Thirtyx30: celebrating my 30th birthday, for a whole month. The idea was not to always be doing something extraordinary, but rather, finding a way to celebrate this special birthday every day, for at least an instant. How? The first part was spent with my friends and family, while the second half of the month was on the road, on a trip with people who have a special spot in my heart: Edoardo, my brother, and Leonardo, my photographer, were with me the whole time, while some friends and “special guests” joined here and there, to share the way and a good laugh (and lots of rain, though that wasn’t part of the plan!) The first of these special guests could be no one other than my father, who shared his passion for motorbikes with me ever since I was a small child. We left on June 16, with him and my youngest brother Federico, from Florence, bound towards Bologna. We reached the town driving across the mountains and zipping along the bends of the Futa pass. It was a beautiful, two-hour ride, that gave us a taste of the upcoming feeling of freedom and adventure that would be central to our next few days. From there, we drove by car to Turin, where we had the first change in our team: my dad and brother went home, and we welcomed Andrea Schiavina and Mariano Di Vaio, with whom we were going to drive to France, the following day.
Bourges and the 24-hours of Le Mans. We left at 8 to Bourges, which we reached by crossing the Moncenisio pass. This was one of the most beautiful places I’ve been to on a motorbike, with a beautiful, blue lake on a mountain top. Right after entering France, we stopped at a mountain hut for a meal and for watching Italy play a football euro match. We completely lost all feeling for time, and ended up making a complete mess! Andrea Schiavina was supposed to fly out of Lyon to go back to Italy — and we had to drop him at the closest station, from which he had to make do with trains, instead — while Andrea Busnelli was supposed to land at the same airport, to come join the group and take our other Andrea’s spot. Too bad we were 3 hours late on schedule, and when we finally found our new Andrea, he was furious. We got him to forgive us by feeding him junk food and jokes throughout the ride to Bourges. Another thing that helped gaining forgiveness was Mariano’s surprise: he got us VIP passes for the 24-hour Le Mans racing competition, where we had already planned to go on the next day, but without ever imagining that we would get a real insider experience! This race, one of the most famous worldwide — even Paul Newman and Steve McQueen participated years ago — lasts exactly 24 hours, during which pilots have to take turns driving, in order not to ever stop the race, not even at night. Yes, you got that right: the ride never stops, not even at night! It’s very exciting to see these cars ride so fast in the dark, quiet night. It was a strong emotion that we were privileged enough to experience up close, since we were taken on a bend at around 2am, to watch the cars zip past. The VIP passes opened all doors, even the more mysterious ones at this event, which we followed in its entirety for 24 hours: from 3pm on saturdaY, to 3pm on Sunday. In the pits, we listened to stories of pure passion that touched us deeply, such as that of a pilot that lost both arms and legs in an accident, and who still doesn’t let that stop him from pursuing his passion, thanks to prosthetics. In 24 hours, this pilot also never gave up and inspired us immensely.
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Paris to Portsmouth. At the end of the race, we said goodbye to Mariano and made our way to Paris, where Nasia was expecting us for the weekend. With her, we visited Dimitri Coste, a talented French photographer and Flat Track champion, with whom we were supposed to have a motorbike ride around Paris. Unfortunately, we had to cancel our plan due to the incessant rain… We must say, the weather wasn’t particularly good to us on this trip! After our Paris weekend, the time had come to leave again, to England. We said goodbye to Andrea Busnelli and Nasia, and made our way to Caen, to catch the night ferry to Portsmouth.
Brooksland and the Isle of Wight. Once on English soil, the first thing we did was have a hearty English breakfast with baked beans, bacon and scramble. We then made our way to Brooskland, to visit the vintage car and motorbike museum that Dimitri had recommended, and where Giorgio Merlino was waiting for us. With Giorgio, we made our way to the Isle of Wight on the following day. This is an island with incrediblelandscapes, it’s small, so we managed to ride around it in two hours, with stops for fish and chips and beer. This stop was maybe the most naturally enchanting of the whole trip: we particularly enjoyed it also thanks to the sunshine, which gave us a break from the constant rain that was with us almost throughout the trip — honestly, we rode through so much rain that my front brake got rusty!
Goodwood and the Sussex Heritage Coast. Now was the time for another team change: Giorgio said goodbye to us, and we were joined by Steve Mox, with whom we visited Lord March’s property. Lord March was an English nobleman and vintage car lover: in 1993, he decided to restart the Goodwood circuit and organized a 4-day festival that became one of the most important worldwide. The peculiarity here is that cars from any decade can join the ride, and that the viewers are very close to the circuit… So much so that at the end we were covered in mud from head to toe! So covered in mud, we went for a visit at the nearby Rolls Royce factory, thanks to the tip of a Portuguese RR employee who invited us there on Instagram. The next day, Steve left, and we went to check out the Sussex Heritage Coast, a beautiful series of chalk cliff overlooking the English Channel.
London and the way back to Italy. The trip was almost over. We made a detour to the Triumph factory and the Brands Hatch circuit, where I decided to test my Triumph Thruxton on the circuit, despite the heavy rain and despite this kind of Triumph model — the one I used throughout the trip — not being ideal for this kind of ride. We were joined by our last special guest at the end of the day: Marc Richardson, Skunk Anansie’s drummer, with whom I literally got lost in the English countryside, side by side on our bikes, while he told me about his love for motorbikes and music, about his early days with Skunk Anansie and what it means to be a rockstar today. After a 4-hour trip, we finally made it to London, where we stopped by at the Bike Shed in Shoreditch: my little brother Federico was waiting for us there, he had turned 18 on the previous day and he had come to celebrate with us. After two days enjoying London, it was time to make our way back: we drove the entire 1300 kms throughout Europe in one go, first on the train under the Chunnel, and then by car, with our motorbikes on a trailer, through France, Belgium and Germany. We made it to the Saint Bernard tunnel at 11PM, and found it was closed, which was why we had to drive across the pass, in the middle of the night, surrounded by fawns, hedgehogs and foxes. We got to Milan at 4AM on July 1, exhausted but happy with this wonderful trip that saw us ride for 5500kms. Now, all I have to do is find another “excuse” to leave!
To discover more images of my journey through Fay’s eye, click here.
All the pics by Leonardo Iannelli