Sunday, August 13, 2017

Tuscan Wine Country

It was a Sunday, Giovanni had the day off so we left motorcycles and our childishness behind and took the other BMW, the car for a spin to Tuscany and the Montalcino area for a road trip. Classic country views, as you might imagine:
And some surprisingly arid ploughed fields as you can see, deep in a summer of drought: 
Tuscany is a much bigger region than my native Umbria which is little more than a single valley following the River Tiber toward Rome. Tuscany has room to spread out.
 Giovanni and Rossana were quite taken by the folds of the brown crusty fields.
 We took to dirt roads looking for our planned lunch spot. Even though we were visiting wine country we weren't wine tasting it turned out as the Italians in the party don't believe in such frivolous behavior. I promised my long suffering wife an unencumbered return visit:
They  grow  grapes and it seems to me they deserve to be tasted, but not this day.
 We got to the wrong winery by miscommunication and though the all woman winery was closed they left some art scattered around for us to admire:
The place was worth a visit and it was too bad it was closed.

Once we figured out our error, mixing up addresses in a notebook we pressed on to our correct lunch destination and the usual four course meal of appetizer, pasta, meat course and dessert.  
The old caterpillar tractor reminded me of my many misspent hours in my youth clanking up and down fields at all hours of the day and night turning over the soil using a machine like this which these days has mostly been superseded by more powerful machines with better rubber wheels than we had available 45 years ago:
 The wine we did taste with lunch was delicious...
And then we spread out for various walks, naps and newspapers as you do after a sociable Sunday meal.  Layne and I shared pasta:
 Lamb stew:
 And a cassata, an ice cream cake inside a meringue:
 And then to finish us off they brought a  plate of cookies, just because....
Your average light lunch...
I wandered off with my camera and spotted both classical...
 ...and contemporary, wondering where the bed and breakfast guests were on such a perfect swimming day:
 Rossana the gardener had her own agenda:
Back on the road Giovanni remarked that short pants really were quite comfortable, he had had no idea. He needs a little more American informality in his life.
Montalcino was the goal, it was time for coffee and an urban stroll. We found a fort:

WE walked the streets and looked at art and wine and brandy and stuff.
They are fully equipped with a  clock tower:
Montalcino is a  one more pretty Italian hill town.
And of course the white circle ringed in red means no cars.
It was all things considered quite the pleasant outing.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Vespa Post

My Vespa 150  fired right up when I got  home and I had to go for a sunny  test ride...
The black Vespa 200 was looking tired with wires hanging out while the back tire was flat... oh well my orange bombshell survived my vacation in good shape. Vespa riders in the US tend to be enthusiasts all fired up about the brand and so forth so there aren't too many in the population overall.  And they go to Italy on vacation where they figure everyone must be starring in their own movie and thus riding Vespas not boring Asian scooters. Not so, but there are more well cared for Vespas than you might think especially as they cost a lot more than the Asian daily riders. I took this picture in Orvieto last week noting the three wheeled Ape ("ah-pay") in the scooter spot. The 50cc runabout is a Piaggio product, built by the Vespa people and can be driven without a licence:
Of course if you look around you'll see classic and current Vespas everywhere, some loved some simply ridden:



Italians sometimes take off the inspection doors from the side of their Vespas. Fear of theft is the main reason though some claim ther bikes run cooler with extra air flow. I think it looks ugly:
 A color not seen in nature I saw on a 125cc in Siena. It is striking though I'm not sure I'd ride it:
 In Italy there are tax and insurance steps over 125cc so not many adults choose 150  variants of small motorcycles. On top of that 125cc motorcycles can be ridden at 16 years of age, making 150cc versions that much harder to sell.
A new model 125 cc proving they still buy these overbuilt metal bodied scooters.
Older two stroke Vespas in daily use alongside two other Piaggio scooters in one lot:
 These Ape 50s are stil popular workhorses. I think hey would do well in Key West's narrow lanes and alleys, the land of the over sized Ford F150:
 I watched this delivery PX125 buzzing back and forth transporting food through the streets of Bolsena while I was having lunch:
An orange 50cc Vespa reminding me of my first ride ever in 1970 bought for me by my mother:
 I hope it was just an overdue spark plug change, roadside in Terni:
Not your average Ducati, an electric postal delivery vehicle, with two seats and mail stacked on the passenger side: 
The  more usual sight is a letter carrier on a Piaggio Liberty 50 like this one seen in Terni from my terrace:
My buddy Giovanni with whom I have been riding for half a century is not a fan of small wheeled Vespas and he gets mad at me for taking an interest in them. However he will concede the 300 series is a serious ride.
He is very fond of the BMW  R1200RT which I rode and found to be as delightful as he suggested to me. I've always resisted these large touring bikes but it was a delight to ride, light and surprisingly nimble and exceedingly comfortable:
A nice bike a fairing-free example of which we followed through the vineyards of southern Tuscany in our car:
This was what's known as a "large body" modern Vespa which covers the 200,250 and 300 cc models:
 These are the 300cc Vespas we rented in Rome, smooth powerful rides:
 Startling in scarlet:
 This out of context picture I snapped in Istanbul just as a Vespa riding couple turned the corner:
I saw lots of early model four stroke Vespas, the ET series which like my 2004 march on looking almost new:
I paused on a street in Terni to illustrate a point. I was driving Giovanni's BMW that I borrowed for a couple of weeks and never quite got used to it's bulk though the 520D is no bigger than your average US driven sedan. Scooters make too much sense in Italian cities so it's no wonder most riders aren't enthusiasts but sensible  city dwellers:
 And parking enforcement is on the prowl always as this photo taken by my wife attests:
Scooter parking can be as marginal as you like:
 And there's lots of it:

 All Italian cities now have limited access zones (ZTL- zone of limited transit) from which scooters and motorcycles are usually exempt. The sign says "except authorized and emergency vehicles" and you'd have to check the board in the back to see it motorcycles are listed as prohibited, otherwise they can ride right in. That and lane splitting and filtering are huge advantages on two wheels.
 Quite aside from their natural good looks...
 ...ability to lend style to the most urbane locations...
 ...and be ready to go at a moment's notice, even if thirty years old and considered a classic: