DAINESE EXPLORER
Dainese Search

    Together on a naked motorcycle to discover roads and landscapes, from north to south, among well-known sights and hidden corners.

    By Samuel Dallavalle | 12 November 2021 | 1 min
    Motorcycle: Kawasaki Z900
    Mileage: 3.200 km
    Difficulty: easy
    Duration: 11 days
    Time of the year: August
    Weather: always sunny
    Temperatures: 30°C - 45°C
    Essential equipment: ventilated technical apparel, GPS or map, saddlebags and tank bags
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    Samuel Dallavalle

    The author


    I’m Samuel Dallavalle (Sam to my friends), I’m 28 years old and I’m from Vicenza though I also have roots in the Trentino region, I’ve been working at AGV since 2016. I’ve been riding since I was 19 and it didn’t take me long to realize that I might as well sell my car, as I barely used it. Since then, I’ve been riding my motorcycle every day – to commute to work, errands, at the weekend, on holiday, in the scorching heat, when it’s freezing cold, in the rain… The Scouts say that there is no bad weather, only bad equipment. Obviously, a touring model would be ideal for me, but instead I went for... a naked motorcycle. Yeah, I'm not famous for rational decisions. But there’s someone who’s way less sensible even than me: my girlfriend. Laura decided to accompany me on this journey, despite the rather… limited saddle space, shall we say. She’s the true heroine of this story, not me. 

     

    The vehicle 

    We decided to travel on my Z900, after declining my father’s kind offer – he’d urged me to take his beautiful BMW R1200GS with three aluminum bags instead... We don't actually know why we refused his offer. I think we just liked the idea of taking the motorcycle I use to go to work, to the lake and to the track. We liked it too much to leave it behind. We only needed to make a few adjustments to adapt it to our needs (I use the plural because Laura was an active part in all phases of the journey, from planning to execution). We added some soft saddlebags (with subframes), a tank bag, a USB port to charge the phone and mount it on the handlebar to use it as a navigator and we relined the passenger saddle. Nothing else, apart from some routine checks on the motorcycle before leaving, just to make sure it was all in order, and off we went. 

     

    Planning 

    The basic concept was straightforward – exploring Italy’s routes and landscapes. No deep thoughts, special goals or specific purposes behind it. We’re simple people, we like to ride motorcycles and take in all the sights. 

    Over the years, we’d heard about several interesting places to visit in Italy – from friends who’d visited them, TV shows, social media and so on. We used to write them down and kept a list. Our itinerary was based on that list – winding roads leading to beautiful places (both very common features in Italy, I'd say). We kept off the highways as much as possible and randomly marked on the map some particular landmarks that intrigued us. Once done, we did our best to connect most of the dots on the map with roads that didn't seem boring, while also considering the time we had available. The last step was to find and book some cheap accommodation not too far from our route, taking into account how much traveling time our backsides could take (the longest leg of the trip was 390 km and our daily average was about 280 km). 

    We booked all overnight stays in advance for two reasons: First, the high season didn’t allow for last-minute bookings on a small budget like the one we had, and second, our trip took place during Covid, and we liked the idea of having at least a few small certainties in a period when each region could suddenly go into lockdown.  

     

     

    Equipment 

    As far as equipment was concerned, we had to consider our limited load capacity. After all, we were two people traveling for eleven days with two soft saddlebags (30-liter capacity each) and a tank bag (10 liter-capacity), so that even our riding gear had to be compact. We decided to travel with similar equipment, so: 

    • Leather jacket with D-air® airbag  
    • Kevlar jeans with level-2 protectors (also useful for walking around a town’s historic center) 
    • Waterproof ankle boots with ankle protectors  
    • Full-face helmet with intercom 
    • Summer gloves 
    • Waterproof suit (in the bags) 
    • GPS (or cell phone, in my case) 
    • Chain cleaner and oil 
    • Puncture kit 
    • First aid kit 
    • Basic set of tools, just in case (because if you can't fix it with duct tape, you haven't used enough). 

