Umbria: Italy’s Dreamy Heartland

Text: Robert Smith • Photography: Robert Smith

I’m riding south through Umbria on the Via Flaminia, the ancient road connecting Rome with Rimini on the Adriatic Coast. I fancy it has been improved since Gaius Flaminius initiated construction around 220 B.C.—now named prosaically “Strada Statale 3.” 
This fast two-lane highway sweeps along 
the western slopes of the Apennines 
toward my first destination, Gualdo Tadino.

Turning off the highway, I climb a winding road leading to the town center, nestling on the hillside. My Garmin z¯umo guides me through a warren of steep, narrow streets until my progress is stopped by a wooden barrier. I’m within 220 yards (200 meters) of my hotel. In fact, I can see it across the square, which is filled with young people. Right outside the hotel, a stage is being assembled for a rock concert. “Ingresso vietato,” (do not enter) says the young man behind the barrier. Seeing the Frankfurt registration on my BMW F 800 GS, he tries to explain in German. “Inglese?” (English) I suggest. Apparently, I have to park a quarter-mile farther away or my bike will be towed.

Options—lug my bags almost half a mile to the hotel and lie awake all night with a rock concert outside my window—or, continue on the Via Flaminia to the next town. With dark clouds rolling over the peaks, I decide to move on and rejoin SS3, exiting 20 minutes later in the tiny hamlet of Nocera Umbra. I stop at the first hotel I see—predictably named the Flaminia. At 30 Euros (US$ 39), my tiny room is simple, but agreeably inexpensive.

I ride back out of town looking for fuel and food. It’s Sunday afternoon and all the stores and restaurants are closed—even gas stations—except for a pre-pay debit card pump. The pump won’t accept any of my Canadian cards; however, it does have a bill reader. The smallest bill I have is 20 Euros (US$ 26) and my fill up costs around 12 (US$ 15). The pump doesn’t give change…

Marche: In and Out

East of Umbria, between the Apennines and the Adriatic, is the mountainous province of Marche (pronounced marr-ke). I agree to meet my buddy, Michael, in Spoleto, Umbria. It’s 30 miles (50 km) south of Nocera Umbra, and I have all day to get there. Mountains and motorcycles are a great combo!

The Flaminia’s signora (lady) suggests a fluffy, fragrant chocolate brioche and cappuccino for breakfast. I savor it before turning the GS south on SS3 to Foligno where I’ll head east into Marche. But, there’s a problem. The main road east out of Foligno (SS77) is inaccessible due to a bridge repair. Eventually, I discover the old road, Via Flaminia Nord, which detours around the bridge and puts me back on SS77 in San Lorenzo.

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For the complete touring article, including facts & information, map(s), and GPS files, please purchase the January/February 2015 back issue.