Today we leave Tuscany in the heart of Italy and travel further south to the adjoining Umbria region. We are determined to complete all of Italy and know that we have to maintain a punishing schedule if we are to achieve this feat. While sticking to the Autostrada and just riding like a zombie is probably easy on the kilometers that you clock, our interest is to avoid that and instead take the backroads.
With that in mind, Sunny set the GPS to navigate us in Tuscany and through that to Perugia region in Umbria. But before that, we had to get a high capacity, high speed SD card for the GoPro all weather, HD video CAM that we wanted to mount on the bike to replace the 5D Mark II we were using as a bike CAM. We were playing an expensive game and it could prove too risky if the Canon fell for any reason. We had been asking around in every mobile phone or electronic shop in Florence we came across but were still to find what we were looking for.
The need to get the card was clear and present and so, one more time, we headed for Ponte Vecchio and parked our bike. We were feeling like pro’s in navigating through Florence and it felt good. Sunny quickly disappeared in the narrow lanes while I waited besides the loaded bikes and 30 minutes later he emerged victorious, a big grin and chocolate candy laced his face. It was 12:15 PM already and we wanted to head for Castelluccio which was recommended to us by Palla, an Italian rider on a forum.
Riding out of Florence and passing through the by now customarily beautiful Italian villages, we had done some 40 odd kilometers when we hit the mountains again in the Apennine mountain range.
The Apennines are the long system of mountains and hills that run down the Italian peninsula from the Cadibona Pass to the tip of Calabria and continue on the island of Sicily. The range is about 1,245 miles (2,000 km) long; it is only about 20 miles (32 km) wide at either end but about 120 miles (190 km) wide in the Central Apennines, east of Rome, where the “Great Rock of Italy” (Gran Sasso d’Italia) provides the highest Apennine peak (9,554 ft [2,912 m]) and the only glacier on the peninsula, Calderone, the southernmost in Europe.
“We wander, our lives turned upside down by an endlessly frenetic tour de force”
Some images like below are extracted from the GoPro full HD riding video, so they are not actually photos. The GoPro takes much decent photos in the dedicated photomode:
Weather was nice, roads beckoning and the twists and turns as good as they get.. Offer these to a die-hard rider and he will forget everything else! we were so excited and remained so till the light in the fuel gauge lit up! We were running in reserve in the middle of the Apennines and had forgotten to tank up!!!!!! We were in constant touch on our Scala riders and stopped on the way to scratch our heads. Sunny asked his TOM TOM where the nearest gas station was and it said promptly – 32 Kilometers away!! Here we were in the mountains, running in reserve and the constant gear shifting consuming fuel faster than normal. We decided that we will save fuel by rolling the bikes in neutral on descents and keeping the revs below 2500 on ascents. Not knowing any better we moved thus.
While we were descending, we saw a small cafe in the middle of nowhere and we came to an immediate halt, hungry (us and our bikes) and kinda clueless. We asked the owner about Benzina and he immediately showed us all 10 of his fingers.. A little decrypting made both of smile again. The nearest gas station was only another 10 KM away and we were descending so we will make it without the need to push the bikes uphill – the dread gave way to extreme hunger and we ordered a big sandwich made of – Pomodoro and Cheese ! We also had Redbull to charge up!
While we were at it, Sunny and I spread the till now sealed box of GoPro and sifted through the contents till we figured out how to set it up on the bikes. I worked on the mounting gear while Sunny worked on the Camera and its controls. The front cowl (even though it is small) was coming in the way on the Monster, the Streetfighter gave a clear view so the GoPro went on the Streetfighter. While we were at it, a rider on a BMW S1000RR rode in and parked alongside to rest and we smiled and counted our blessings as in front of us was the newly crowned “Best Liter Class Superbike” in the world today! and the rider spoke english !!!! We photographed the bike and interviewed Henry and we video recorded it. The bike is a gorgeous piece of machine with an Inline-4 with ABS, Traction Control and a lot many other goodies. I was proud that my Ducati Streetfighter 1100S also had all these features and secretly smiled. I would have given anything to test ride the Beemer but refrained from asking. A good 20 to 30 minutes later, Henry pulled away and we mounted our bikes too. We still had some rolling to do!!!
