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Riding Vespa through Tuscany.

My wife and I recently took a 5 week holiday in Italy. Having both been to Italy before we wanted to start the trip with something neither of us had done before. We had a friend suggest a villa for us in Tuscany. Being Vespa fans we decided that we would rent Vespas in Florence and ride around the region.

Florence is very much the capital of the Tuscany region of Italy but it is also home to some amazing art. The statue of David is in Florence, and there is more art and beautiful churches there. We had rented from H.P. Motorrad who is a partner with New Tuscany Scooter Rental. When we went to pick up our scooters there was a slight mix up. It was quickly sorted out and the staff was very helpful. We got two red Vespa Primavera 125’s. Happy enough, we started our 3 hour ride with all of our luggage. We knew we would be taking our stuff on scooter so we packed light. Just two large backpacks and our helmet bags. Both scooters came with a top case for extra storage. I had taken the precaution of printing out directions just in case GPS navigation or our headsets didn’t work for some reason. It actually looked pretty complicated, but the truth was that, for the most part, was a straight shot from

Florence to Buonconvento. All of our gear worked pretty well. One directional problem we ran into is that the Google Maps would give the name of the road to turn on and the signs really only told you the town in the direction you were going. It was easy enough to adjust to this. The other navigational problem we ran into was that when in a roundabout Google Maps would say take the third exit, but then we would take what we thought was the third exit and it would be wrong. In Siena we actually ended up in the same round about 4 times before we figured it out.

We stopped in Sanbuca for lunch. Not to be confused with Sambuca the popular anise-flavoured liquor. As we came down the hill into the main part of town we spotted a place that had outdoor seating and a menu on the building. This was as good as anything. We got off our bikes, took off all our gear and sat down. Though just south of Florence its was pretty clear these folks didn’t really speak any english. Luckily my wife went to college in Venice. We ordered, then realized this was just the local butcher shop that kind of serves lunch. We got a nice charcuterie plate with local meats and cheeses. It was a perfect first meal for our adventure.

Riding from Florence to Buonconveto takes you through the Chianti region of Tuscany. To our surprise and delight this region was different than we thought. We had imagined Tuscany to be like the rolling hills of the Napa Valley in Northern California. They are much more dramatic than that, and you reach peaks that it must snow on, as there are signs for chains and snow. What that meant for us in the middle of summer were some wonderful views and vistas. Traffic the entire time was pretty light. Italian drivers are not the safest drivers in the world, speeding past you on blind turns. We only had one driver swerve dangerously into our lane. Then there was one goat who just would not move out of our way.

Once we arrived in Buonconvento we made our way to our airbnb Podere Salicotto. There we were met by our host Silvia and her manager Ellenor. They were surprised we made the trip by scooter but were delighted to have us. Silvia and Paolo (Silvia’s husband) have a bright yellow Fiat 500 thats horn plays the tune from Bridge Over the River Kwai. They showed us our room which was just lovely and had an amazing view of the area around. Podere Salicotto is a converted farm house that now has a pool and fantastic host. Of the many benefits of staying at Podere Salicotto we chose two events. A dinner hosted by our host and a Cheese tasting tour. The dinner with other guest of the airbnb was delightful we had amazing food and met new friends from the Netherlands, The Czech Republic, and Germany. Everyone spoke English to some degree and we had a wonderful night of food and philosophy. Of the Cheese tasting tour I will only say this: the ricotta cheese in Tuscany is the best, freshest you will ever have. It is delicious with just a little olive oil and black pepper. You can eat it by the spoonful.

In addition we took several day trips to the surrounding towns Montalcino, Chiusure, The Monastery Abbazia di Monte Oliverto Maggiore, San Quirico d’ Orcia, Monticchello, Pienza, and Radiconfani. Each were lovely walled cities some with great food, others with great wine and yet others have amazing history. My Favorite was San Quirico d’ Orcia, wonderful food, great farmers market, lovely people. Pienza is famous for having a painting of a very rarely depicted pregnant virgin Mary. Montalcino of course is known for its wine. I’ll say we had some great wine, delicious gelato, and some fantastic meals everywhere we went.

The rides were spectacular! Though some of the roads were not as smooth as I would have liked, the roads themselves had nice sweeping turns. Nothing too sharp or dramatic. There were some nice switchbacks, but even then seemed to be banked properly and overall it was some nice relaxing riding. I had some friends looking to go to Italy and rent scooters but they wanted the 300GTS. After riding there in the hills as we did, on some of the climbs it would have been nice, but on the back roads a 125cc is all you need. Anymore and you’re just racing with yourself instead of taking the time to see the views. For us It was a lot of “Hey whats that town over there?” Then we would ride over and figure out what that town was all about.

In the end, to me riding in Tuscany is a must for any Vespatisi. I think it is here that you get a real sense of what the first Vespa’s must have been used for and how they affected the people of italy. Also I’m a huge fan of Ape so seeing them being used every day was a real treat. Just ask Jen about my squee’s of delight. I would suggest that if you have a heart for adventure, rent a scooter but do not take a scooter tour. For a couple of reasons. One I’m not sure I can really endorse a Vespa wine tour. Sure it’s two iconic Italian things. I’m not sure they really go together. Secondly it’s a big group on a tour. We got stuck behind a big group of say 20. That was the slowest 20 min on our little 125’s. My final suggestions is that June and July are pretty hot, avoid it if possible. There tend to be a lot of tourists, but if you plan your own adventure you tend to not run into that kind of thing. Lastly stay in the small towns and get to know the people. Vespas are really about the people.

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