On the road, there's adventure waiting every day.

Category: Italy 2018

As part of my Europe trip, I took the motorbike and rode from Berlin to Pompeii to explore Italy a bit

Ride,Ride,Rattle,Rattle… Boom!

Thursday I started early to drop off the postcards, swing past a Balsamic vinegar manufacturer and end my day at Garder Lake. Sounds simple enough!

Google and I did not see eye to eye on our trip to the postoffice though, it REALLY doesn’t seem to know the roads in Rome. What was supposed to be a 5 minute trip turned out to be around 30 by the time I arrived, and getting into the postoffice required me to park illegally. I love Italy. Or something.

Inside the post office was very interesting.  There were 4 counters with people at them, but only two serving. The entry had a ticket machine akin to the motor registration back in Adelaide, and the service had equivalent speed. Serving only 2 people before me meant I had to wait for 30 minutes. Did I mention I had to park illegally? I was a little grumpy when I arrived at the counter but didn’t let it show, asking politely “Stamps?” and handing over 6 postcards. The response was something in Italian, akin to “I have no idea what you’re saying”. I was honestly a little shocked to find no English AT ALL at a post office. But hey, google translate to the rescue. “Francobolli?” said I. The response was a lot of Italian, spoken very quick and agitated. The yelling for the person at the counter next to hers. Back and forth ensued, and the cards were weighed. Total cost? 20 EUR. What the actual F….?!? But at this point I had waited about 40 minutes, had a 30 minute ride and actually had to get somewhere today. So I gave up and paid the 20 EUR. It then took 10 minutes to affix computer printed stamps to the cards. I shit you not, it took about an hour and a half from leaving to having posted 6 postcards. Oh, and I had to put them in the letterbox outside….  On the other side of the street.  WTF?!? But fine, at least they’re sent.

Well, that’s done at least, and I was off.  The ride was uneventful, with the weather not even being all that hot today. It was downright pleasant to ride the Autostrada after Rome and the riding of the last week in general.

BalsamicI dropped by Leonardi to pick up some awesome balsamic vinegar which Manja and I had tasted at one of the dinners.  It’s a really idilic farm with a shop – totally worth a visit if you’re ever in the area!

I arrived near the lake at a very nice family home, with whom I communicated through their granddaughter who was visiting. They were kind enough to book me a nice restaurant right at the lake, so I went for a 15 minute ride for dinner there. I eventually even found a (paid) carpark to leave my bike, and found myself in the most wonderful seaside town. I found the restaurant without any issue, but was a little disappointed to be seated inside…. And the food wasn’t anything to write home about either….  So I got myself some awesome Italian ice-cream (now that’s GOOD!) as desert and walked through the town taking some pictures

 

 

 

And for my own amusement, I seem to have found a place of worship to the goddess of cacti.  At least that’s my story for this particular thing, and I’m sticking to it :LOL:

Goddess of Cacti

 

BreakfastFriday I was going to ride back to Germany along Lake Garda. I headed off after a nice breakfast served at the pool, and made my way to the scenic route. Going around a corner, something felt a little strange, but I couldn’t quite place it. A few moments later, on a straight bit of road, the bike started to wobble dramatically. Luckily I was riding quite slow – I managed to get the bike under control by dropping down to about 20km/h without using the breaks. My worry was that whatever was causing this would be made worse by breaking. I very carefully applied the back break and the wobbles got worse, but thankfully the front break worked fine, so I stopped the bike roadside and called Klaus for some advice.

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Bike in Carpark

The bike was clicking in an unusual way, so we tried some remote diagnostics. I very slowly rode (read: wobbled!) the bike to a nearby carpark at a tiny village in the middle of nowhere, and popped it up on the centre stand.  We diagnosed for a bit over a very choppy Skype connection – eventually agreeing that it’s likely the wheel bearing, which would require a service.

 

Well, fuck.  Here’s a video of what it looked like:

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Where it happened Click for map!

