are hopeful for more sun tomorrow.
Continue to Tuscany 2012