Me and a couple of mates (RSV Mille & Fazer 600) had a trip to Italy and France recently - we went out on 27 May, riding to Paris to put our bikes on the Autotrain at Bercy station, then getting our sleeper down to Nice from Austerlitz Station. It worked well - although leaving the bikes and going off to another station worried us at first but it was fine.
If anyone’s thinking about doing the same, one absolutely vital thing is to book a first class couchette (they sleep four people). Because we booked late we had to go down to Nice in second class - in a six berth couchette which I really advise against! The return journey was in the four berth couchette and I can’t tell how much difference it made. Just take my word for it. Really.
Anyway, you go to sleep as you leave Paris... and 11 hours later you wake up in the South of France, refreshed, rested and ready to go - well, something like that. It would have helped if there had been running water on the train, but, hey… you can’t have everything.
After breakfast in Nice we picked the bikes up from the station and rode along the coast road through Monaco to Menton and joined the Autostrada there for a blast along to Pegli (Genoa) for Thursday night’s stop (Airbnb). The coast road was hot and busy, but probably worth it for the short journey that it was. Italian motorways are great - mostly two lane with some great bends and tunnels - I really enjoyed most of them. After Genoa we headed on to Florence for four nights - to a great apartment in Coverciano (Airbnb again). Saturday was a bit of a rest day - just a quick blast down to Siena for some sightseeing and a walk around Florence at night for more sightseeing.
Sunday was what we’d come for, though - a short early morning ride through some beautiful countryside to the track at Mugello to watch Valentino Rossi at his home MotoGP. This was a new experience for me and the only way I can describe it is to imagine going to Wembley to watch the Cup Final, but you’re riding the Crosstourer up Wembley Way through the crowds to get in and park before finding your seat! Absolutely mad (in that great, Italian way).
Another piece of advice now - a grandstand seat is worth the extra cost. We were in the Poggio Secco stand and it was worth every Euro. A fantastic race and experience but if you go and park inside the track, just don’t try and leave for a few hours - we tried and shouldn’t have bothered. Get the beers in and wait in the shade.
So where are we now..? ah yes, Monday - and a trip to the Ducati Museum in Bologna… up the entertaining Autostrada then back across country, getting lost even though I have sat nav on the phone. I’m not convinced the museum was worth a visit - and, of course, if you’re not riding a Ducati you don’t get to park in the huge car park out front - you’re leaving your bike outside on the street, compagno. There were a lot of Ducati riders there and it was a spiritual experience for them… if not for me (speaking as an ex Ducati owner).
Tuesday was another Autostrada blast, this time back past Genoa and up towards the Maritime Alps. I’ve got to mention the Autostrada again. It’s great - up in the air for a lot of the time, high above the coast, through lots of tunnels around Genoa, then turn right at Savona towards Cuneo for a couple of nights. And if the traffic backs up on the Autostrada just follow the locals - keep going, swing onto the hard shoulder with hazard lights on and get past the traffic. Just keep a look out behind for Ducatis coming up at warp speed to overtake.
Wednesday was the best riding day of the whole trip, up in the Alps. About 150 miles in 7 hours and it went like this - Cuneo - Vinadio - Larche - Jausiers - Col de la Bonette - Isola - Isola 2000 - Col de la Lombarde - Vinadio - Cuneo.
It was an amazing day. There was very little traffic as it was early June - but we did get caught in a massive thunderstorm coming down off the Col de la Bonette - the first rain of the whole trip. The road down the mountain suddenly turned into a river and that certainly slowed us down. In the end we spent half an hour sheltering under a balcony in the valley at Saint-Étienne-de-Tinée.
Thursday was the ride back to Nice after a quiet morning in Cuneo - through the tunnel under the Col de Tende and then follow the river (La Roya) down the gorge on the E74. Again, a great ride, with dramatic rock overhangs above the road but a bit more traffic here that was a starting to get to be a bit of a pain. We got onto the Autostrada at Ventimiglia, then it was straight along the coast to Nice - another wonderful piece of motorway built up in the sky.
It was much easier to leave the bikes this time, knowing they’d be well looked after and as I said earlier the four berth couchette is definitely the way to go. It’s essential. Trust me.
Friday morning was Paris again and pick the bikes up, then Calais and back home (south west London) in the evening. After getting out of Paris that morning I’ll never complain about London traffic again.
All in all, an absolutely amazing 10 days and the Crosstourer was great up and down the Alps (in manual) - it was maybe a bit lardy for the Col de la Lombarde but I never said that, right? It was also running a bit rough with the altitude at the top of the mountains and I had a bit trouble with my clutches that meant slow town riding was a pain, but there wasn’t much of that to do anyway. A software reset seems to have sorted them out now.
I only saw one other Crosstourer the whole time (and they looked as surprised as me), but you couldn’t move for GSs. There were a lot of Multistradas about as well and of course the Yamaha T Max was everywhere - in all the towns, coming down the mountains, speeding past us on the Autostrada…