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Dirty hands and clean coffee – worse places to wait for help!

So then it was time to call the insurance company, arrange a tow etc. etc. The first call was simple, they passed my details onto the Italian roadside assistance. They advised that they’d call me back about 30 minutes later, so I walked to the town and headed to a little cafe to have a coffee.  I have to say there would have been worse places to break down!

 

 

The Italian roadside service called back a little bit later, but couldn’t figure out where I was and didn’t have facilities to use GPS.  I eventually passed the phone to the waitress who described where her shop was, and the service lady said that she would pass on the details and call back shortly.

10 minutes later my phone rang and someone spoke Italian. I  said “Deutsch/English?” to which he said “Ein kleines” (meaning a small one). I passed the phone back to the waitress who once more explained where the shop was, and the tow-truck driver said he’d be on his way and be there in about 10 minutes. So after a generous tip to the waitress I waited at the road for the tow-truck. He really did arrive 10 minutes later, and was the most friendly mechanic I’d ever met. He was so happy! We headed over to the carpark and got the bike onto the back of the truck, wheels slightly slipping, bike wobbling, but eventually secure. I think I nearly had 3 heart attacks in the process of getting it onto the truck, both because there was a long steep ramp down and because the back of the truck was slippery metal.  Oh, and the tyre was wobbling badly by this stage!

 

 

 

 

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View from the workshop

The garage was only a few minutes away, in a really pretty town called Malcesine. I have to say this is probably one of the workshops with the best view!
The guy who picked me up was an apprentice, and the head mechanic only spoke a few words German so we did a lot of pointing and gesturing. 5 minutes later he had the back tyre removed and was grinding at the wheel bearings – Klaus and I had been right that WAS the problem.
Here’s what they should look like and what the left one did look like:

 

 

 

 

No wonder it wobbled!

Slight problem though: They do not stock BMW parts. They deal mostly with cars and a little bit with Vespas.  Some phone calls later, the head mechanic says “Sorry, replacement part not sent until Monday. Arrive probably Tuesday.”

Ah fuck.  I have a hotel booked tonight in Germany and am supposed to meet Manja and some friends tomorrow, and head back to Ilkas garden on Sunday for a pool day. I must have looked pretty annoyed, because the apprentice suddenly jumped up and said “Idea!” And measured the bearing which was still good. The Master mechanic followed him to the store space and they returned grinning a short moment later. They obviously didn’t want to get my hopes up, saying “Wait, wait” while they went back to the tyre.  Then “Perfecto!” form the apprentice. Turns out a type of Vespa wheel bearing has exactly the same size as the BMW ones. They have different lube, it’s not a permanent solution and would have to be changed out again, but it would get me home. Perfecto indeed! I asked if they could still fit it today and the mechanic said “No problem, right after Lunch. Go and explore the town and come back in 2 hours. or 3. take your time.” With that they headed off to get their own lunch, so I grabbed my bag and explored Malcesine.

I found a really nice little cafe where I had a nice lunch – Gnocci by grandmas recipe, which I should have asked for retrospectively! It was REALLY good. I explored and wrote a bit before heading back to the workshop. The guys were nearly done already, and I was on my way again by about 4pm. Best of all, they only charged me about 80 EUR – I was expecting something close to 200-300.

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Worlds best Gnocchi!

I found a really nice little cafe where I had a nice lunch – Gnocci by grandmas recipe, which I should have asked for retrospectively! It was REALLY good. I explored and wrote a bit before heading back to the workshop. The guys were nearly done already, and I was on my way again by about 4pm. Best of all, they only charged me about 80 EUR – I was expecting something close to 200-300.