You can read more about the the BMW S1000RR and our experience on the First Impression on xBhp here:
The GoPro was started and I learnt from Sunny which buttons to press while riding the bike to make the Camera work the way we wanted. The Ducati Streetfighter’s console starts showing the kilometers done for a fuel trip. When the bike hits reserve, the odometer’s display changes to Fuel Trip display to keep the rider informed the amount of distance he has already done on reserve.. When my FuelTrip gauge hit 11.9 the benzina station rolled into sight and we were happy again. We gave the thirsty beasts a tummy full of gas and moved on.
We were less than half way through to our destination which we called over the phone and were lucky to find a room. We had refrained to book earlier since we were not sure if we will be able to reach it since we had started at noon and we had 300+ Kilometers of riding to do in the mountains.
We came across an opening near a village which overlooked at a valley. The scene was too tempting to resist and we stopped our bikes to setup our photo studio here.
Contended with our efforts, we set off again. Crossing the meadow that we had just shot, the mountain road gave way to a state highway.
While the AutoStrada in Italy is marked by green signage, the state highway system is marked with blue boards. These are non – toll roads but offer equally good riding comfort. Here we rode on for another 40 kilometers and turned right towards Perugia. Ever since we had started from Florence, regardless of where we were, all signage pointed towards Rome and after such a long time, it continues… All roads do lead to Rome!. Soon, in the distance a cluster of buildings, old and tightly packed appeared.
From the GPS, Sunny identified it as Assisi, a good 12 kilometers away. Assisi is a small medieval town of about 25,000 people perched on a hill in Umbria, the heart of Italy. Famous as the birthplace of St. Francis, Assisi holds religious, historical, and artistic significance. We had to cover Assisi and it was on our route.
We rode into a town just outside Assisi, called Santa Maria Angeli and parked our bikes right in the huge courtyard in front of the town’s majestic Cathedral. A photo session followed and then we mounted our bikes to reach Assisi.
We shot the town, rode around it and headed back towards our final destination. It was 6 PM and we had a fair bit of ground to cover to be in time for the second Semi Final between Spain and Germany, which promised to be a cracker. In the first round of the tournament, I had predicted a final between Spain and Holland and I was very close to realizing my goal and did not want to miss it.
Riding continuously for about 100 odd kilometers, In the distant horizon, far away perched on a mountain, appeared Castelluccio.
A village located at a height of approximately 1480 meters making it the highest village in this mountain range. It was twilight and the scene was mesmerizing. It was as if a scene straight from Harry Potter was playing in front of our eyes. With our jaws dropped, we stopped and absorbed it for what seemed like an eternity.
Then, Sunny took out his camera and I rode on to the place while Sunny stayed put. A ride of 4 KM later I arrived and waited patiently for Sunny which he duly did after some 30 minutes!!!
We checked in at 9:30 PM. We were led to the village and then to a room which would rival any in the best 5 stars that I have seen, they were brand new, with all possible amenities and all material in the room was top class. The Castelluccio Tavern indeed is exclusive and spectacular – Highly recommended for any traveller.
We dumped our stuff and I rushed to watch what was left of the match. The score was 0-0 and I saw my favorite team fire their first goal. I was delighted and ate my lentil soup with a drink admits this joy.. I was on a high and it was deja-vu all along, euphoric and very very tired, I walked back towards the room which was some 100 meters away in the village.
This village in the night was quite, pin drop silence, and we felt that we were transported into the roman era, Pure Magic – the witchery was spellbinding and the scene made good pictures. So, we shot and we shot as long as we could and could do it no more and it was time to rest for me.
After I retired for the night, Sunny went for a Night Photo Walk in the village. This will appear as a separate subsection of the day 10 blog and will elaborate what a mesmerizing place Castelluccio di Norcia is.
Good night folks and as usual, until Tomorrow!!!