Exploring the best parts of Italy on a rabid KTM Super Duke over a long weekend is concentrated adventure riding that anyone can do. All you need is a Visa card and a backpack
I started at Sesto and headed north through Pratolino to San Piero a Sieve. It’s amazing how quickly the scenery changes in Tuscany. Only five kilometres outside Florence’s busy streets and you are into the mountains where thick forests overhang stunning riding roads. You would never guess a major city was within spitting distance. Up here the tarmac is perfect and the road twists and bends along the side of the hills, following nature’s contours. Most corners are taken between second and third gear and it’s never flat, every mile is a rollercoaster of ups and downs all lined with either trees or fairly intimidating looking metal barriers. It’s best to keep it in your pants around these roads, as the not-uncommon bunches of flowers that can be found attached to barriers are a constant reminder.
As I approach San Piero I can’t help but smile as I pass about 10 Minis in a row, I’m not sure what’s happening but there must be some kind of rally as they all have stickers on them and numbers. It could just as well have been a cavalcade of Ferraris as this part of the world is a mecca for petrol-heads. The circuit of Mugello is located slap-band in the middle of the best roads and one of the most famous passes of all is just a few kilometres away. Passo Futa, or the Futa pass as it’s known, is the road Ducati uses to test its road bikes. The Multistrada was built to be king of this road and is probably the reason why so many of the locals seem to be riding this oddball.
Looping back towards San Piero I take in a few kilometres of the Futa. To be truthful it is no better than the road from Sesto to San Piero, I guess they are simply spoilt for choice around here and the Futa leads directly to Ducati’s backdoor in Bologna.
By now I’ve learnt that if there is the word ‘Passo’ on a signpost it is worth exploring, so I decided to take a slight detour up the Passo del Muraglione, just outside Dicomano.
Stopping to take a few photographs I realised that it could be tricky to take a picture of myself riding so I waited a few minutes for the inevitable group of Italian bikers to pass. It didn’t take long. Despite Erika’s warning they don’t seem too out of control, and pointing a camera at them doesn’t induce any ‘hero’ crashes. Nearly every bike has a race can on, but they aren’t going bananas as I expected, rather groups of mates simply out together for a thrash through the countryside while the weather is good. The great thing about it is that because there are so many good roads it doesn’t feel claustrophobic like it does in summer on the Cat and Fiddle. It’s not congested and the locals don’t seem to get upset. I flag one rider over and am more than a bit taken a back when he takes his lid of and hollers “Urriiii” at me in a heavy Italian accent.
It seems as though Visordown has sold a few articles I’ve written to an Italian magazine and Simone, the CBR600RR rider who stopped, has read them. What are the chances of that? I thought only my mum read my stuff, and she tries to disown me. Chatting with Simone he tells me that if I continue up this pass I’ll get to a village called Predappio, which is where Mussolini is buried. Apparently it’s a hot spot for Italian visitors. Not being too good with history from what I remembered Mussolini was a fascist and a Nazi supporter, so it seemed a bit strange that his grave was such a popular visitor attraction. Sounded worth a look.
Following the pass I see a load of bikes parked outside a café and decide it’s time for a coffee stop. As I found out later bikers in the north are known to be a bit on the wild side, and these guys had demolished the best part of a bottle of Grappa as well as putting a sizable dent into a bottle of vodka. On hearing my pathetic attempt at Italian one of them picks up I’m foreign and shouts “English” at me. I mutter something that affirms his guess and suddenly his mates roar, and proudly start showing me their Isle of Man TT 2007 and Ace Café T-shirts, before trying to force a Grappa down my throat. Despite being fairly well oiled these guys highlight everything that I love about Italians. I had a bike, they had bikes, therefore we are mates. As it turned out this bar, the Osteria San Marina if you are in the area, is the biker café and this group come here every Saturday. Avoiding another Grappa that was being waved in my direction I kindly refuse their invitation to go for a ride and head on my way, promising to pull any out of the hedge if I see them en route.
Predappio, where Mussolini was born as well as buried, is a strange place. Apparently Benito was so proud of his working class background he spent a fortune on Predappio to make it glamorous. He used to take foreign dignitaries back to there to conduct business and because of this the church, cemetery and town hall are spectacular. It’s not often you get the chance to pay your respects to Il Duce, so I stopped at the Cripta Mussolini to see what all the fuss was about.
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