The Italian Job 1

On the evening of Wednesday 1st June a motley crowd gathered in Barbara Avenue. Dave Smith (Commando 850), Dave Scrivens (Bonneville), Phil Freestone (Laverda 750), Chris and myself on our BMW 900.

A brisk ride down to Felixtowe followed and being the first day of the raised speed limits we arrived at the boat docks early. We repaired to the local hostelry where we downed a local jubilee brew for an hour or more.

On board the ferry we found our cabins and settled down for the night. In the morning we found a long queue for breakfast, to which Chris and I attached ourselves. After a long wait we got to the front, whereupon Chris felt seasick and I had to escort her onto the deck. By the time I got back to the queue it was twice as long and the boat was docking.

Out of the docks and into Belgium. It did seem strange to ride on the right all the time. The weather was very cold and along the motorways there seemed an abundance of cops. Two on most bridges looking down on us through binoculars and the speed cops were riding old BMWs or driving Porches. We really had to keep awake and look left before overtaking because some of the drivers were doing about 120mph and would not slow down. In fact they mounted the central reservation to pass!

Entering Germany we had our passports examined. Apart from Britain no other country seems to care about passports which was a shame because it took some time to get them out in case. Near Karlsruhre we stopped for lunch. The others had sandwiches and a huge apple pie. We made do with chocolate.

We carried on towards Switzerland and the countryside got more attractive. Now Chris's seasickness pills began to work - she kept falling asleep and crashing into me which was fortunate really as it kept my mind off food.

The Swiss houses we passed were really beautiful, great affairs with stabling downstairs and living accomodation upstairs. At Lucerne we pitched camp at the Lido. Chris and I walked into town looking for food but it was so late (9pm) that everywhere was shut! A waiter at one lakeside restaurant would have served us but the cook said it was too late. So we had six croisants between us and a small Coke at the local coffee bar. Over 90p each just for the Coke!

In the morning we rode over the St Gothards Pass. It was like an ice box up there and a local told us it had only been cleared of snow at 8 that morning after weeks of snow. It was about 12ft high at the sides of the road and we stopped to look and throw snowballs.

Down the other side it gradually became more Italian until we came to the border near Lake Como. We decided to camp near by as the going was much harder in Italy.

A lorry driver showed us a site with much arm waving and horn blowing. (if in doubt in Italy, sound a very loud horn!). We investigated the site and found the loos where "bomb aimers". You don't know how beautiful it can be to sit down at times.

In the local town of Lecco we found a trattoria and had a wonderful meal of spaghetti and vino, while the locals ate lobsters which a few minutes earlier had been nipping the waiters in the dining room. Back at the bikes we were accosted by two English girls who wanted company. They must have thought we were queer when we left them five minutes later to get some sleep.

In the morning we were woken by the local train service. They also have very loud horns. And swans taking off and landing ten yards away are pretty noisy too.

We rode down the autostradas to Sottomarina, a suburb of Chioggia (just south of Venice on the Adriatic). Most Italians have very small Fiats because petrol is twice our price at least. There are also tolls on the autostradas so count yourselves lucky in Britain, with the cheapest petrol and oil in Europe.

Everywhere there were mopeds (with horns), mainly two-up or three-up. No-one wore helmets and everything up to about a 175 scooter was exempt from number plates or driving licence or tax.

The police rode Guzzi horizontal gutless singles, and the local tearaways had Laverdas with proddy race exhausts.

In Sottomarina we pitched at Camping Adriatica in hot sunlight. I tested my Italian in the camp shop and a litre of ice cold vino for 35p! Just over the road was the beach, though the sea looked filthy.

In the site there were plenty of bamboo shades to camp under and park the bikes under. There was also a covered bit of yard with chairs and tables - the 'restaurant' where we had some nice seals of spaghetti and Misto Peche (mixed fried fish and squid). We found it cheaper to eat out in Italy than cook, so we did. Beautiful food and wine no tummy trouble at all. While we were eating, Dave Smith was recounting his cooking and mentioned spices & peppers. The waitress came over with a plate of green things on cocktail sticks. .She grinned as she handed them round! One bite and our mouths were burning! Chillies! Rather than look silly we ate the lot and she brought more. Her mate stuck her head out to watch us and went back in laughing. There's a moral there somewhere.

The small amount of rain was arranged for night time as were the church bells! As the days went by the place got cleaner ready for the tourist season. The beach was cleaned and we had a swim in a clean sea.

Continued in the next thrilling issue...


Pete Vines