Discovering Italy on a motorcycle: how different are the Dolomites from Tuscany, Sardinia and Sicily?
The Italian boot stretches about 1.000 km (air distance). That might not be a particularly impressive number, but keep in mind that the boot-shaped Appenini peninsula stretches from the heart of the Alps all the way down to the center of the Mediterranean - almost halfway to Africa! And that is what makes Italy such an incredible (riding) destination. If you’ve spent a week or two in Italy and think you’ve seen it all… Well, you’re wrong. Let’s discover it from the Alps, surrounded by more than 3.000m high peaks, and then ride south towards the sea, just like rivers flow.
Roller Coaster in a natural paradise
If you left your hotel room window open to get some fresh air after you’ve washed down the tasty dinner with a couple of bottles of white and red and some grappas or limoncellos or whatever that ‘greetings from the house’ was, your room might be surprisingly cold in the morning. Even in July or August, the temperatures in Arraba or Corvara, where we usually stay on our Top of the Alps, Alps Adriatic Adventure, and the Alps Deluxe & French Riviera tours, can drop down to around zero. That answers why the guide suggested putting skiing underwear underneath your riding gear for the next day. We had to postpone the morning ride to wait for a fresh three centimeters of snow to melt! In August! The road has dried, but the mountains around the breathtaking passes Giau, Falzarego, Pordoi, and Gardena were still covered with snow - what a fantastic day that was! Ahh, that sharp, fresh air in the Dolomites, especially in the morning - that’s something I’d put in bottles and inhale on a hot, summer day in Ljubljana...
You’ll hear that most people speak German in the area that they prefer to describe as Sud-Tirol instead of the North of Italy. And we have to admit there are good sides of German or Austrian influence in the area: the roads are good, so are the infrastructure and hotels, and you won’t see single trash on the side of the road. The Dolomites are tidy. Just a few words about riding. Two things melt together in a thrilling ride: great roads that don’t allow you to rest much, and a fantastic environment that you fly through. Make sure you stop here and there to breathe in all this beauty. Also, make sure you keep rain gear in your top case all the time and plan your daily rides so you’re back in the hotel till 2 or 3 PM. Afternoon showers are on a daily menu - even when a forecast doesn’t say so.
South of Dolomites there are some beautiful valleys and lakes (Como, Maggiore, Garda ...), and then south of them there’s the most boring (riding wise) part of the Boot - the Po Valley or Padan Plain. Flat and full of industrial cities (they have to build parts for Ducatis and Ferraris somewhere!), with highways, filled with trucks that drive from Genoa to Trieste and from Venice to Milan and … Well, let’s skip that … And rather ride the one and only Tuscany!
La vita e Bella
The name says it all as 'Tuscany' became a synonym for the romantic hilly landscape. For the first-class cuisine. For, of course, wines. Prosciutto. Caffe. For enjoying life with all senses. And that is what you should do there: take some extra time not just for riding, but for exploring romantic cities that are exploding from history and art. That’s why we take rest days in two cities next to each other on the Tuscany Sardinia and Corsica tour; in Florence (you must have heard of it?) and Siena (you SHOULD have heard of it!).
On both ‘rest days,’ we offer riding options, but opposite to the Dolomites, where we strongly suggest taking a rest-day ride, here I’d say: leave your bike parked and take the day as easy as it gets. Light breakfast. Walk in the old town, visit a museum or gallery. Enjoy the second coffee downtown, with something sweet, a cake, or a croissant, on the side. Buy yourself something nice - a silk shirt or a leather purse, something that you will remember on this day for a long time. Ask the seller for a lunch recommendation - ask where THEY go to have lunch (not where most tourists go). And as your bike is safely parked in a hotel's garage, don’t just order a glass - order a bottle. Hey, you’re on holiday! No, you prefer riding? Good idea, too: join many locals on their joy ride from one to another romantic little town around the Chianti region - and don’t you even try to race with them!
Let's now ride Sardinia, which we visit on the already mentioned Tuscany Sardinia Corsica Tour and Sardinia & Corsica - Riders' Heaven. Sardinia is still Italy (unlike its northern neighbor Corsica, which is French), but … Different. Of course, it’s an island. And, from a riders’ point of view, it’s a fu…, sorry, freaking great island.
It’s like a racetrack on an island and I admit I always have to hold myself back so I don’t forget I’m still on a public road. I haven’t seen it all, but if you ask me for the world's best riding location, my answer would be - Sardinia. Go there in April-May or September-October to avoid the summer heat and convoys of motorhomes, and make sure to have enough rubber on your tires. When you get tired of it, there is other fun stuff to do in Sardinia, too - sunbathing on the beach in Cala Gonone, with your feet being refreshed by waves from the crystal-clear Thyrenian sea, for example.
Godfather sure wasn’t hungry ...
Southeast, ‘just’ across the Tyrrhenian Sea, there’s another island, geographically and politically also Italian, but (again) very, very different from what we’ve ridden til now. ‘Sicilia’ is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, and because of its location it was influenced from all sides: Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs… There are seven UNESCO world heritage sites on the island: the Valley of the Temples, the Roman villa, Mt. Etna - to mention just a few.
