ITALY (26 APRIL – 9 MAY 2016)
I entered Italy without any difficulties. I rode along the coast via SS1 from San Remo to Genoa. It was a very beautiful hilly ride with beautiful warm weather but a bit stressful as the road was narrow, winding, lots of vehicles, traffic lights and round abouts. The speed limit was 50kmh only. It took me almost 4 hours to reach Genoa which was only 200kms away.
Since my destination was Milano, I decided to take the A7 highway. I passed lots of tunnels. When I need to put gas, I was surprised that the prica for RON95 gas was EUR1.60, the most expensive for me so far. I reached Milano within 2 hours after that.
Milano is the most important city in Italy. After the 2nd world war, the city had rebuilt itself into a thriving cosmopolitan business capital. What made Milano interesting compared to other places was that the city was truly more about the lifestyle of enjoying worldly pleasures, a paradise for shopping, football, opera, and nightlife. Milano remained the market place for Italian fashion. In Milano, I took a free tour and was taken to the gothic cathedral Duomo, Plaza Del Duomo, the stock exchange building and Castello Sforzesco. I also visited the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, an ancient and glamorous arcaded shopping gallery, which I could only feast my eyes, but couldnt afford to buy anything there. I also managed to drop by at San Siro Stadium, the AC Milan and Inter Milan football stadium.
My next destination in Italy was Brescia. I never include this industrial town in my route in the beginning, but after I found out that Brescia was where the headquarter of Givi was located, I made a detour. Its a must and very important for me to drop by and visit Givi as they were my title sponsor for Global Dream Ride. It was an easy 110kms ride via the back road which filled with beautiful poppy flowers and I reached Givi HQ in less than 2 hours. Simona Montini and Miriam Martinazzoli, reps from Givi HQ greeted me and took me out for lunch. We talked about my ride and how Givi products which had given to me had performed. I told them everything was good and I was very happy and satisfied with Givi products. They also briefed me about the agenda for tomorrow's event, where I would be doing a presentation in front of the media people. I felt goosebumps upon hearing that because its not the same when doing a presentation in front of ordinary people, and in front of the press. After that, we went back to Givi HQ where both of them let me try new outfits to replace the old ones. I was also given some gifts such as a casual sweater, Tshirts, and gloves.
I was introduced to the mechanic, Alessandro, and he helped to fix and replaced some items which had worn out due to the extreme ride. Well, actually all Givi items which I had were still in good condition (to proof how good quality Givi products were). Only the colours had faded because being under the sun and rain for more than 7 months already, but Alessandro insisted to replace them. He also offered to check my bike and changed the engine oil which I gladly accepted. After that, Miriam send me to the hotel (complimentary from Givi), and that night, Cristina Lodrina, Givi's vice president, took me out for dinner. We had a nice conversation while eating.
The date 29th April will definitely be the most memorable day in my entire life. To be honest. I didnt sleep very well last night due to the thrill and excitement of whats awaiting me on this special day. GD and I made our entrance at Givi HQ at 11am, and was given a big applause by all the staff and the journalists. Mr and Mrs Visenzi, and their daughter Hendrika were there to welcome me too. I was soooo thrilled. After that, I was taken to the conference room. I gave a one hour presentation and Giampaolo Deambrogi acted as my translator. I also showed the audience a piece of my video clip which showed my success to reach Ushuaia, “the end of the world.” I had no idea that the video moved some of them to tears. After I'm done with the presentation, Mr Visenzi handed me a bouquette of flowers. That was so sweet. After that, it was my turn to be interviewed personally by the journalists. I tried my very best to answer all the questions. I was very relieved when Cristina told me later that the presentation that I just did was very successful and all the journalists were very impressed. Thank god :)
Later, Cristina told me that Mr Visenzi agreed to donate EUR1000 for my ride. I was sooooo speechless and couldnt help tears. I hugged Mr Visenzi, whom I already felt as my father. What a kind man he was. I was so touched and I thanked him for his generousity. He patted my shoulder and just smiled while wishing me all the best for my remaining journey. I would never ever forget his kindness to me.
After that, Miriam and Marco showed me around. I was taken to the production site and watched how things were assembled. I was introduced to some of the staff and also watched a safety test for helmet. It was very impressive and now, I am more confident than ever to wear a Givi helmet. It was indeed the best and the safest helmet which you could really rely on.
Then, Miriam and Marco brought me for a ride into Brescia old city for a photography session. We were escorted by two traffic policemen. I posed in front of the Capitolium, Piaza Loggia – Town Hall, the old and new cathedral, and we also rode up to the castle. The view of Brescia from the castle was very nice.
Summary of the event at Givi HQ Brescia can be watched here...
Before going back to my hotel, I said goodbye to Simona and the office staff, and later Miriam took me back to the hotel. That night, two Miriams accompanied me for dinner. The other Miriam was an advrider too. Her name was Miriam Orlandi. We had a very interesting chat with lots of laughter. Miriam Orlandi happened to be a chiropractic and she gave me two free massages for my paining hands, on that night, (and the next morning). She also gave me a bottle of cream to ease the pain.
I went back to my hotel with lots of sweet memories. Even though tired, I was very happy and I felt a sense of fulfillness. Thank you very much Givi for not only supporting my ride with your awesome products, giving me some cash for my upcoming journey, but also giving me the chance to share my experience and to speak of my satisfactory on the the items which had been given to me. Thank you. Thank you very much.