 

 

 

 

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Mc Fancy’s

I called the hotel and advised that I wouldn’t be arriving before 11, and with that I was off again, taking the more direct route to the hotel. The rest of the ride was pretty uneventful, except for a Baverian McDonalds at which I stopped for a quick dinner on the road.  It was super fancy and the staff were wearing traditional Bavarian dresses instead of the standard uniforms.  I didn’t want to take direct pictures, but you can see what I mean in the background of this fireplace.  (Yes, the McDonalds had a fireplace)

When I arrived at the hotel I was told that tonight was a red moon! I totally forgot, but dragged myself out to have a quick look. It did look pretty spectacular, but my phone couldn’t do it justice.  I returned inside and dropped into bed for and exhausted from the strenuous day.

 

 

 

 


Listening to

Energetic education in Rome

Not since my Latin classes in Highschool have I had such an information overload regarding Rome. I also learned a lot about the Vatican, which really just re-enforced my pre-existing biases. In particular I learned that much of the metal in the Vatican was plundered from Ancient roman buildings, essentially destroying much of what existed back then, including the Colosseum. I took more photos than is sensible on this three hour Vatican tour! I have to say that I was impressed with the tech they used.  I know I haven’t taken a tour in ages, but they basically had group-based walkie-talkies to make sure that everyone can hear the guide.  Pretty brilliant!

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The receiver via which I could hear the guide

 

 

After the tour, I started my walk over to the Colosseum for the afternoon tour.  I grabbed some lunch at a local backstreet cafe, which was unfortunately disappointing but had a chilli plant as table decoration.  Without planing to, I  walked past Hadrians temple, the Altare della Patria and the Imperial Fora on my way.

 

I had another three hour walking tour in front of me, this one being almost entirely outside.  It’s been a 38 degree day outside, so I wasn’t well thrilled to have to wait in this line, in the bright sun, to be assigned a tour guide!

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WHY IN THE SUN???

But Romes water stations were a true blessing for me on this day, I just kept refilling my bottle. We visited the Colosseum and the Roman Forum/Palatine hill with a very informative guide.

 

As the tour concluded the tour guide provided a recommendation for “Romes best pizza – in roman thin-crust style, which I’d visit in the evening. Before heading there, though, I still wanted to visit the Spanish steps and Trevi fountain, making the most of my day walking through Rome.

 

My feet were about to kill me after walking yet another 30 minutes to the pizza place, but it was well worth it.

 

After the best pizza I’ve had in Italy, I took a taxi back to the airbnb and spent the evening writing postcards before dropping into bed.


Listening to…

Visiting the Vatican and Venerable city of Rome

Today I would travel to Rome for one day and two nights, before heading back. I got to have yet another Croissant breakfast – delicious as always, but monotony taking some of the earlier joy. I packed my bike, and gently laid it down to check the tyres. That’s how you do it, right?

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*sigh* So what you can’t see on the picture is the massive slope, which the bike went down when I took it off the centre stand. Poorly planned – had I been on the other side it would have been fine.

But! No damage done, I really did place it down nice and gentle.

Somewhat embarrassed, after the Airbnb host helped me right the bike, I headed off.

The ride was fine, until I reached Rome. It’s yet another level of bad driving; it really is! I parked at the Airbnb and decided to walk for an hour into town, ready for my “Rome by night” tour.  I crossed the Vatican and along the way I found a statue stopping to smell a tree, Romulus and Remus on a Vatican street and a winged angel with a winged devil on it….  Oh, and St. Peter’s Basilica with God-rays shooting out from behind it.

 

Before the tour I quickly picked up some dinner…  Simple pasta, except, I would describe it as follows

It was pasta with tomato sauce, which I’m pretty sure was some sort of blood of the gods based on how good it was, with perfectly seared slithers of steak mixed in with some super tasty crumbs of the best Parmesan I’ve had. And I like my cheese!

It looked so average, but it really did taste awesome…  And the restaurants sink in the bathroom was amazing enough for me to take a picture.

