Monday morning I'd catch the train from Lecco to Mandello del Lario.
This is almost routine. Unpack both yellow duffle bags I've been carrying,
and repack into the smaller. I'd be wearing the riding suit, boots and
helmet, so the one bag was more than sufficient.
Other than the general direction of riding all the way down Italy and across
to Sicily, I had no preplanned route. However, I did want to take a little
detour to ride over San Marco pass, which is to the west of Como. It isn't
really on the way to anything, so I'd need to take some effort to get there.
It's a lovely route with virtually no traffic.
The road is about 1 1/2 lanes wide. On a motorcycle, that's hardly
anything to think about.
The cool air is nice as the road descends through the clouds.
Dropping south into the countryside of Emilia Romagna was such an improvement
over the industrial landscape I'd been riding all morning. This is a
I might have been on this road for an hour without seeing any traffic.
How many centuries ago did somebody chop out enough area to create these
Emilia Romagna has some of the best roads in Italy.
Gioia Vecchio and the road to get there.
Opi. The road I'm on skirts around the high hill. I didn't ride
Dense forests of hardwood trees.
Barrea. It becomes expected, but the towns are generally built perched
at the top of hills. The flat valleys are where the crops are grown, but
the people live up high. I can only guess that this was a pretty violent
place at one time.
Alfedena. The road I'm on will descend down to the town.
All I can figure is that everybody is someplace else on a much more modern
highway. In any case; they're not here.
On occasion, I'd have doubts if the road would continue to be paved; but,
that was never a problem. In Kansas, you cannot trust a poorly paved road
not to turn to dirt. But, I've found in Europe a paved road will not let
you down (provided you're not riding straight into the Alps)
There's the Mediterranean. Let's go there.
It turns out that the road through this canyon is closed (for reasons not
clear), so I headed into the hills on a variety of smaller roads.
Eventually, I did end up where I wanted to be.
And, where I wanted to be is here. Notice the road tunnel near the
The lines that you can just see along the hillside? Stone walls and
terraces. The hills are covered with them.
San Giovanni a Piro.
This is a pretty crazy road. Lots of short tunnels, lots of hanging
cliffs. Miss a turn; get wet.
Villa San Giovanni. While I carried a schedule of various ferries
between Sicily and Sardinia and between Corsica and the mainland, I never
bothered looking up the ferry options across the Messina straight. That's
a good thing; because I would have been confused.
As I rode to the terminus, there were signs for three different ferry
companies. I picked one and stayed with it. Tickets were for
sale at the biglietteria, and then I got in line. It was not a long
Messina. These people are crazy! This is a fair-sized city, and
the ferry puts you right in the heart. Broad boulevards, but no lane
stripes. Cross streets, but no signals and no round-a-bouts. It's a
free-for-all. I took the first street heading south and just kept pushing
away from whatever looked busy.
In time, I hit the autostrada, and that whisked me away from the
I already knew that I would need to make fairly good time while in
Sicily. This was late Friday, and I needed to be in Palermo by
Saturday evening to catch the ferry to Sardinia. There was a backup
ferry that left the next day from Trapane, but doing that would put needless
pressure on the rest of the trip. I needed to be in Palermo.
Fiumefreddo Sicilia. I wanted to see Etna, and in general, it made
sense to ride across the central spine of Sicily instead of staying on the
coast. Many of the attractions are along the coast; but, I suspect old
rural Sicily is in the middle.
If you only compared the color of the towns, you would know you were in
southern Italy and not the north. The paving stones of this sort are
common. Slippery when wet; but, that wasn't a problem on this trip.
Stones and more stones. There is an abundance of proper-sized stones
for making fences and houses. Just walk out into any field and you'll have
all you need. Over the centuries great piles have been created, and still
the fields are covered in stones.
These volcanic plugs are pretty common, as are large lava fields. There
are times when you would not want to be near Mt Etna.
Riding west along some narrow and remote roads.
If you build a house (or a barn) by stacking rocks, it will be there
for many years.
Centuripe. As elsewhere, you build your towns on the tops of the hills;
not, at the bottom.
I was careful with roads like this. At any turn, you might find the
pavement broken up. The Guzzi Stelvio is perfect for this sort of thing.
Some really nice swoopy roads along here. The lack of any shoulders is
annoying, but I found the roads so empty, that I could just park in the lane
without much worry if I needed to take a photograph.
Is a train with just a single car still a train?
