Service no limits!

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Service no limits

I am Simon, I am English and I live between Roma and Amalfi in Italy. I have lived in Italy since 1990 and I speak reasonable Italian and French, plus some English!!

I love travelling and exploring, I have worked in Export Sales for more than 30 years which has taken me all over the world, and I like nothing better than travelling around Italy and Europe by car, van or motorbike alone or with friends.

I know Italy fairly well and I love to help others to discover the beauty of Italy and to avoid the many pitfalls. Many visitors love Italy but do not really know how to avoid the difficult bits, as the language and the mentality is very different from the American and North European “norms”.

I also have a small fleet of vehicles that I can rent out to the right people or can use to transport you around. You fly into Roma and wanna get to the Amalfi Coast?? I can take you. You need to transport you and/or your luggage around between hotels? Call me. You wanna try a motorcycle experience?? I can supply a touring bike with a satnav in English all ready to go. You wanna visit the Ducati or Ferrari factory?? No problem. You need a route for a 3 day visit to Sicily or Sardinia? I can supply it.

Here follow some blogs to give you a taste of the Italian experience. Thanks!!

A week takeover of the lovely Aurora Hotel, Amalfi. October 20-27th 2018

Ok so here is the master plan for the hotel so far:

  1. I have asked her indoors if I can book the whole hotel PLUS the 3 apartments for the whole week, and (so far so good) she said yes. Poor woman. This event is by personal invitation only and is NOT open to the general public BUT we do plan to run similar events in the future.
  2. I therefore have 15 rooms in the hotel to host my “guests”, plus the 3 apartments if required.
  3. My idea is to offer the lucky chosen few an “all-in package price” for the week to include almost everything, B&B plus some happy hours and even some meals too.
  4. I am looking to organise a wide range of activities, events and visits for the week and everyone will be able to select say 3 activities. Additional events (if we can arrange them) will be charged but more or less at cost.
  5. I will rent a minibus for the week so that we can provide all local transport free. I suggest that you try to come either by motorbike (free safe parking under the hotel) or by public transport, cos a car will cost you about 30 Euro per dayfor parking!!! From Roma the best way is train to Salerno (2 hours door to door) and then either bus, ferry or minibus to Amalfi centre. The hotel is then only a 10 minute stroll.
  6. I need to plan carefully so I need your yes or no asap please and I will then ask you for a non-refundable deposit for every room, to ensure that you will really come.
  7. We will organise trips to Pompei, Caserta, Thermal Baths and Underground Naples for sure. Other activities will be organised depending on the weather we have that week, for instance a boat trip and motorcycle testing. My Raptor 700 Quad and TMax 530 will be available.

More to follow very soon, watch this space………

Some classic cars for sale, offers welcome and visits available for viewing, chats and coffee….

My mate Riccardo is a nutcase and a very passionate car collector and restorer. He was in the past a car racer and he competed in classic car races around Europe with various Alfa Romeos, his first love. He has accumulated a load of cars (plus some motorbikes) in his amazing workshop near Orte in Italy, less than an hour north of Roma.

His hobby is restoring his fleet of cars and he spends loads of time in his workshop. To visit him is to see some living history. I know very little about cars and even less about classic Italian cars so to spend some time with him is to share his passion and long experience. As well as the cars and bikes, he has endless shelves full of spares as well as partly built cars and he seems to know every spare part and engine, he has a story to tell for each!

Here follows some pictures and prices but note that the prices are only a guide, he is open to reasonable offers. The prices are fairly high cos he loves his cars and he seems to want to keep them all, but of course he is ready to consider serious offers. And if you wanna see the cars then if you fly into Roma (Ciampino if possible) I can always take you there for just petrol and motorway costs. So here we go with the current stock:

Number 1. Simca Rally Group 2, 1973. 18,000 Euro.

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Number 2. Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint. 1963. Totally original and very low miles, rust free. 55,000 Euro.

Giulia

Number 3. Alfa Romeo 1900 Saloon. 1957. Totally original and no rust. 50,000 Euro.

1900 saloon

Number 4. Alfa Romeo 1750 GTAM Autodelta 1970. 150,000 Euro as is or 300,000 Euro fully restored.

GTAM 1750

Number 5. Mini Innocenti Cooper Export 1300. 1974. 14,000 Euro.

Innocenti

Number 6. Porsche 924 Turbo 1979 with new engine. 12,000 Euro

Porsche 924 Turbo

Number 7. Alfa Romeo GTV 2000 Group 1 track car. 1971. 30,000 Euro.

GTV2000

I can promise you that all of these cars are well worth seeing and Riccardo is always pleased to show folks his car over a coffee or a beer. These prices are ALL open to offers.

 

I wanna show you the lovely Amalfi coast….by bike. Watch this video!!!