    Anything else we might end up needing, we could buy along the way. My advice, however, is to avoid visiting the places we did during August, as heat proved to be the most exhausting factor. As luck would have it (I'm being very ironic here), we arrived in Southern Italy just when the temperature reached record levels, the highest in seven years. We’d certainly have come back home less tired and we’d have had fewer “critical” moments along the way – in the heat, it takes much less for your backside to start aching, body and mind are under strain and everything feels a little harder – though we never lost heart or let the weather stop us... We just suffered a little more than was necessary. 

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    Day 1 - Blazing tires on the Apennines 

    Our adventure starts in Vicenza, early in the morning, so as to ride for as long as possible during the “cooler” hours of the day. Front wheel pointed westward, we speed along the Po Valley’s byroads, enjoying views that, all in all, were rather familiar while taking advantage of our alert minds and fresh muscles to keep the number of breaks to a minimum. The landscape is essentially a plain, stretching out as far as the eye can see, dotted with an incredible number of farms. Nothing much to report then. We occupy our minds by following the bends of the Val Trebbia valley. As we get closer, the silhouettes of the Apennines get increasingly large and without even realizing it we leave the plain’s long, straight roads for one that’s really reminiscent of a roller coaster – a road without one straight stretch in sight and incredibly gripping asphalt. 

    It’s a lot of fun, but our rumbling bellies and the rising heat suggest it’s time for a break. We stop to eat a sandwich in the shade of a roadside tavern, before heading off again and spend the day with nothing else but bends and more bends, in the middle of the Apennines, and pretty much no views at all due to the dense vegetation... Never mind, the roads themselves are so beautiful that I wouldn’t have noticed anyway. 

    So, we reach the end of our first day – we rented an apartment in a village so remote that even the gods must have forgotten about its existence: Belpiano. An unbelievably isolated place, virtually abandoned, but for €16 per person a night we weren’t certainly expecting a mansion. We conclude the evening with a nice bowl of homemade pasta in a tavern in Brizzolara (the closest inhabited place) and an intriguing glimpse at the village's river, which for some reason is swarming with eels. 

     

    Day 2 - May some fuel be with you, my young Padawan 

    We set off toward the Cinque Terre region, and in no time at all we are up in Levanto, and keen to see the famous villages there. The low fuel light comes on, but we’re sure to find a gas station soon. So, we take the coastal road that runs above those stunning villages, while the fuel gauge keeps on dropping, and I keep on ignoring it... At touring speed, my Z900’s consumption is ridiculously low and the gauge shows there’s still quite a lot of fuel remaining – absolutely nothing to worry about. We continue on the road overlooking all the famous villages – Monterosso, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore – then we decide to stop for a drink and have a quick rest up in the town of Vernazza.

     

    Only now do I notice that the fuel gauge shows we only have 20 km worth of fuel left, which does worry me a bit. It’s been a long time since we saw a gas station. Better take a look at the map... The closest one is in La Spezia, 25 km from where we’re having a rest... That’s not too bad, but not ideal. Alternatively, there’s another gas station at a distance of 22 km, but in the opposite direction, which would mean going back – not too appealing, considering how far we still have to travel. So, I decide to be very frugal and start pushing the bike – my own Super Eco mode – hoping that a downhill stretch will soon appear to help me along. Feeling on edge (pushing a motorcycle weighing over 200 kg plus bags under the August sun is no fun) we push on for several kilometers... In the end, we miraculously reach the gas station and we fill up the tank – it holds 17 liters, and we fill it with 16.7 liters. Lesson learned! 

    We continue south, crossing Pisa – where we take a tour of Piazza dei Miracoli and have a bite to eat in a supermarket’s underground parking garage, to get some respite from the hellish heat of the day. 

    After the break, we head south-east, and the landscape begins to change dramatically. Red earth and rolling hills begin to adorn the scenery... These are the Tuscan landscapes... It’s so beautiful, it’s hard to believe your eyes. We stop for a granita in Monteriggioni, an extraordinarily pretty hilltop village – I’d love to linger, but we haven’t reached our destination yet. There are no words to describe the landscapes we cross, before we finally arrive in Siena, feeling rather worn out by the heat and the distance traveled. A lovely hotel is waiting for us tonight. 

     

    Day 3 - The Eroica trail, heartwarming and suspension-straining 

    The plan is to stop in Siena for two nights in order to recover some energy and enjoy this magnificent place. Our schedule also includes the Eroica trail and its white roads. I wouldn’t have thought they need a special introduction – suffice to say that there are two trails of different lengths for motorcycles. One is about 115 km long and the other about 210 km, both a fairly even mix of paved and unpaved. I won’t go into too many details as I’d end up writing a separate post about them – I’ll let the photos speak for themselves. It’s fairytale scenery and the trails are easy if you have a motorcycle with a medium to long travel suspension... Which I don’t, and moreover there are two of us. Of course, we had to take the longer trail, rather than be satisfied with the shorter one. Was it an easy ride? Nope, not at all. Heat, fatigue and the dirt road have used up all my energy. That evening, I think I fell asleep even before my head hit the pillow. Would I do it again? Absolutely yes – I felt so pleased after completing that challenge, and now I can also boast of off-roading on the same motorcycle I use to go on holiday, to work, on the track... You get it, right? At the end of the day we wash the motorcycle, give the chain (now encrusted with mud as hard as concrete) a proper clean and enjoy a lovely cool shower. 

     

    Day 4 - Our feline host 

    We set off with eyes still red from tiredness and muscles still sore from yesterday’s strain – today’s just about traveling to reach the next destination. Nothing special happens along the way, except a pleasant encounter on the shores of Lake Trasimeno with two Harley riders from the Trentino region who are traveling around central Italy. One of them has a hardtail Harley (without rear suspension) with a Springer fork (that's what real tough guys are made of). Laughing, he tells us how riding this kind of motorcycle is just like “riding an iron bar on two wheels”... No wonder, without any suspension! We have a nice chat, then say goodbye and promptly leave for Avezzano.  

    Having reached our home for the night, we are greeted by a three-legged kitten called Pillola (Pill) – her name was presumably inspired by the amount of drugs she had to take after losing a leg – who follows us everywhere and generally gives us a lovely welcome. In the evening we venture downtown, where we eat a nice bowl of pasta in a tavern and enjoy the local hospitality. Back home, we slip under the covers and sense a presence on the bed... No need to be afraid, it’s just Pillola who’s come to look for some cuddles. 

     

    Day 5 - Unexpected encounters and tree houses 

    After saying goodbye to Pillola, we set off towards beautiful Lake Scanno, surrounded by the Apennines and reachable through a path you can only dream of, a succession of tight bends shadowed by trees. After a short break at the lake, we continue towards Rapolla, but along the way we accidentally come across the Sanctuary of Maria Santissima Addolorata, boasting some very interesting architecture, although to be fair, at this point any shaded place looks surprisingly inviting. We decide to stop and visit it and we’re not disappointed. 

    The road unfolds fast and we reach the B&B where we will spend the night. As soon as we’ve unloaded the motorcycle and settled in the room, a 125cc Vespa ET3 loaded with bags turns up, ridden by a Belgian guy who’s traveling all over Italy. We get pizzas to eat on the porch (he goes to pick them up on his Vespa) and listen to his traveling tales (including two trips to the North Cape, always on a Vespa) and his memories as a university student in Siena. 

    Going back to our arrival, I noticed a tree house, with a ladder, and of course I had to climb up. It really was like a little house up there, with a balcony and a chair for admiring the incredible views from the foot of Mount Vulture. The sights from that wooden tree house were truly amazing... That was probably one of the most beautiful, unexpected highlights of the trip. 

     

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    Day 6 - Back on the Dolomites... or are they? 

    We set off. It’s the last day of riding before the journey’s final destination and our surroundings waver uncertainly between forest and desert. It really feels like we’re on another planet – in the distance, we see some very particular rocky peaks and we realize we’re at the foot of Pietrapertosa, the so-called “Dolomiti Lucane”. We race uphill. It looks very much like a mountain pass (with potholes and dips reminding us of our recent Eroica experience) and the scenery is really interesting. We’re surrounded by exposed rock and precipices, which make us feel unexpectedly at home, as we live close to the Alps. After visiting a hamlet, we decide to go back down and continue on the main road that leads us straight to the Matera area. 

