Experience the beauty of Chianti from a motorcycle

FLORENCE, ITALY | There’s no bad way to see Italy. I’ve done parts of the country by train, by rental car and on foot, on multiple trips from Florence, Padua and Rome, and it’s never been anything less than terrific.

 

But seeing it by motorcycle, I discovered in June, is one of the best. Aside from the great roads and riding – there’s a reason Ducati, Moto Guzzi, MV Agusta and other motorcycle companies were born here – a two-wheeled excursion delivers unexpected delights.

First, it solves a panoply of parking and traffic problems as you slide past the tourists crawling through the narrow hill towns hunting for a place to ditch their rental cars.

Touring by bike also gets you out of the air-conditioned car or train and places you in the Italian landscape in a way that adds olfactory pleasures to the journey, as the country smells of farms, fields and flowers join the city smells of caffe, pane and pasticcia.

For a quick motorcycle tour of Tuscany’s Chianti region, I chose a 2016 Ducati Multistrada 1200. I’d ridden these able machines in the U.S. and recently used one for a multi-day L.A.-Carmel-L.A. jaunt. I thought the combination of sport bike spunkiness and touring bike cargo capacity would be ideal for a two- or three-day swing around the villas, vineyards and hill towns of Chianti.

I started with a visit to Ducati’s Bologna factory and museum – fascinating for anyone with an interest in motorcycles and a bargain at $11 – then rode the Multi to the farmhouse where my wife, Julie, and I were staying with friends in the Mugello valley north of Florence.

For the next several days I enjoyed some of the best riding I’ve ever experienced.

WINE, FOOD, LA DOLCE VITA

It’s Italy and it’s summer, so the food, accommodations and sightseeing are splendid.

On a motorcycle tour through the Chianti region, I made side trips from my agriturismo lodging riding through north from the Val d’Elsa, inspecting the charming hilltop villages of Certaldo and Montecatini Alto.

I cruised through the narrow, winding streets early enough to catch the aroma of cafes and bakeries. The street markets were brimming with fresh apricots, nectarines, zucchini and their fiori di zucca blossoms. My wife, Julie, and I and our friends ate our fill of regional specialties such as pappardelle con cinghiale – wide pasta noodles in a sauce of wild boar.

We ate more than our fill of gelato, overindulging in the freshly made albicocca and a subtle, creamy vanilla-like concoction known as buontalenti.

The wine drinkers in our foursome were delighted by the Vernaccia, a local varietal long associated with San Gimignano. This dry white wine proved the favorite of the trip.

 

 

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