2018.06.22 – 2018.07.04 / 5373 km

Italy 🇮🇹, Croatia 🇭🇷, Slovenia 🇸🇮, Bosnia Herzegovina 🇧🇦, Montenegro 🇲🇪, Kosovo 🇽🇰, Macedonia (FYROM) 🇲🇰, Bulgaria 🇧🇬, Romania 🇷🇴, Hungary 🇭🇺, Slovenia 🇸🇮, Switzerland🇨🇭, Italy 🇮🇹.

Abandoned the idea of the long trip to Siberia and also abandoned that of reaching Moscow due to organization, visa and related expectations, I decided to return to the Balkans. Now the preparation of the trip, for any destination is fast, the things to wear, clothing and everything else is already all in my mind, you just have to prepare the bike, decide the maximum route, think about the times and leave.

Itinerario – 5650 km
La Spezia, Montecreto, Bihac, Pluzine, Skopje, Idilevo, Shabla, Brasov, Makò, Keszthely, Ciginj, Bormio, Domodossola, La Spezia.

22 June 2018 – 130,7 km, first day
La Spezia – Montecreto

Motorcycle serviced, luggage carefully packed, itinerary installed on the navigator and new boots; all ready for the new adventure! Long tour in the Balkans to reach the Carpathians and back. Departure on the afternoon of Friday 22 June for Montecreto in order to save approximately 130 km on Saturday’s stage destination Bihac, Bosnia & Herzegovina.
I left at around 6.15pm, I did the Passo del Vestito and the Passo delle Radici, and at 8.30pm I was at home in Montecreto. To bed early!

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23 June 2018 – 658 km, second day
Montecreto – Bihac

Approach stopper. Departure at 06:45 so, between the time and the altitude (850 m above sea level) it was really cool! All state road up to Ferrara, then motorway and fast track up to Trieste. In Basovizza, just before the border with Slovenia, a bucolic eating stop with ciabatta and emmental, missing Gian’s focaccia! I entered Croatia on the road that runs along the sea, breathtaking views but then the interrupted road forced me to face hectic traffic almost up to Klenovica, then from Segna towards the interior the traffic disappeared and after a beautiful climb I slipped into a small road that took me back to Otocac, where I stopped to sleep in 2015. After that, a road with beautiful curves up to the border with Bosnia & Herzegovina. Bihac where I booked the hotel is about fifteen km further. Motel Kamenica not bad, all new, with restaurant and service station attached, with 32 + 5 euros room with breakfast and dinner included! Goodnight!

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24 June 2018 – 430 km, third day
Bihac – Pluzine

At around 8am departure, bad start, I forgot the disc lock, but no problem! Crossing the various towns and long, and very beautiful, stretches without houses, just a few houses lost in the hills, every now and then a shepherd with his flock and dogs barking to keep them at bay. Excellent roads, very kind people, I stopped to rest in a meadow and people in a house not far away were reaching out to invite me to their place, I didn’t have time, but it would have been nice to stop. However the same route taken in 2015 to go to Odessa. The part of Bosnia that borders Montenegro is not Bosnia, but, even if not yet recognized by the UN, it is the Serbian Republic, and the last tens of kilometers before the border, the road is terrible, then once you enter Montenegro it becomes Good. I arrived in Pluzine at Guesthouse Zvono quite early. Good steak with great music, always a nice environment. Poor WI-FI in the room. To bed early.

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25 June 2018 – 439 km, fourth day
Pluzine – Skopje