 

After this excellent meal I was ready to do the walking tour, which entered around the intrigues or Ancient Rome, telling stories of bad deeds and possible ghosts.  There were plenty of cool stories, from poisoning, to crypts, to the last executioner of the Pope, to the killing of families by the pope for wealth and political gain, but my favourite was the actual story of Giordano Bruno. He was basically a philosopher monk burned at the stake, in the centre of Rome, because he told people that the earth was not flat, and that Mary was unlikely to have been a virgin. He’s still considered a martyr for freedom of speech in Italy.  I took some photos, but somehow managed to loose a bunch too :/

 

I have to say I really enjoyed this tour, even though I’m not much for ghost stories – just the right mix of fantasy and fact. I grabbed a cab home, which had a crazy driver who cut through traffic so well he beat the google time estimate by 10 minutes on a 30 minute trip.  Exhausted I fell into bed, knowing full well that tomorrow is an early start, with a day full of tours outside on a really hot day.

 


Listening to…

Even good times must end

While we could have easily spent another week exploring, today Manja had to fly home. We had another standard but nice breakfast before we dropped off the car. Freaking out a little internally about the possible dent in the door, I drove there and was about to hand over the keys when I realised we hadn’t refuelled. Luckily we got there early, so we had a quick round trip to a petrol station.  The attendant walked around the car once, signed off that there wasn’t any real damage and we were off, and off-the-hook. (Yes, they could have sent us a charge later, but they didn’t! Yay! Don’t show them my blog 😉 )

We were going to spend a few more hours in the ruins of Pompeii but it rained cats and dogs, so it really wouldn’t have been much fun, especially given that everything there would be super muddy.  So we hid in the Airbnb for the worst of it before exploring the town a little.  Most amusingly (to me anyway) Manja found Nikos family church, which had a great statue of suicidal Jesus.  I’m sorry if I’m offending anyone religious, but it REALLY did look like he was about to jump!!

As it was getting toward the afternoon it was once more time to jump on the bike and brave the Italian and specifically Napoli traffic. I dropped Manja off to the airport and made it back to the hotel before she took off – which was a 30-ish minute trip. Turns out she was stuck on the tarmac for about an hour before they finally go to take off.

For my part I went back to the restaurant we visited the first night, and settled in to spend the night writing some notes for all these blogs and posted some previous ones.  I also booked the tours for Rome – which would be the next 2 days of this trip.

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Back to dinner for one

 

 


Listening to…

Riding the Storm: A Tale of a crossing to Capri

Today we decided to head off to Capri, a small island a short distance from the mainland.  We started early, enjoying yet another nice-but-identical breakfast at the Airbnb. Our first hurdle was getting stuck in traffic. God knows why, but the route we took had 4 roads all merging together to pass through one short single-laned tunnel. I can’t imagine there ever NOT being a traffic jam here, and it’s a main arterial road of the area – it really deserved a second tunnel, which would really only need to be about 30-40 meters long.  I imagine some local politics cause this particular stretch of insanity.  Italy, ey?

We did eventually make it to Sorrento, even guided to a nice carpark by a local traffic police officer.  Sorrento is a beautiful town in its own right, as well as being the main place to take ferries to Capri.  Partially on purpose and partially because I can’t read a map, we explored Sorrento a bit before heading to the harbour.  The route we took snaked along the edge of the cliff for a few kilometres: The town itself was about 100 meters above where the harbour was at the base of some cliffs.  Once there we lined up to get a ticket to the ferry.  The Cashiers only question was “Return or no?” I said “Yes”.  She said the price, and that we should run because our ferry leaves now. We quickly paid and ran; but made the ferry with about 5 minutes before it took off.  We settled in and Manja relayed a story about a horrendous ferry trip she had in the USA, which actually went through a tornado. “Luckily there’s no tornados here” said I.  I’m pretty sure that Neptune was listening and smirked.

