After a very tough tour in Spain, I had one last Edelweiss Tour left for the season. I signed up for this tour in Tuscany, Italy because it was in October and one of the last tours for the year I could still get assigned to as a beginning tourguide. Compared to all previous ones, there would be some key differences with this tour!
First off, this would be a Scooter tour. Edelweiss runs a few of these to attract a different kind of customer; on tours like this it’s usually much more likely for women to ride their own scooter than to ride along as passenger. So no high-power motorcycles that weigh a quarter of a ton, just half a dozen Vespa’s and some Honda scooters.
Second this tour does not follow the usual “hotel-to-hotel” format, instead we stay put in one hotel and make little day-trip loops, returning to the same place every night. Edelweiss uses this hotel for a lot of tours, so it was well suited for it, compared to the loading nightmares we had at the hotel in Barcelona last month. The only tough part was that I had to fit 6 scooters inside the van; requiring the removal and refitting of all topcases. Easy for the Japanese scooters, but in true Italian fashion this is complicated and requires undoing a few hard-to-access screws on the Vespa’s.
Lastly, not changing hotel means there’s no luggage van, and thus no need for a second tourguide. That means for the first time, I’d be the only tourguide on this tour, with no experienced veteran to ask questions or receive tips from. I was not that worried about it, if anything I thought this is the easiest sort of tour to experience being on my own with. On top of that, this is the only tour so far where I had actually been to part of the region before; I’d visited some of the towns on the schedule by motorcycle about 5 years ago, so that gave me some confidence. And truthfully, after 4 tours I’ve learned not to worry too much about things being new; one always manages to figure it out.
As you might’ve guessed from other stories from my tours: the customers have a big impact in how smooth and easy or how tough and demanding a tour can be. I honestly don’t mind the tougher tours as they provide some pretty memorable challenging moments, but on this tour things were the complete opposite. 4 couples, all friends from Boulder, Colorado in the US. They turned out absolutely lovely from the start. Cheerful moods, all of them with an adventurous spirit and of course all very talkative made it a pleasure to interact with them. On top of that, the fact that they were all friends meant there was no quiet period of getting to know each other, nor any friction in the group.
3 out of our 5 days, we visited a Tuscan town, respectively San Gimignano, Siena and Arezzo. Out of those I’d been to the first two already, but sleepy, quiet Arezzo turned out to be my favorite, it was not as bombastic or overrun as the other two, offering quiet charm instead.
Another day had us mostly doing mountainous roads and curves instead of sightseeing (we did have a stop at the famous Mugello Circuit). In general the riding on this trip was quite easy. Small daily distances of around 180km per day, with slower speeds. Some customers were fairly new to riding and I guess that took the most getting used to for me, coming from the very fast last tour in Spain.
I’ve really had some of my favorite moments ever on tour; coming down the hills from Settignano to Firenze, the sun setting while we take our scooters down steep hills, weaving through tiny roads was just such great fun. Especially when you get to do it a few times coming back to the same hotel, you really appreciate a nice end to the day like this.
It was not just riding on this tour, we even had one day which featured a cooking class in an ancient villa. A local chefed showed and guided us a little bit making our own pasta and cantuccini. That turned out to be one of the best meals I’ve ever had. In general food is always good on Edelweiss tours, but Italy is especially memorable.
A lot of fun was also the very last ride; the riding was officialy over and I wanted to head into Florence myself quickly. I told the customers they were free to come with me, but it would not be guided as before; they could just tag along and try to keep up. Considering the Italian city traffic, the four best riders, two couples were up for the challenge. Pretty soon we were weaving and dodging through cars on the Florentine streets like true Italians. Normally traffic like this is no fun, even on a motorcycle. But on these little Scooters it was an exhilerating ride. Once we reached the centre, several customers exclaimed that was the most exciting thing they’d ever done!
Like the mexicans last time, the Coloradans had their own T-shirt, with the tagline ‘Il Migliore Degli Amici”, and while I don’t speak Italian it translates to “The Best of Friends” I believe. After this fantastic week, where we had nothing but good weather, good food, good views and good times, it really felt like I was just out with friends. Even on a tour that might not seem very exciting at first. I really hope I get to tour again with this group, just as they seemed keen to.
What an excellent way to end touring with Edelweiss for the 2016 season!