    The stretch between Pietrapertosa and Matera is very straight and smooth – very pleasant, I’d say, after all those bends. The only thing that slightly spoils the day is the incredibly high temperature... Much higher than 40 °C on the main road, and the black of the asphalt certainly doesn’t help. Just to give you an idea of how hot it was: The motorcycle’s radiator fan kept on coming on, despite a constant speed of 110 km/h, and I can assure you that it usually takes a lot to overheat a Z900. 

    Still, we reach San Teramo in Colle, where we will spend the next two nights, time enough to see Matera and rest our backsides for a while. 

     

    Day 7 - Such stones! 

    Today it’s all about relaxation and we decide to visit Matera, getting hopelessly lost around its historic part (featuring the famous Stones of Matera), and I must admit that I find their charm and, above all, their history really fascinating. The temperature’s really skyrocketed, and the sun on the white rock creates a lot of glare all over... To be honest, that’s not a bad thing as it means that most tourists have fled, and we can see the stones without feeling crowded. In fact, at times the place is totally deserted. 

    We make sure that we can see the sun set beyond the city, and position ourselves on the hill to the east. A quick visit to the supermarket to get something for an aperitif, and we enjoy an amazing sunset... Just have a look at the photo. 

     

    Day 8 - Discovering Molise 

    The following day, we start to go back north. It’s mainly a traveling day again, although our surroundings are incredibly different from the ones we experienced the previous days. We reached Matera from the west (an area characterized by a lot of shrubs), but on our way out we decide to visit the Alta Murgia National Park, which in this season features endless, vividly yellow fields and is almost totally devoid of vegetation. 

    From there, we continue north, towards our destination for the night: Campobasso. We find this city unexpectedly fascinating, with a really captivating hilly landscape and excellent hospitality. 

     

    Day 9 - Before the majestic Campo Imperatore 

    This is the longest and most tiring day of the trip – 390 km on a bendy road and many important landmarks to visit – so, without further ado... The highlight of the day is the Gran Sasso National Park, a place we’d always wanted to visit due to its reputation for wonderful views. Let me tell you about a particular sight, which perfectly embodies the overall beauty of this National Park: the Campo Imperatore. Well, what can I say... Our expectations were really high to start with but I can assure you that nothing can prepare you for such majesty. Here, too, I’ll let the photos speak for themselves, though no image can truly do justice to this plateau. From the road that takes you there to the breadth of this valley... Only a few of the places I’ve been, in Italy and abroad, made me feel as far from Earth as I did when riding along that endless strip of black asphalt. 

    We then continue in the direction of Norcia, passing through Campotosto (where there’s a beautiful lake) and the Piani di Castelluccio (another amazingly attractive location). We end the day in Cerreto di Spoleto, where we spend the night and enjoy a well-earned rest after the longest stretch of the trip. 

     

    Day 10 - A little relaxation! 

    This is how the penultimate day of the trip begins. Nothing demanding or stressful – today we just set off and arrive early. The destination is a well-deserved hotel with swimming pool in Montecatini Terme, where we intend to properly relax before going back home. The journey’s quick and in a short time we are in our swimming gear by the pool, ready to stretch our muscles a little and enjoy some relaxation. 

     

    Day 11 - Home sweet home 

    Our last day starts on the Futa and Raticosa mountain passes, a paradise for motorcycle riders on the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines, then we just continue heading towards home. For the first time, we allow ourselves a stretch on the highway, to shorten the route and give us more time to unpack our bags later on. On our way back, we kept on thinking how wonderful this trip has been yet how happy we were to be sleeping in our bed again... We met the goal of the journey: keep the right balance of travel and sight-seeing, to feel satisfied and not too tired, meaning that we were as happy to be back home and enjoy some rest as we were about our adventure. 

    Essential equipment

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    Full face helmet

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    Airbag D-air®

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    Ventilated jacket

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    Back protector

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    Technical jeans

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    Motorcycle shoes

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    Ventilated gloves

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    Saddlebags

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