We took off, and it was a little choppy, and the crew were walking around handing out sick bags.  Manja said “Hah, this was exactly how it started, people were laughing at the ferry jumping and feeling a bit like a roller coaster.” she also got a tiny bit pale, obviously remembering that time. It wasn’t 5 minutes later when the ferry was jumping over waves. And I mean jumping. I counted the average “drop” time as being about 2 seconds. I’ve no idea what speed we were going, but if it was a straight drop this calculator tells me the drop distance would have been 19m. Given we were moving pretty fast over uneven waves, I assume it was still about 3-5 meters. Regardless, every drop ended in a resounding “THUMP” and being pressed into the seats as we hit the water again. Within another 5 minutes people were seriously vomiting and the crew was clinging onto posts.  It didn’t help that it was humid as hell. Manja did really well at not panicking, and I managed to not get sea sick though I was seriously nauseous. I thanked my lucky stars that the trip was only about 20 minutes, and Manja told me later that her horror trip was “A bit worse than that, for about 4 hours”. I now have a newfound respect for rough ferry rides, and the moment that a crew member opened the front door to let in fresh air was pure relief for everyone.

When we got to Capri, I resisted the urge to kiss the ground, instead focusing on pushing our way through the MASSES of people. Capri is a small island, but it felt overrun by tourists in the way that Ants would overrun a sugar cube. We finally found a bench and sat down to find our land legs, discussing the horror of having to take a ferry back later in the day. Somewhat recovered we decided to walk up the hill rather than fight for a bus (30 minute wait in a line), tram (30minute wait in a line) or taxi (fight to the death) – the only transport options on the island. We had to stop regularly, fighting both heat and exhaustion, but were rewarded by fantastic views.

We got to the hilltop, which is where Capri town centre is. It has the most amazing tiny streets, filled with little stores –  the streets are so small you could not walk side-by-side and are laid out with no particular order. You could totally get lost here! Even with the use of google maps we walked a few circles before Manja took me by the hand and navigated the “good old fashion way” by reading street signs. Using this arcane witchcraft she located the path we were looking for, toward a natural arc.

The arc was about a 10 minute walk, and only accessible by the one path, which meant that there was really few tourists.  The reduction in number of people allowed us to appreciate how pretty it really is.  If I ever come back, I’d definitely try and stay a NIGHT on Capri – at this time it is only accessible to the tourists who stay on the island.

After viewing the Arc and recovering our breath, we stopped for some local lemonade at a cafe with a view. The view was great, but lemon juice with soda water, no matter how local and fresh, is not worth 5 EUR. But such is life, sometimes you pay a “stupid tourist” tax.  At least the view was fantastic!

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A little hard to see here, but it’s climbing UP a wall….

We realised that our ferry was heading back a bit earlier than we’d have liked – the lady simply booked us on the 4pm ferry without offering any alternative (the ferries run to 8pm…).  Given that the weather was going to be WORSE in the evening we decided to just go with it and brave the trip back, giving us some time to recover if needed. So we headed back down the mountain; bumping into some Aussies on the way, including a snake on the wall…  Which fascinated Manja who took some photos while I said “Careful…  It’s about to slip off the wall…” which it did about 5 seconds later causing everyone to leap away.

Once we were back at the shore, we prepared ourselves for the trip back physically and mentally. And by that I mean we took some sea-sickness tablets ahead of time and planned the trip: We would get on the ferry early to get a place at the CENTRE and BACK, expecting this to be the least turbulent spot. Ideally we’d aim for something outside if possible – the fresh air would keep us (me) feeling better.

We got to the boarding point nice and early.  A massive crowd started to gather around us, and a not-so-friendly attendant asked everyone on the ferry to Sorrento to line up around the corner, so we quickly did. When the ferry arrived, however, those who followed instructions were at the back of the line, essentially rewarding those who ignored the labour master. I was dark, and for the first time that I can remember started to push in front of everyone I could in a queue. Turns out I’m effective at queue jumping, and we managed to score a seat on the top deck, at the back in the middle.  It was open from behind, so we had sea air as well. We were READY.

