A lonely owl hoots out into the night: was that an echo or did he actually get a response I wondered. We were finally, officially, lost to the world. The closest village to here is Mangona- but that’s like saying nothing… because this 14th century country house where we are staying now is well hidden in the mountains and so remote that the last few kilometres were not mapped even in our navigation system. Well let me put it this way- we are somewhere between Bologna and Florence in Italy.
It seems a while ago- but only morning we were at Rome. Ah Rome… the majestic columns, the renaissance masterpieces, the Tiber. Ah Rome and its crazy traffic- its scooters and travellers flocking from all corners of the planet! Ah Rome- where our dear motorbike got vandalized last night- nearly stolen, had we not reached it just in time. Ah Rome… the place where art chronicles history, where humanity meets kindred souls! Ah Rome… you are truly eternal, you are mesmerizing.
This morning was rough start. Not only the awakening but also the fact that I had to rush to the service centre earliest morning so that the Scrambler could be inspected and the damage from last night rectified- after all we had 500kms to clock, today. Things brightened up somewhere along the way. I merged into the vortex of Rome traffic with the scrambler. It was after a while that I was riding solo- without pillion or luggage. The bike felt light, highly responsive- a touch of the accelerator was enough to scoot; a gentle tap of the brakes and it dug-in. And as I flitted through the traffic, it came to me… I should not carry the baggage of European road manners into Italy. Italians are free-spirited and that shows in their road manners too. So if you see an opening ahead, they expect you to take it… if there is amber they expect you to go for it even though it may just have turned red… if there is a possibility to overtake, they expect you to move faster than the described speed limit… and if you make up your mind to attempt a turn at the last minute- hell yes you go for it! This is Italian free thinking… applied also to road rules- and I was earlier behaving as an European in Italy- and getting stressed (and perhaps stressing other Italianos in the traffic swarm) around me… with my road sense. Go with the flow was the mantra for Italy- I tried that and suddenly I felt at one, surrounded by the bustle of Rome!
I reached the Ducati service, and in a few hours my Scrambler was good as new- new wires and cables replaced the vandalized ones; new indicator lamps and mirrors and my bike was happy as can be!
It was past 2pm when we rolled-out. We rode through the ancient ruins, the marvellous cathedrals, the street cafes and passed under the gigantic ancient arches till we were on the highway. Under different circumstances, I would have liked to stay a little longer- had my motorbike not been vandalized… had the weather been a little less intense (at the moment it is around 42 degrees and rising) and had we not a long road to travel. The highways welcomed us- we made it back on the same route from Rome till Perugia, past the ancient ruins at Nepi, and we then took the SR3 route crisscrossing little rivers, lakes and water channels. We passed village folks busy at their farms, we waved out to the coffee drinking Italians seated at the small cafes- and we made occasional stops along the route for fuel. The road was a lovely mix of highways, mountain roads and country lanes and we made good pace. We left the SR3 at Perugia and took to the RA6 which brought us into the lake-town of Torticelli. This quiet town with a few thousand inhabitants rests beside the Trasimano Lake. The green hills rolled into its aqua blue waters, the bees harvested the flowers and we watched the fishermen sitting patiently beside their rods waiting for the fish to nibble. We made short work of Siena and Florence- but it was only after we crossed the sleepy town of Mugello that the road became more interesting. It got narrow, it got steeper and the trees leaned in on us more and more. We climbed a series of hairpins and through the little gaps we could make-out deep gorges and spectacular scenery all along this Italian mountainside.
By now it was almost 9pm, it was near dark and we had just a few more kilometres of country roads to navigate before we reached our home. I began to think of the hot shower awaiting an eventful day- and breathed a contented sigh… life is good! That is when I saw the ‘Road Closed’ sign. Hey I have a shower waiting- I called out to the night. And thus began a late night adventure: for the next hour we tried various roads- paved and unpaved, occasionally rode through fields and after a fairly intensive search through thick woods, gravel and sand and tiny mountain trails, we reached our home for the night. It was a 15th century heritage country home, deep within the mountains, with acres of fields, vineyards and complete with horses, cattle, sheep, dogs, chicken and other farm animals. Of course the deer was omnipresent- and in this rustic settings lived our hosts- Angelo and his family.
We settled in quickly and I mused: it has been an eventful 24 hours… our motorbike got vandalized- and rectified, we travelled 500 plus kilometres and after the hustle-bustle of Rome we are now surrounded by the silence of the remote Italian countryside.
It was close to 11pm when I had my well-deserved hot shower and as I curled up under the sheets, the breeze wafted through the open window with the scent of alien flowers and carried the fresh promise of new experiences awaiting us in this remote Italian hillside.
The grapes above me swing
The breeze sing
In perfect harmony
The crickets call out into the night
The sheep wag their tail in communion
We shall wait until tomorrow again
While the world around
Is chasing its tail
Down a dark vortex
And I watch this play
Of light and shade
Wondering who am I.