Nothing beats the dream of an Italian road trip, and what better way to explore those spectacular roads and villages than on two wheels.
Six days, 1900km of roads and the Italian countryside - The Milano Taranto is a visceral hark back to the classic road races in the fifties. "An historic event designed to familiarize the entrants with the countryside, history, traditions and art of the Italian people". Taking place from the 2nd to the 8th July, this trip down memory lane laced with good food and drink is exactly what every vintage a motorcycle nut craves.
Let me introduce the team: Entering as a British bunch under the Motori Di Marino name, Les, Jan-Willem, Bjørn and John are busy preparing their bikes. The man in charge: Pietro Di Marino, is the certified Italian bike specialist in the south. If you’re looking for something truly special, you’ll find it at Pietro’s. (visit dimarino.co.uk)
Greeted by a typically drizzly British morning, we met up with the guys to talk about what they’d be riding and why - not to mention what made them want to take part in the Milano Taranto in the first place.
Jan Willem Labeij
'55 Moto Morini 175 Settebello
The Milano Taranto is just an epic adventure. It’s a proper old-style trip on old-style 50s bikes. I have done long distance tours on modern and classic bikes but nothing organised like this in Italy. Earlier this year I rode to Lisbon and last year we went to southern Portugal on the bike. I’ve been up to the alps and touring through Germany for years.
This though, is a coming together of a cultural thing and the camaraderie that we’re going to have. Bjørn and I spoke about it for three seconds at a BBQ and next day he phones up and says 'are you serious? Because in that case, I’ll buy a bike.'
Of course, we’re going to be competitive at times. I’ve got to be faster than Bjørn and Bjørn’s got to be faster than me.
I’ve always had Italian bikes, the only time I didn’t buy an Italian bike is my daily which I use to get to work. This event is a long distance event so you’ve got to prepare yourself and keep in one piece long enough to do the journey. The Giro d’Italia is very commercialised. They allow a lot of modern bikes, but on the Taranto, its all classic bikes.
'55 Gilera 500
I’ve never done anything like this before on a classic Italian road bike, nothing at all. I like challenges, I like doing things like this and I thought ‘sod it, why not’. Simple as that. I’ve done rallies in classic cars and I also do twin shock motocross. I just love the thought of a lot of idiot blokes going to Italy riding Italian bikes over 1000 miles, which I’ve been told are unreliable.
I’m expecting to enjoy the scenery, I’m expecting to drink lots of wine, eat good food and if the bikes break down, we’ve got a good bunch of guys that know how to keep them on the road. I’m sure we’ll muck in as mates.
Am I looking at is as a race? No, but when the red mist is there, I’ll be up for it, I wont be lagging behind. I am very competitive so I’m sure I’ll be up for beating the Italians, it would be nice on their own bikes. It will be fun. I’m looking forward to it… really looking forward to it.
'50 Moto Guzzi 500 Astore
I’ve done the Milano Taranto’s sister event: the Giro d'Italia. You ride motorcycles up to 175cc for the special class over 1300km, just following little red arrows. Now I want to do the Milano Taranto. It was run every other year in those days but I couldn’t get the time off. I’d even bought the Astore to do it, it’s the precursor to the more famous Falcone. Unfortunately bad knees just put it to the back of my mind and I thought I’d never do it. It wasn’t until Jan-Willem mentioned it earlier this year and asked “did I fancy doing it”. I did. I’m just going for the ride, just to enjoy it.
'53 Moto Guzzi 250 Airone
I’ve been riding bikes since I was 15 - I’m 70 now so that’s quite a long time. I love Italy. The Italian countryside, the food, the old buildings and all in July so I thought yeah, why not, lets do it. That’s basically it. I’ve not done this sort of long trip before. I lived in France for 10 years though and did some longer rides on Ducatis/BMWs, but nothing like this. This is something new for me.
With old bikes, inevitably there's a lot of rubbish about. You can so easily go and get a piece of metal that is not what you thought it was, so Pietro is looking for a 500cc Falcone. I’d like to get hold of the Falcone because it’s got the bigger engine and is a slightly bigger bike. It’s a bit tight for the legs sitting on the Airone, I could put some additional foot-rests forward but hopefully if I get a Falcone, I won’t need to.