The point is: there’s a lot to see and do on Sicily while riding itself has an aftertaste of an Adventure. Why? Some roads are, well, not really perfect. Some are under construction (for years), some are closed (but then you can still sneak through on a motorcycle), and, that’s the sad part of the adventure - you’ll see some garbage on the side of the less-traveled roads. There are some riding highlights, like a road where the Targa Florio road race was held from 1906 (!) or the road to Sapienza Refuge ski area on the southern slopes of glorious Mt. Etna.
But there’s something else that’s a highlight (for me personally) when doing the Sicily Tour or the South of Rome & Sicily Tour: food (and everything that happens around it). We always visit Sicily in spring or autumn, off the main tourist season, and that’s why a restaurant, where we’ve had lunch last time, might be closed. And when you’re a guide of 10-15 riders, that can be a little issue. No one likes to ride with an empty stomach and no one wants to spend time searching for a good restaurant, browsing Tripadvisor, making u-turns in narrow, steep streets on a hot, sunny day…
But let me tell you something: when in Sicily, don’t even spend time searching for a ‘good’ restaurant with an English-speaking waiter. Just stop, tell or show (a gesture with a virtual spoon in front of your mouth is understandable even with your helmet on), then sit down and let them serve you. If nothing else is boiling in the kitchen, always say yes to ‘Pasta Alla Norma’, which is pasta with an eggplant-tomato-basil sauce, and when you’re lucky and there’s some swordfish in the fridge, go for “Rigatoni con Pesce Spada e melanzane”. Wait - forget all about it! Just let them feed you and tell me later how it was. I guess there’s a chance of getting something bad on your plate, but after I’ve done the Sicily Tour four or five times, the cuisine didn’t disappoint a single time. Well, yes, most of Italy is like that, but you can feel and smell that you’re close to the origin of ingridients on your plate - that’s why it all smells so great. And there’s the atmosphere; sometimes you’re enjoying lunch with local workers, then in the same evening they come to play violin next to your table in, ah, Taormina…
Adriatic Moto Tours’ options for riding “The Boot”
The tour that captures most of the mentioned places in the article, is AMT's classic 16-days Tuscany Sardinia Corsica guided motorcycle tour. The name says it all: starting from Venice you’ll ride to Tuscany and the two islands, Sardinia and Corsica, visiting the famous Cinque Terre on the way back. If you want to skip Tuscany and do just a quick tour of the two islands, take a 9-days Sardinia & Corsica -Riders’ Heaven tour. For all those interested in riding the passes, there are couple of options: Alps Adriatic Adventure (15 days), Top of the Alps (9 days), Western Alps Adventure (9 days), or Best of Eastern Alps (9 days). For extending the season further south there are the South of Rome & Sicily Tour (15 days) or the Sicily Tour (9 days).
For individualists that would want to do it all, there’s an option of doing a self-guided tour where YOU tell us which places you want to visit and for how many days you’re about to live on the bike. Aha - you want to see it all and you're asking how many days that would take? Honestly? A month will be just fine!
Videos from our Youtube channel:
Top of the Alps:
Alps Adriatic Adventure:
Tuscany Sardinia Corsica:
Alps Adriatic Adventure
Join a spectacular tour, which combines the best scenery you can find in Slovenia with rugged Adriatic coastline and Alpine passes.
This spectacular motorcycle tour combines some of the best scenery you can find in Slovenia with rugged Adriatic coastline and high alpine passes in Italy and Austria. It's a great way to experience gentle coastal riding, more challenging mountain twisties and everything in between.
- Countries: Italy , Austria, Slovenia, Croatia
- Days: 15 Days: / 13 riding days
Tuscany Sardinia Corsica
Riding in Italy provides a depth of experience matched by few places in the world. More than just a motorcycle adventure!
Riding in Italy provides a depth of experience matched by few places in the world. Our Tuscany Sardinia Corsica Tour is more than just a motorcycle adventure; it’s an experience for all your senses.
- Countries: Italy , France
- Days: 16 Days: / 14 riding days
Top of the Alps
Ride the best passes and switchbacks in the Swiss, Austrian and Italian Alps.
This tour is all about riding the best passes and switchbacks in the Swiss, Austrian, and Italian Alps.
- Countries: Italy , Germany, Switzerland, Austria
- Days: 9 Days: / 7 riding days
South of Rome & Sicily Tour
Admire the sublime art and architecture, ride the stunning Amalfi Coast and discover the amazing Sicily, all in one trip.
Benvenuti a Roma! We’ll begin and end our tour in magnificent Rome, home to the ancient Forum and the Colosseum.
- Countries: Italy
- Days: 15 Days: / 13 riding days
Welcome to the land of Greek temples, Roman mosaics, active volcanos and Cosa Nostra!
Where would you go to see the best preserved Ancient Greek Temples? Greece? How about the Valley of the Temples in Sicily? Where would you find the richest, largest collection of Roman mosaics? Rome? Again, Sicily.
- Countries: Italy
- Days: 9 Days: / 7 riding days
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