North to south, here are a few favourite Italian roads to travel on two wheels, and key places to stop for a fine meal en route.
Vipiteno to San Candido, South Tyrol
Valle Isarco, traversed by the Via del Brennero, is a destination that many bikers love. Vipiteno is a village surrounded by stunning alpine landscapes and with a medieval city centre whose web of narrow cobbled alleys hosts family-run artisan shops. The road from Vipiteno crosses the southern portion of the Isarco Valley, in whose widest part vineyards and fruit trees slowly give room to immense chestnut forests that climb up the slopes of the mountains. Leaving state road SS12 bikers can turn east on SS49 all the way to San Candido, passing through towns like Valdaora di Mezzo and Dobbiaco. The perfect reward for all the kilometres chewed up is a plate of pressknödelor a slice of strudel, and a glass of chilled bubbles at Hotel Posta in San Candido. Fresh mountain air, fragrant pastures, bright sun and 4-star treatment. What more can one ask for?
Langhe, vineyards and truffle treasures
On the way from the city of Cuneo to Alessandria, centaurs can enjoy riding through the Langhe, one of Italy's most stunning rural environments, recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. On the way, passing through the towns of Mondovì, Carrù, Dogliani, Neive, Barbaresco and Treiso rolling hills are carpeted in vineyards and are the birthplace of world-known wines, and roads with gentle curves and smooth road surface carve through perfectly preserved small villages that offer panoramic views overlooking these wonderful valleys. The best place to hike your motorcycle on the prop stand for a tasty pit stop is certainly La Terrazza da Renza in the town of Castiglione Falletto. This is an ideal lunch time destination with the best vineyard-facing terrace in the Langhe. Meals are served family-style and depending on what’s available that day, the friendly staff will bring plates of local specialties and fill your glass with locally produced wine. Choose among the area’s notable four wines produced in the Langhe: Barbera d’Alba, Barbaresco, Dolcetto d’Alba and Moscato d’Asti.
Val Taleggio switchbacks
In the lower Alps, along the highways that sail across breathtaking views of Val Taleggio, Val Imagna and Valcava, bikers can enjoy the beauty of the Alpine landscape on their two wheels riding on Lombardy’s most curvaceous road. This toboggan-like route lends 360° views and gorgeous panoramic vistas. Point your compass north and hit the strada provinciale SP36, you’ll be passing the towns of Osnago, Cernusco Lombardone, Merate. After 1 Km past Airuno bear left and enter the splendid Valle Imagna, an extremely beautiful valley wedged between forest-covered mountains that excite expert and beginner riders alike. Past Favirano and Torre de' Busi bikers come across a long series of breathtaking hairpin bends that will make even the most expert right wrists sore from working the throttle. The last of this first series of hairpin curves is Valcava. Do not miss the lookout point at 1,350 meters above sea level overlooking the entire Padana plain, and looking over your shoulder, you’ll admire the crown peaks of the Alps. Catch your breath and pack some calories cooked express by chef Petronilla Frosio at Ristorante Posta Sant’Omobono Terme, a thermal spa town located on motorway SP21, not far from the south-eastern branch of Lake Como. Order polenta with morel mushrooms and braised beef cheek, washed down with the region’s best Franciacorta. Not to worry, the restaurant has cosy rooms upstairs if a quick snooze before hitting the tarmac is needed.
Two-wheel gallivanting in Tuscany
Not far from Florence and the northern Tuscan border with Emilia-Romagna, Passo della Colla di Casaglia is an Apennine mountain pass connecting the Sieve valley with the Lamone valley: a treasure trove of hairpin bends, sharp ascents and mountain switchbacks. Borgo San Lorenzo, in the province of Florence, is a village located at 913 metres above sea level elevation, along the former highway SS302. The best pit stop in the area is affordable and informal Locanda della Colla, where bikers and meat lovers congregate for the mighty mixed grill and oven-roasted potatoes the place is famous for. Sated and satiated, you can leave the main road and explore the surrounding hills, ready for more two-wheel adventure on country roads.
Abruzzo, biker’s paradise
Passing through high altitude mountain landscapes on roads wedged among forests and medieval villages marked by centuries-old history, curves and switchbacks zigzag in the shadow of the Gran Sasso massif, cutting through the Campo Imperatore plain, 70 km from L’Aquila. Welcome to Abruzzo, a true heaven for motorcyclists. A popular pit stop for two-wheels (and not only!) in this area is Ristoro Mucciante, a small butcher in the Aquila province, not far from the hilltop village of Castel del Monte that sells and serves its prized lamb and pork cuts on the grills scattered on the outside deck area. The house specialty is arrosticini, habit forming fire-grilled lamb skewers which locals order by the dozen and that come served with jugs of house wine and slices of crusty home-style bread. In addition, customers can enjoy grilled pancetta, steaks and sausages, plus all manner of cured meats and sheep’s milk cheeses produced at small local farms. Seating is spartan at outside camping tables, but the 360° view at 1,530-metre elevation definitely makes up for it.
