Cars, Bikes, and Excellent Road Surfaces: Epic Euro Trip- First Leg

Cars, Bikes, and Excellent Road Surfaces: Epic Euro Trip- First Leg

by Corbin Goodwin


I was lying in a bed above the Tiber at an Airbnb when the email came in. It was explained to me that someone crashed the Ducati I was going to rent. Great. I now could choose between a VFR800 or an F700 GS to make up for the loss of my chosen steed. On a list of first-world problems, this ranks pretty high, but it was enough to kill the buzz I had after seeing a manual trans shifter sprouting from the center of so many cars on the streets of Rome.

I read some reviews, decided the VFR probably had the comfier seat and a little more zazz, then emailed the lady back. Did I grow to love it? Not really, but the portly blue bike was good company for the wondrous wheeling through the lands of KPH and room-temperature beverages. In part one of this series, I’ll tell you about how those Euros do cars from Cacciana to Ens.

Before splitting off from my family, I was with them in Rome, and I immediately came to a few conclusions about the automotive landscape in Europe beyond the obvious plethora of manual transmissions.


The first thing I noticed? Wagons! And, Alfa Romeos! Sometimes combined to great effect. Europeans definitely embrace the wagon lifestyle, and it was amazing to see Alfas prettying up the bustle of sometimes “samey” small cars. I’m glad Alfa is coming back to the states.

I did also spot a few SUVs and an errant Ram or two, crossovers seem to be gaining a foothold as well, which must mean european millenials are seeing the appeal, whatever it is. By and large however, wagons and hatchbacks dominated the landscape. Some, like the Renault Talisman, are quite shapely, and I’m boggled that Americans can’t rustle up some love. Speaking of shapely…


This Ssanygong can only be described as having a shape, and it’s one of the less offensive models they’ve made. I thank whatever deity or regulation keeps these things away from our shores. It’s always good to have variety, but this is pushing it. For obvious reasons, they aren’t too popular in Europe either.

I started my solo adventure in the west of Italy with the excitable motorcycle mechanic and all-around great guy, Rossetto Luca. He was eager to show me the local mountains, and I was eager to see them. So we set off the next morning in his daily driver, a convertible diesel manual Volvo (SO EURO) to Mottarone, a ski destination in winter and amazing view in the summer.


The Volvo faithfully labored up the beautiful and sinuous roads to the peak while high-end motorcycles with Swiss plates went streaming by at regular intervals. Punctuated only by an occasional picturesque village with cobbled streets, our progress was pretty good. The air really did seem thinner up here, and I got a pretty good sunburn.

The appeal of this mountainous region was fairly obvious, but I couldn’t help but think that it was a place for the privileged and rich to really enjoy, despite Rossetto being a reasonably working-class man of the countryside. This view was somewhat reinforced later when his family invited me to ride their 250cc scooter with them to the shore of lake Maggiore.


The literal view was worth pondering as well, the far side of this lake (around the bend) is the Ticino region of Switzerland. There were public fountains on the mountainside that let flow some really delicious water, a great resource for travelers who don’t want to have to find a store every time they’re thirsty. These fountains aren’t only in the hills either, I found them in other places throughout the continent.

The MGs at this small meet were cream of the crop, but I expected as much when the hotels behind me booked at $800 a night.

A beautiful place, a fantasy for sure that I could hardly believe but not necessarily a place that I’d want to live in even if I could afford it. For the first time, I felt an air of classism, and laws aside, I don’t think the local residents would look kindly on cars or people that didn’t fit their standards. In other words, there’s no analog in Stresa for a late night semi-legal cruise to your local burger joint after installing speed parts. I guess it was time to head north.

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