With only a day left to utilize my borrowed E-Glide heat machine, I wanted to stay rather close to the water. I headed north from Marina di Carrara at the northern border of Tuscany and into Liguria, which has many tranquil seaside locales to visit.
The most well-known tourist destination is the Cinque Terre (Five Lands). Over centuries, residents of these five villages have built terraces on the rugged cliffs overlooking the sea, and is part of the Cinque Terre National Park. Part of the charm is that they’re connected by walking trail and not accessible by car, only reachable by boats and trains from La Spezia.
Instead of parking the bike and boarding a train or vessel, I opted to pass through La Spezia to the headlands where the postcard-worthy seaside fishing village of Porto Venere is located.
The quaint streets and bay front views offer many options to relax, enjoy an aperitivo (drink and light appetizer) or local seafood like polpo (octopus) and take in the ancient port dating back to the first century BC. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, Porto Venere was the base of the Byzantine fleet, but was destroyed by the Lombards in 643 AD. It’s intriguing to me to sit here and ponder what life was like in these various periods of human history.
Before heading back south to Tuscany, I stopped in Lerici, another idyllic seaside village with origins dating back to Etruscan times. The famous Lerici castle, founded in 1152, sits on a promontory and helped control the entrance to the Gulf of La Spezia. More recently, Lerici has been knick-named as the Bay of Poets, as English poet Shelley resided here in the early 1800’s.
The relaxing day in these quaint seaside villages was the perfect primer for the beach party that Marco Cinquini had invited us to that evening. It was time to return the CVO Electra-Glide he so graciously loaned us, so mia moglie (my wife) and I headed south to Viarregio. Marco invited all of his friends and Garage 65 riding buddies for an authentic pig roast on the beach. The festive meal included trimmings such as salsiccia cruda (raw sausage). The term “When in Rome” couldn’t be more apropos, so I chewed a few bites and washed it down with plenty of birra Moretti.
The evening included much conversation about dreams of riding a Harley across the USA, and inquisitive questions about rallies like Sturgis and biker life in America. Making new friends like Federico, who speaks excellent English— and enjoying the camaraderie between these like-minded folk— didn’t always require knowing the same language. The non-verbal brotherhood of bikers around this planet, is a united bond that crosses boundaries. And never has it been more apparent to me, that bikers are iron-clad souls, the true knights in this modern day.
My two-wheeled touring of northern Tuscany certainly gave me a new perspective, and reminder, that we should ‘work to live’ like Italians do, not ‘live to work’ as most Americans do.
La bella vita. Arrivederci Italia.
Flights to Florence or Pisa with connections in Europe
- Smart phone for GPS & Google Translate
- Avoid August
H-D Rentals: Harley-Davidson Firenze (HDSpeedshop.com)
Itinerary and accommodations (DomaniTours.com)
Vowing to return someday for an Italian bike rally, I came back to Italy in January 2012 to visit the Motor Bike Expo in Verona. Although this is an indoor expo and not a rally during riding season, I was impressed at the scale of the show, which attracts 130,000 attendees over a weekend! The large presence of American customs, Italian builders, and celebrities like The Ness’s and Jesse James, made this the most popular area of the show. The appreciation for H-D and American-style customs is not only alive and well in Italy, but thriving.