Ok here we go, I have the GoPro 5 and I intend to make some trips along this stunning coast and show you the beauty of this area……please let me know what you think.

Please enjoy the trips…..here is the first one, from Amalfi along the coast to Positano. The GoPro is mounted onto my Yamaha TMax 530, please let me know what you think.

Ok so how can I help you to discover Italy and the Italian way of life…lets see a few examples

So how about you wanna fly into Roma, and then spend a week in beautiful Amalfi and a few days exploring Roma?

Or perhaps you fly into Roma and you fancy exploring the areas of Abruzzo and Umbria. Or you really want to visit Tavullia and see the famous Valentini Rossi ranch???

Or you really fancy visiting the Ducati factory in Bologna, and or the Bimota factory in Rimini, or you would like to see one or more of the Italian race circuits Mugello, Vallelunga, Misano, Monza or others. You fancy some cooking classes, or you would love to see some Italian wine makers or olive oil producers. Maybe you and your partner want to follow two different programs??

Well it could work like this:

You tell me what you need, you give me an idea of the proposed itinerary plus some idea of the hotels you fancy (look on booking.com so I have an idea of the level of hotels you fancy). Tell me how many are in your party and I can work out the rest. Collection from the airport (Roma has two, Ciampino and Fiumicino), then I can take you to your hotel. Then collect you and take you around Italy, and of course I speak Italian so I can help.

Call or text or whatsapp me on +39 333 8153190 or email me on simon.f@spirometry.com.

Getting to know the beauty of Amalfi OUT of season, what a discovery…..

Everyone knows about Amalfi and the amazing Amalfi coast, even those who have never visited have surely read about it and dreamed of visiting. Words come to mind like the Cathedral, the island of Capri, great food and hospitality, limoncello, wonderful wine, olive oil, Ibsen (the Swedish writer) and Wagner, and stunning tiles and porcelain from nearby Vietri.

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But Amalfi also brings to mind expensive, very hot, crowded and heavy traffic (all true in June thro’ September, the main tourist season).

Well I have recently discovered a stunning compromise: Amalfi out of season.

I have visited Amalfi perhaps 30 times over the past 2 years, in general for a weekend but also for New Year and Easter and I am getting to know her better and better.DSCN1198 She reveals her beauty slowly and gradually but she also suprises you frequently. In the summer the sea and the sun are in charge, out of season when Amalfi has only its 3,000 ish residents it is much easier to explore her as during the season the population grows to more than 60,000 from all over the world.

The food is wonderful and the people very friendly, although the town gets a bit quiet as many businesses close down for some well earned rest and holiday. Many old and traditional businesses still survive in and around the town and many are passed down through the family. For instance you can find wine makers, lemon growers, olive growers and wine makers, bread makers and many many more activities and in general you can visit them easily out of season and even have a guided tour, the pictures below show a local bread “factory” run by a family and the 90 year old Gran is still in charge (not the one pictured here of course)!!.

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Two new electric-assisted bicycles for Hotel Aurora

We just supplied two lovely bicycles to the Hotel Aurora Amalfi, for use by their staff and clients. The bikes are made by Torpado, an Italian manufacturer, and they are very robust and well made. These E bikes have a large lithium ion battery on the rear carrier which give the bikes an autonomy of about 60 kilometers between charges, in normal or average use.

The hotel staff and management seem very pleased indeed with these bikes and they attract alot of looks and attention and questions, an added bonus. The idea is really to give an extra service to the hotel guests and we have not yet decided whether we will lend or rent the bikes to our clients. We are waiting for insurance cover and then we must write a disclaimer which the client will be asked to sign before using the bike.

What do you think??

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Tramonti, an amazing hidden jewel

Tramonti is only about 12km from Amalfi and it is on the mountain road connecting Amalfi to the motorway at Angri, so over recent years I have driven past Tramonti many times. My only visits have been with friends to an excellent pizzeria.

Well, recently we have had a much closer look and indeed exploration. I discovered for instance that Tramonti is actually made up of several small towns (13 I think) dotted around the hills of the main town. I know that whilst so far the area is very sleepy and many of the residents work on the land, it is likely to experience a property expansion in the near future for these reasons;

  1. There is a local government plan to construct a link using a cable car between the famous Amalfi coastline and the Naples -Salerno motorway, to make access to the coastal areas much easier, and
  2. The current land in the coastal areas (all the way from Salerno to Positano) is under massive pressure for new housing and/or hotels, so the Tramonti area is a likely candidate for development land at a reasonable cost.

So as we explored and eventually found our new property in Polvica, and just up the road we also found a fantastic restaurant called Trattoria San Francisco. A local friend introduced us to the young couple Pamela and Francesco who run the place and the food is fantastic. They are part of the Slow Food movement and most of the food they serve is locally produced. But the real discovery for me of this wonderful place is that they have a beer made for them locally and the beer is GREAT!!!!