What a day! Durmitor National Park is beautiful! Breakfast at 8, because there isn’t any before, then off to Zabljak with a steep climb where at every exit from the tunnels dug into the rock a new surprising panorama appears before your eyes. And then up, from 600 m you go up to 1900 m above sea level. The spectacle is guaranteed, green hills and country flowers of all colours, blue skies, blue lakes, cows and sheep grazing with their shepherds (with the smartphone however, no longer with the cheese in hand). And magnificent roads with continuous ups and downs, truly unforgettable. Returning to civilization, so to speak, on a normal two-lane road, one almost feels disoriented, after a few dozen kilometers I took another small road towards Kolasin, which needed to be redone, absolute silence, non-existent traffic. In short, up to the border with Kosovo, passing through Dacici, all sometimes challenging roads lost in the most isolated countryside of Montenegro. After crossing the border where they were very kind, I got insurance – 10 euros – because the green card doesn’t cover Kosovo, a steep descent immediately begins from 1700 m down to 250 m above sea level. It’s no wonder, towns one after another, the people always seem a bit the same as in the other Balkan countries, in the last tens of kilometers before the border with Macedonia they are building the motorway so a lot of workers at work, trucks back and forth, in short, they dream of Western traffic, but they get busy! Groups of children at the border looking for money. Unfortunately arriving in Skopje in the rain, the city doesn’t look bad. Found the Hotel Orange Inn, 35 euros with breakfast and garage for the motorbike. In the evening I ate a sandwich in a take-away in front of the hotel. And to bed early! What a day, how many beautiful things I saw, what a day!

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26 June 2018 – 430 km, Fifth day
Skopje – Idilevo

Not the best day! In the sense that I expected rain at any moment and fortunately it only arrived for the last 90 km or so. Regardless of the rain, once out of Skopje the road has never been beautiful, in the sense that it is almost a motorway but only a few sections with two carriageways and the view on the sides is never engaging, let’s say a bit monotonous countryside. I arrived at MotoCamp quite early, around 5pm, Polly welcomed me; the place is very nice, very bucolic, then with the rain it reminded me of when, as a child, it rained and we started reading newspapers with the sound of the rain in the background. Poor Wi-Fi, it doesn’t work from the room, shortly after a retired English couple in their sixties arrived who came to live in Bulgaria. Her name is Gina, I don’t remember him, but he was nice and we talked for a while, then a tall, big German man arrived from NoviSad with the KTM 1290 ADV who I think is called Sasha, and then another German came down. from his room: Andreas, who teaches enduro riding, so in the refreshment house we found ourselves together talking about this and that as if we had known each other forever! To bed early!

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27 June 2018 – 366 km, sixth day
Idilevo – Shabla

Wake up around 7am then wash, breakfast, luggage and goodbyes (at MotoCamp for the room, a simple dinner and breakfast I spent 16.75 euros!). To avoid the sure rain I changed itinerary, instead of going north towards Sibiu, I went east to Krapets, to touch the Black Sea, as suggested by Andreas; apart from a few sporadic drops I succeeded. About a hundred km before arriving I was hit on the helmet by a bird, not even that small, it miscalculated its coordinates and unfortunately met a bad end! Luckily I had my visor down, it could have been a very serious accident! The Black Sea is not a wonder for those used to the Ligurian Sea, but it has its own atmosphere, I arrived in Krapets hungry around 2.15pm and went to a restaurant with a terrace overlooking the sea like they used to be in Italy, the simple ones , like the ones that show Montalbano frequents in Sicily. The food is not bad, the aubergines in sauce are good and the seafood risotto (with flaked cheese on top) is also quite good. I found a B&B in the nearby town: Shabla, 20 euros, with motorbikes in the garden. Now I have to plan the new itinerary!

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28 June 2018 – 450 km, seventh day
Shabla – Brasov

They gave a high probability of rain already at the time of departure, but at 8:15 there was no rain, after a few kilometers I crossed the border and entered Romania. I avoided Constanta and took the grandiose and semi-deserted highway that leads to Bucharest, always expecting rain at any moment but instead I spent almost 280 km in the dry before all hell broke loose. I had time to stop under an overpass to dress more carefully for the rain and then set off along the road that begins to climb towards Busteni and then descends towards Brasov; done without rain shouldn’t be bad. Arriving on the outskirts of the city I spotted Casa Anemyra (20 euros) where I arrived soaked, the owner first turned on the heating for me to dry my clothes and various accessories and then gave me a hairdryer which I patiently used to dry the most boring. I went to dinner at a nearby restaurant “everything was great” and the food wasn’t bad. Back in the room to plan for tomorrow trying to avoid the rain, without too many illusions. In the end I decided to give up on the Ukrainian Carpathians and head towards Hungary where the disturbances seem to be moving far away.