I left memorable Brescia and head to Venice. It was not in my plan to visit Venice, but since this city was just 212kms away, and many people had been telling me not to miss Venice since it was very near already, I made up my mind to visit it. I passed beautiful lake Garda and took some pics.
I arrived my hosts house just outside Venice after riding for 6 hours (with stoppings for pics). I was hosted by Ridza and Diah, a Malaysian couple who had been living here for few years. Their sister, Yaya was there too for vacation.
In the evening, Ridza and Yaya took me to Venice by bus and we walked to Piazza San Marco. Its a very lively place with beautifully lighted souvenir shops and surroundings. The next day, I went there again to get a day view of the place. I spent few hours strolling slowly and checking out the shops. Souvenir from Murano glass were something which caught my eyes but I couldnt buy any because the risk of breaking it since I'm on my motorbike. However I did purchase a medium size Venetian mask to be taken home. I loved to watch the gondola cruising by the canals, but the fare was EUR80. Too pricey for my wallet, so I didnt try it.
After 2 nights in Venice, I said goodbye to my kind hosts and rode to Florence or Firenze, via SS309 – S65. It was a chilly wet ride almost all the way. I felt some wind which came from Adriatic Sea while riding along the coast. The road got narrower and winding when I crossed National Park Foreste Casentinesi. The view was very green and beautiful. I climbed up a mountain pass and had two very close calls. Both hapened at the very tight and steep hairpin bends and both times with buses from the opposite direction which took half of my lane. OMG, only few inches spared between me and the bus!!!
I managed to find the hotel which was a complimentary from Givi. It was a very nice and luxury room for me. I was soooo tired that I slept from late afternoon and only woke up at midnight.
The next day was spent on sightseeing in Florence. This city was the capital for Tuscany region and was considered a cultural, artistic and architectural gem. It was a beautiful city, but too touristy for me. Too many tourist everywhere. I wonder how pack this city would be during weekend? Anyway all the attractions were close to each other. I managed to climb the hill up to Piazzale Michelangelo to hv a full view of the city.
I also visited the old city, few churches and Duomo cathedral, and walked on the famous bridge, Ponte Vecchio and its Palazzo. It was very beautiful.
I continued my ride to Bolsena. The challenge started with my gps directed me to take a steep narrow pebble stone road to exit Florence. I hate it when my gps did this to me. I cant check the gps choice of route as the screen will freeze when I slide my finger on it. So I will have to just follow its choices and later worried if my small power fully loaded bike couldnt afford to climb the steep road. Luckily I exited to SR2 safely. It was a very fun ride with beautiful view and warm weather.
Suddenly my ride was interrupted. The road was closed. Theres no one for me to ask for alternative road. I took an offroad nearby hoping that it will rejoin with SR2 but it came to a dead end. I rode back the same way I had taken, and managed to find someone, but he couldnt speak English and I cant speak Italian. He told me bla bla bla which I only understood 25%. I continued riding as what I understood and had to climb a narrow winding and steep road (but offered beautiful view of the valley down below) to Abbadia San Salvatore. Worried now as GD was low on fuel. I asked a guy who could speak some English, and managed to find my way back to SR2 via Piancastagnaio - Casa Del Corto. I lost 1 hour due to this, but the good thing was the very beautiful wild flowers scenery that I managed to capture with my cam.
Finally I arrived beautiful Lake Bolsena after riding 212kms in 5 hours. I stayed at Hotel Eden, also complimentary from Givi. This hotel was situated by the lake side. Its very beautiful and serene. Thank you very much Givi for sponsoring me the room and my dinner for that night, and thanks to Simona for choosing this 'little heaven on earth' for me.
The next day, I rode to the capital city, Roma via SR2. The distance was 140km only, There were lots of traffic upon entering Roma, but it was not so difficult to find the Malaysian Embassy there. I reported to the Ambassador, H. E. Dato Abdul Samad Othman. He was a very friendly person and invited me to stay at his residence. The staff, Miss Zebine, Mrs Norli and Mrs Sukinah took me out for lamb briyani lunch. The next day, I gave a presentation at the embassy.
During my 4 nights stay in Roma, I also managed to report to H. E. Tan Sri Bernard Dompok, the Malaysian Ambassador for Vatican City.
I also did a short sightseeing trip at this world's smallest country. Its only 0.44sq km in size. This country was surrounded entirely by the city of Rome. Vatican was the center for Roman Catholic and the Pope lived there.
Visiting Roma will not be completed without seeing the Colloseum and surroundings.
I said goodbye to Dato Samad, her kind wife, Datin Zaiton and their son, Adam, who had treated me like their own family. I felt very sad to leave them, but today I must continue my ride.
I rode a fun 310kms ride from Roma to Ancona. The weather was very nice, not too hot and not too cold. There were some twisties, some greens and its easy to find the ferry ticket office and the pier. The fare for myself and GD was EUR60. It was a 12 hours ferry ride from Ancona to Split, Croatia.
At 7.45pm I said goodbye to Italy. I have had a wonderful 15 days here with lots of sweet memories. Again, I'm thanking GIVI, and my hosts in Venice (Ridza & Diah), and in Roma (the Ambassador, Dato Abdul Samad Othman & Datin Zaiton) for the hospitality. My memories in Italy will be cherished in my heart forever n ever.
I wonder whats awaiting for me in the Balkans.....