It's either an abbey or a large barn. But, of course, it's on top of
Palermo. They were crazy in Messina, and they are crazy in Palermo.
In between, I didn't find the road manners to be all that bad. Most
remarkable are the cross streets that are uncontrolled. Madness.
Anyway, I made it easily enough to the ferry terminal. With not too much
more trouble, I also found the building where the tickets are sold.
This ferry would also be tonight's hotel. A nice arrangement that makes
this whole trip possible.
Goodbye to Sicily.
Cagliari is a good sized city that I did my best to skirt around. First
thing I noticed is that the drivers are not crazy! Perhaps it's the French
influence from the north.
Seems a bit greener than Sicily.
Seemed sort of like southern California at times.
Just like Sicily; Sardinia is the land of rocks.
Left-right-left-right. There are some terrific roads around here.
Huge rising cliffs. At times you wondered how the road would get
Not an easy place to put a road.
Arbatax. There's a curious mix of rocks.
Something good with clams, and then another fish of some unknown variety.
The noon meal is taken seriously by everybody. I saw no fast food ( and no
Some roads are wider than others. Nothing was ever less than this one,
There will be more than a few zigs and zags before this road reaches the
We're in the middle of Sardinia.
An ancient burial tower. I suspect any excuse to pile up rocks is used.
In other countries, the rocks might be pilfered over the centuries to build
houses. Not here. Rocks are easy.
Near Sindia. Another burial tower? A watch tower? Or, just
another excuse to pile rocks.
Rocks, rocks, rocks.
Bosa. The color is unexpected.
Castelsardo. The castle is on top of the hill, and all the people's
houses huddle around it.
Time to switch to French.
Bonifacio. The ferry would dock at the platform on the right.
Sardinia had more trees than Sicily, and Corsica has more trees than
My plan was to turn inland early on, and then follow the spine of the island
north. It was a good plan.
The French like dashed lines to outline their roads.
This is not the sort of road to go fast. There was no traffic.
I sat at that first table you see in the background. A very
pleasant day--a few sprinkles, but nothing objectionable.
Sainte Lucie de Tallano.
Not much room for two cars to pass, but that won't happen very often on this
An impressive old road embankment, combined with a narrow bridge.
Pigs on the road! Lots of them. They don't dart out, so they were
not ever a problem.
I'm getting some occasional heavy rain. That's not all that bad (I am
dressed for it), but I dislike the wash of mud that sometimes drains across the
Crossing over and heading to the coast. I'd still be following some
pretty obscure roads.
I never worried when I just parked on the road. Sometimes I
wondered if I hadn't somehow stumbled on a closed road.
A view of the Mediterranean. In an hour, I'll be down there.
Yes; there is a village on top of that hill.
L'Ile Rousse. There is a ferry that connects to the mainland, but there
was nothing in port here when I was here.
Crossing back over the top of Corsica, heading to where the ferry would be
Basatia. It was more trouble than it should have been to find the
building where I could buy a ticket. During the previous days, I was
deciding which would be my destination port from Basatia. I had made up my
mind that I would go to Savona, Italy, which would let me spend time riding
through Piemonte, but at the (literally) last second, I told the ticket-person
that I wanted to go to Toulon, France.
It was an hour late, but eventually we did load. This time, I used my
own straps that I carry to do a better job lashing the bike to the rail.
Toulon. Why Toulon? Because I wanted to cross the pass (Col
de la Lombarda) across the Alps into Italy that I had attempted to take a
couple of years ago, but was unable because of snow. There would be no
snow this time of year (I hoped).
When there's a river edged in by cliffs, it cannot be easy to insert a road.
It is a steep climb to the top.
Well above the tree line, now. I understand why this road would be
closed if there's much snow. Snow removal would be very difficult.
Likely the resort on the other side of the border is kept open, but the Italian
side is probably ignored.
Oh, man. Turn, turn, turn. Down, down, down.
Ronchi. Just passing through. The idea was to say south in the
mountainous region of Piemonte rather than the flat land to the north. A
very good plan.
This is such a beautiful area of Italy.
Grapes, grapes, everywhere. The air smelled of grapes.
Mandello del Lario. I avoided the major highways back to Bergamo, and
then took the well-marked road to Lecco and then to Mandello.
Another view of the terrific statue of Carlo Guzzi in the center plaza of
A quiet evening in Mandello del Lario.
Yes; there really is a motorcycle factory just a fifteen-minute walk
[edit: It's Carlo Guzzi, not Carlos. Sheesh...]