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29 June 2018 – 532 km, eighth day
Brasov – Makò

No breakfast, left in the rain and arrived in the rain! Leaving Brasov the road winds through the beautiful green hills, arriving in Fagaras a short stop to buy bread and cheese at a Lidl, then off in the rain to Sibiu where the motorway begins, boring and always semi-deserted, but at least you can get there relax. Apart from a window of about 20 minutes 60 km from the finish which surprised me because I thought it was over and I had recently taken off my overtrousers – also because at the start, with the rain, it was 15°C and it had stopped raining the temperature quickly rose to 30°C – and instead 8/9 kilometers away a sudden and very strong storm broke out, there was no possibility of shelter so given the strong wind I stopped to wait for it to ease, I set off again and after a moment it exploded again so I stopped under the roof of a petrol station on the outskirts of Makó. When I arrived at the guesthouse they gave me a nice room with a radiator to repeat the drying. Dinner and bed. From tomorrow the weather should improve and it should stop raining!

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30 June 2018 – 347 km, ninth day
Makò – Keszthely

Finally the Sun immediately, hot eh!, but that’s okay. After a substantial breakfast away from Makó through the somewhat monotonous roads of Hungary, today’s journey took place at an altitude between 65 and 214 m above sea level, I said it all: flat. Even the views are repetitive, huge fields of corn, huge fields of sunflowers and huge fields of wheat, freshly harvested. To break the monotony, a bee got inside my helmet and stung me on the lip, I stopped immediately and pressed to release the poisonous serum, it swelled a little. About a hundred kilometers from the destination I tagged along with two Hungarian guys, one with a KTM 1090 and the other with a single-cylinder BMW F650 GS, we did about fifty km together and then we said goodbye! Arriving in Hévíz at the Arina Villa (25 euros, excellent) I took possession of the room and after a refreshment break I started to wash the motorbike since the owner very kindly also gave me the hose to do so. Now I’m going out and looking for a restaurant. Found! Her name is Teri – Mama, let’s see how it ends, I got ramp-steak with onion rings! Very good.

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01 July 2018 – 365 km, tenth day
Keszthely – Ciginj

After a nice coffee offered by the Russian, the owner of the guesthouse, off to applause! Perfect climate, sun and temperature around 17°C, after about twenty km on perfect roads, I changed strategy, away from the highways and since there are only a few km to travel, around 350, I go and look for the small roads. And I find them beautiful, I pass through the towns lost in the countryside, then here is the border with Slovenia, the architecture of the houses and the streets change a little, still beautiful, but a little more relaxed, they seem like a a little narrower. The countryside is similar, but the size of the plantations appears smaller. Here too the altitude does not rise, but a little more curves, up and down the hills. I stopped in a small village at the Mercator supermarket to buy bread, cheese and two peaches, so as soon as I find a place I stop, relax and eat. Then I continue up and down the hills, between cultivated fields and woods with “deer crossing” signs until around 12 I find a space with a table and benches, very nice, and I stop. Along the road, at some crossroads there are crucifixes with Jesus and below, a smaller statue of the Madonna, flowers on the ground, perhaps propitiatory for the success of sowing in the fields, some seem very ancient and worn by time. I arrived in Tolmin around 5pm, the Guesthouse Sobe Silva was nice, very kind, ate a first course in the nearby pizzeria. Good Wi-Fi. Good night!!!