Amalfi Coast, biker’s delight
Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site,the Amalfi Coast is a 50-kilometer stretch of coastline along the southern edge of Italy’s Sorrento Peninsula, 40 Km south of Naples. It’s a popular holiday destination, with sheer cliffs and a rugged shoreline dotted with small beaches and pastel-coloured fishing villages. The coastal SP163 motorway between the clifftop town of Sorrento and the port city of Salerno winds in undulant hairpins and switchbacks past grand villas, terraced vineyards and lemon groves.Perched high above the crystal blue waters of Positano – the gem town of the Amalfi Drive – is farmhouse restaurant La Terra. The organic restaurant in the village of Montepertuso 6 km above Positano will welcome motorcyclists with their own home-grown produce and fresh catch of the day. Don’t miss the homemade gnocchi.
Trulli and turnpikes in Puglia
Heading south from Bari, even the less accustomed bikers will enjoy travelling along the coast to Salento, the southernmost tip of the boot. On the way centaurs will pass picturesque seaside resorts such as Polignano a Mare, Monopoli, Torre Canne and Ostuni. Continuing along the coast along to the Valle d'Itria, country or coastal roads finally reach Salento, land of trabucchi fishing machines on stilts and generous sea, but also of meat-based cuisine. Gourmets riders can stop at one of the many historic Apulian "fornelli pronti" along the way, a centuries old tradition. In this part of the Bel Paese, butchers are not just butchers, but also eateries. The meat is grilled express and served at tables set on the sidewalk outside the shop, or in small rooms created in the butcher's back room. These particular butcher shops are locally known as fornelli pronti, or ready ovens. The meats are grilled in typical wood-burning bread ovens. The cooking is with indirect heat and the meat is skewered on long spits placed at 45° on the opposite side where the coals are burning; in this way the taste of the meat is not altered by the fat that would drip on the embers, creating smoke. South of Bari in Valenzano, a few kilometres from the sea, is Braceria da Mimmo, which is famous for its gnummareddi offal specialty, and bombette: thin breaded slices of veal or pork stuffed with caciocavallo, which must be mandatorily eaten with your hands. Can you imagine what happens during grilling to the caciocavallo filling?
Vineyards and awareness in the countryside of Palermo
Wine production in Sicilian vineland confiscated from the Mafia sheds a glimmer of hope for the island’s economy and for the dignity of its hard-working people. In particular, this is owed to the Centopassi label. Centopassi is the Sicilian winemaking arm of the Libera Terra brand created in 2002 by two local social co-ops that use land confiscated from the Mafia to grow a variety of products, including wine. Their flourishing vineyards located 20 km from Palermo cover 230 acres between the city outskirts and the town of Corleone.
A good pit stop is Agriturismo Portella della Ginestra in Piana degli Albanesi, a plain situated among the hills and meadows of the Jato Valley named after the eponymous massacre: one of the most violent acts in the history of modern Italian politics, when 11 people were killed and 27 wounded by the mafia during May Day celebrations in the Portella della Ginestra meadows in 1947. The 17th century refurbished farmhouse serves simple, delicious and organic dishes (don’t miss their caponata). Like the wine, the entire range of organic products used in the kitchen, such as homemade pasta, legumes, extra-virgin olive oil, canned goods and sauces come from Libera Terra territory.
by Eleonora Baldwin
Post Hotel | San Candido (BZ) | Benediktiner Str. 10/C39038 | Tel. +39 0474913133 | www.posthotel.it
Bottega dei Quattro Vini | Neive (CN) | piazza Italia 2 | Tel. +39 0173 677195 | www.bottegadei4vini.com
La Terrazza da Renza | Castiglione Falletto (CN) | via Vittorio Emanuele 6 | Tel. +39 017362909 | www.laterrazzadirenza.it
Ristorante Posta | Sant’Omobono Terme (BG) | via Vittorio Veneto 169 | Tel. +39 035851134 | www.frosioristoranti.it
Locanda della Colla | Borgo San Lorenzo (FI) | via Faentina 69 | Tel. +39 0558405013 | www.locandadellacolla.it
Ristoro Mucciante | Castel del Monte (AQ) | Loc. Fonte Vetica | Tel. +39 3398855751
La Terra | Positano (SA) | via Tagliata 14 | Tel. 089811179 | www.ristorantelaterra.com
Braceria da Mimmo | Valenzano (BA) | via Piave 70 | Tel. +39 0802371376 |www.braceriadamimmo.it
Agriturismo Portella della Ginestra | Piana degli Albanesi (PA) | Contrada Ginestra SP34, Km 5 | Tel. +39 0918574810 | www.agriturismoportelladellaginestra.it