We have eaten there twice already and we will visit again for sure!!!!

Our new property!!!! Finally we have the keys

We have been searching for a suitable property for about two years, on and off, and we have finally found the property of our dreams!!! Last month we exchanged contracts and took possession of a stunning garage in lovely Polvica, which is one of the 13 small towns which make up the area called Tramonti. The location is perfect for the Amalfi coast, Tramonti is 6 kilometers inland from Maiori, which is them 6 kilometers up the coast from Amalfi.

The properties are actually 2, one very small “house” which is actually a single room with an outside toilet, plus nearby the amazingly modern and large garage. The house was purchased only to enable the purchase of the garage as only a resident is allowed to purchase the garage. The garage is amazing!! It is large and almost new, about 6 metres wide and 8 metres long PLUS it has a bathroom with a shower too. And upstairs on the garage roof there is a garden with a lemon tree plus a kiwi plant, and plenty of space for a BBQ and sunbathing!!!

We have already started to have work carried out by some local builders to ensure that both of the properties are in perfect condition, then I will take some pictures to add to this blog. Great news indeed!!

 

 

New idea: import some used bikes from Alf England in the UK

From my many years of motorbike ownership and experience in the UK and in Italy, I know that the two countries use and treat their bikes very differently.

In the UK the weather is not good for motorbikes so the season is very short and the annual mileages are by definition very limited indeed. Bikes are really passion and are generally treated really well and cleaned almost more than ridden. Indeed, the average annual mileage can be as little as 2 to 3,000 kms and also the Brit owners will always follow the suggested service intervals so even an almost unused bike will have all of its service stamps in the book!! And virtually all UK bikes are kept in standard trim.

In Italy we have the opposite situation where the bike can be used almost all year round and servicing is not so strictly followed. Bikes cover many more miles and see the service dealers as little as possible, so often the second-hand bikes are very well used and abused. Servicing is often not a priority and it is unusual to see a bike of any kind in standard trim, scooters in particular are almost always modified by their owners. Here there is a huge aftermarket for the TMax parts for making the bike personal.

Result?? If I purchase a bike in the UK and bring it to Roma, folks here cannot believe the lovely condition and very low kilometers as well as the service history, so used bikes can sell very well here. For instance, I recently purchased 2 Yamaha TMax 530s from Alf England in the UK and took them to Roma, I sold the first one without trying, which gave me the idea (as I can fit 2 bikes into my trusty Vito!)

Look at these photos:

 

 

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The Honda VFR800 is a 10 year old bike and just look at the condition! The grey Yamaha TMax 530 is a 2014 model with some miles on the clock but again, she looks almost new. And the white TMax is 2015 with only 10k kms and almost better than new, she was sold as soon as my mate saw me take her out of the van.

Stop Press: Another white TMax 530 soon on the way!!

Bike training continued…..

I met the training team Run x Fun owned and run by Luca Viola, himself a former racer as well as a passionate off roader and visitor to Africa. The team includes Paolo Castrichini, Max Zeraftis, Alex Vaghi, Michele Marchetti and others (see www.runxfun.it) as well as some amazing racers such as Fabio Massei (shown above), Alex and Alessia Polita and GianLuca Nanelli.

These guys are an amazing team and I have become 100 times better as a rider through them. They taught me theory as well as riding and I have never enjoyed myself so much in my life! We have held courses at Vallelunga and Misano but 90% of our training time is spent at the wonderful Magione circuit near to Perugia in Umbria which has become a home from home for the team.

Luca purchased an amazing TIR several years ago and that becomes our home for the night or 2 at the track. Mingling with some of the brilliant bike racers that we work with has been a great experience for me and to ride with them was truly amazing (when they went slowly so I could keep up of course)!!!.

We taught everything from how to start riding a bike round bollards in the car park right up to good racers who wanted to improve their lap times. But as Luca repeated we sought to explain HOW to ride and not just follow a fast guy so you go faster, as otherwise when the instructor was not there then the student would not know how he went faster. So our courses are always structured into theory and then riding (no more than 6 students with an instructor) to try to ensure that the theory could be shown to the student and then reinforced.

To be continued….

The basics, the ABC of surviving on a motorbike

We all (well, many of us) enjoy a motorbike and we almost all teach ourselves how to ride. We may get some tips from a mate or two or from the guy in the shop that sells us the bike but in general we all think that we know how to ride a bike. We have all watched Valentino on TV and we convince ourselves that we can do the same.

Many do not survive long enough to learn that riding a motorcycle on the road is a very dangerous activity. I lost a school friend at 17 so I began to understand that there is more to this than meets the eye, so to speak.