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02 July 2018 – 489 km, eleventh day
Ciginj – Bormio

The day begins with a good breakfast, then I say goodbye to Mrs. Silvana and leave. Log Pod Mangartom is not far away, only about fifty kilometers, I would like to say hello to Riccardo Aldegheri who I met in 2015 upon returning from the trip to Odessa and who gave me directions for the trip to Iran. He offered me coffee, made with mocha, and we talked a little about our motorcycle travels, about borders and boundaries, our favorite topic. Then I get back on the road following Franco’s (Cozzani) suggestion to take the Zancolan Pass which has an impressive gradient, think about doing it by bicycle!! I set out to sleep in Bormio and the road is still long, in Cortina d’Ampezzo I refuel and set off on the splendid Giau Pass, green meadows and majestic mountains, for me one of the most beautiful, both in terms of road and views. The descent towards Bolzano and the highway towards Merano and even higher, at the foot of the Stelvio Pass, are tiring and monotonous, also because the temperature has risen significantly, but finally in the best hour, when the traffic is non-existent and the road is all mine and a couple of Chinese tourists with a rented Mini, I cover the highest pass in Europe, 2757 m above sea level. The feeling of freedom and that of being part of nature is inebriating, hairpin bend after hairpin bend higher and higher, a few drops of rain only stimulate me to open the throttle and make me hear the roar of the engine inside my helmet. From the summit the steep descent towards Bormio and the longed-for rest is short, about 25 km still disturbed by a few drops of rain and finally I arrive in Valfurva, at the Hotel Rododendri, 60 euros including dinner and breakfast, we are in the West, the prices of the ‘Est are finished.

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03 July 2018 – 396 km, twelfth day
Bormio – Domodossola

When we wake up the sun is shining, despite the variable forecast the day seems very beautiful. The kilometers to be covered are not very many, but they must be covered in Switzerland, therefore with great attention to the speed limits and consequent attention threshold tension. Finally I’m climbing the Foscagno Pass and then going down to Livigno where I fill up with petrol at around 1 euro per litre, but immediately we go up again towards the Forcola di Livigno and again, very close by, the Bernina Pass. Then we descend to around 1650 m above sea level and then climb back up towards the Albula Pass at 2260 m above sea level, shortly after the pass I stop to rest and eat some bread and Emmental, around me the silence of the mountain is interrupted only from the distant sound of a motorbike going. On the road again, I had been curious about the Furka Pass, one of the highest in Switzerland, for a long time, so after having also covered the Oberalppass, here I am on the summit of the Furka! Having returned to low altitude I have the unpleasant surprise of having to face a strong storm, I stopped at a service station to dress carefully and I meet a group of four Harley Davidsons of couples from Palermo headed to a gathering in Prague, we say goodbye and off we go, each one on his way, amidst lightning and thunder. As soon as I pass Brig I stop to rest, I haven’t done many kilometers but I’m tired, I lie down on a lawn to recover my energy. All I have to do is go down to Italy with the Simplon Pass, the one in Corso Sempione in Milan, which I have always wondered where the “Sempione” was. Arrival in Domodossola at the Hotel Europa, frequented by truck drivers, 60 euros including dinner. To bed early!

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04 July 2018 – 399 km, thirteenth day
Domodossola – La Spezia

For the last day of the trip I decided to do all the back roads and take it easy. I have about 400 kilometers ahead of me, most of which in an area unknown to me and a whole beautiful day to cover them. After a good breakfast at the hotel, departure around 8:30 on the state road that runs along Lake Orta, to the west of Lake Maggiore, I pass Borgomanero and find myself following the Valle del Ticino Natural Park up to Pavia. From the area of San Leonardo across the Pò with a large metal bridge, slightly abandoned, on which the writing stands out: “By Providence of the State Risen from the damage of war, the year MDCCCCL”, the year of my birth . Little by little I continue on small provincial roads crossing the high hills of the Oltrepò Pavese; I meet a cyclist with his bike on the ground who, like me, was struck by a group of white cows grazing on the hill and wants to photograph them and on his indication I stop to eat in a restaurant near Ruino, then I continue towards Bobbio where at the seeing the ancient bridge I feel at home. I’d like to meet friends so I send a message to the Bikers 5 Terre whatsapp group to see if anyone, free from commitments, wants to meet me and spend a bit together, the only one who can is Gian Ruello, so we decide to meet at the usual bar in San Pietro Vara. I climb at a fast pace to Santo Stefano d’Aveto and with the familiar Tomarlo Pass I approach Bedonia and then the Centocroci Pass. Handshakes and hugs with Gian, a coke together and then off we go, each on his own path, the last curves of the Foce take me home.

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