And again, Neptune smirked, letting this ferry ride be completely calm the entire way.  We were even well enough to move about and take photos.

We arrived back at Sorrento relieved to be feeling well, but faced with a 30+ minute walk uphill to get back to the town centre, we explored the base of the cliff for a bit, only to find an elevator. You had to line up and pay 50c per person, but you arrived at the city centre moments later.  Odd but cool! We gladly paid our entry fee and took the 30 second ride up.

With the nervous energy of the day dropping away we suddenly got hungry, but it was a bit early for dinner.  So we researched a nice restaurant before looking for some postcards.  You would think that a place like this would have nice postcards, but EVERYTHING we could find looked like a photo taken in the 70’s.  Still, Sorrento was really nice and they even had orange trees… Too bad the oranges were too high to reach without a ladder 😉

So we skipped the postcard and headed to dinner, where we had a superb vegetarian banquet.

Way too full of food we drove back to our Airbnb in Pompeii but we stopped to take in the spectacular sunset along the way when we noticed an empty lookout point.


Listening to…

Over the mountain to the Amalfi coast

Breakfast_CrossaintWe woke Saturday morning slightly tired – the Airbnb is very close to a main road and translation, and didn’t have very good curtains to keep out the light.  But we started with a pretty great breakfast: The host here makes this breakfast every day for her guests, and it includes fresh home-made croissants which are seriously good.

After breakfast we walked down to the car rental place and got a nice little fiat for the next few days.

 

Today we would explore the Amalfi coast, including this little beauty of a drive:
Amalfi coast roads

Our first stop was going be a pretty cool place the “Vallone dei Mulini” (Valley of mills).  This beautiful area once housed a range of water mills on the river to grind flour and saw wood, but they were abandoned at some point and are now completely overgrown.  Our combined love for ruins was definitely peaked, and we navigated some of the more treacherous roads in the area to get there.  Unfortunately there was NOWHERE to stop and NO signs to point us in the right direction.  Such a Shame!  Eventually I pulled over on the side of the road, leaving just enough space for someone to pass by and we checked out the last mill which was also closest to the town. As it turned out, it was pretty disappointing because while it had been overgrown with vegetation it was also overthrown by rubbish and a terrible smell coming from what I presume to be a somewhat polluted river.  It seems to me that someone found these mills and loved them, attempting to setup a tourist destination which never quite took off.  The remnants of decent stairs and footpaths, once more completely overgrown and impassible, could be seen in some areas.  There were a lot of cacti and pretty flowers though!

 

We didn’t stay too long, deciding to head for the coast instead.  The tiny roads leading to the Amalfi coast were super crowded and we eventually even got stuck behind a truck which, to my mind, was too big for the streets. It was about 45 minutes before we crossed the mountain and managed to get to the road along the coast, only to find ourselves traveling down a TINY street. And by TINY I mean I wasn’t driving a large car (a fiat 500) and had about 3-4 cm either side of the car. In taking one 90-degree turn we found ourselves going the wrong way, with no option but to reverse. I may have touched a corner and put a small dent into the door in this process… Whoops!  Let’s just hope that’s not noticed when we return it…. At least the paint wasn’t chipped!

A repeat of the stopping problem faced us when we finally made it to the coast though: Nowhere to park, nowhere to stop.  Hundreds of cars are parked on the side of the road illegally, making it hard for other traffic to get through, and pedestrians are squeezed in as well…  Even by motorbike this would be a problem here. We stopped at one “beach” finding a curve to leave the car in, only to find a massive crowd on a relatively basic beach which didn’t look that nice. Manja took a few happy snaps of the view before we moved on….

 

We decided to find ourselves some ice-cream and coffee, and even managed to stop at one of the lookouts along the way.  The little cafes dotted along the road offer valet-parking just to squeeze as many cars into their tiny on-site carparks as possible so it actually wasn’t impossible to park.  We had a nice table with a bit of a view to relax for a bit of a break from the road.