So from my ripe old age I have a few tips for you all, as follows: (and the bike shown above is my Yamaha MT10 which has a detuned R1 engine with 160 horses and FLIES!!)

  1. ALWAYS ride defensively. Cars hurt, so a basic starting point is to assume that all cars are badly driven (many are) and so always stay well away and allow them to get it wrong. Many drivers will take all of the road on a corner so never use all of your lane, stay near to your side of the road. Many car drivers hold their smartphone in one hand so they do not pay much attention to driving and the use of indicators seems to be a thing of the past.
  2. ALWAYS ride within your limits. Sports bikes today are not far removed from race bikes in terms of power, performance and brakes. A modern 1000cc bike has almost 200 horse power!! It is almost impossible for a normal rider to find the limits of a modern bike even on a race track. Instead, it is very easy to find our own limits and we must learn to know them and to stay well within them.
  3. NEVER ride a bike when you are not feeling up to it. Take a bus or tram or car but not the bike because a bike requires 100% of our concentration. 80% is simply not enough.
  4. TAKE A RIDING COURSE. There are several excellent riding schools such as the California Superbike School in the UK, Ron Haslam’s school at Donnington Park and Run x Fun in Italy and all of these are excellent places to learn about riding a motorbike. All are circuit-based for safety reasons and not to teach you to ride at high speeds!!
  5. LOOK AFTER YOUR BIKE. We have only 2 tyres and the tyre condition and pressure are vital, so always check over the bike before and after every ride.
  6. NEVER insult another driver (with hand signals, for instance). It is not worth it. Sadly “Road Rage” exists and you can see many many examples on YouTube so always try to stay away from bad drivers, bikes are always the easy victims.

I have worked with RunxFun for several years and lessons are really the best way to survive and to enjoy yourself too.

All questions answered!!

Simon

More on motorcycle riding and survival

So when I started to ride a motorbike (but it could have been a scooter or a moped, the principles are the same) I started to live a dream as from a very early age I had been dreaming of this big day. I was 14 when I bought my first field bike which was an old, rusty but running Honda 50 for a princely 15 pounds. I had to get the chassis welded back together by the local smithie (it was snapped in half where the rear suspension connected to the rusty metal box frame) and then I also had to strip, recondition and rebuild the engine and gearbox and fit new piston rings. This bike was not street legal and nor was I so it became my field bike, I soon learned all about trying to stay on in a wet field and how to walk home with a broken collar bone without crying (much).

Then I progressed to a BSA Bantam 175 and then finally at 18 I bought my first real bike, a road legal Suzuki GT185. Wow was I one proud fellow! The GT185 was a twin cylinder two stroke and mine was in a really sorry state, the previous owner had disconnected the oil pump and mixed two stroke oil into the petrol tank, I never understood why, so my first task was to bleed the oil pump and two feed pipes which fortunately then worked fine. Of course I never confessed this to my Dad. The GT185 was a rocketship compared to my previous bikes and its 21 horsepower were a dream. The twin two stroke engine was something else, the bike was light and flickable and stunningly fast for me. Lovely. How I survived I will never know but I guess that cowardice helped me plus the fact that the bike represented my life savings.

I then bought myself a brand new Yamaha RD400 two stroke rocketship, sold that for an almost new Honda CB750K6 and then I traded her for an almost new Honda CBR1000. Bikes had quickly become my passion and I loved to see motorcycle racing so with mates we always visited the Transatlantics over the Easter weekend and then the Moto GPs whenever possible in the days of Kenny Roberts, Barry Sheene and Mick Grant, and we even rode over to France for the French GP (Le Mans) and the Bol D’Or 24 hour race in the south of France became our annual holiday location.

When I moved to Italy in 1990 I travelled down through France on my trusty CBR1000 and this trip really started my love for long rides. I crossed France from north to south and then headed down through Italy to Roma, I had a paper map of Europe which I lost on the way but I knew that all roads lead to Roma so I was not worried. I stopped overnight in Aosta and then cruised down to Roma, this was June so rest assured that by the time I arrived I was melting inside my UK spec one piece Lewis leathers!

LUCKILY after I decided to swap my trusty old CBR1000 for a lovely Yamaha R6, I made a good decision: I decided that I needed to get some rider training if I wanted to survive. My bikes until now had all been fairly fast but the R6 was really something else. This was basically a race bike with lights, it was very light but with an amazingly powerful engine so really took off. I therefore booked a full day training session at Vallelunga and this was a day that changed my life, for sure.

I met the training team Run x Fun owned and run by Luca Viola, himself a former racer as well as a passionate off roader. The team includes Paolo Castrichini, Max Zeraftis, Alex Vaghi, Michele Marchetti and others (see http://www.runxfun.it) as well as some amazing racers such as Fabio Massei, Alex and Alessia Polita and GianLuca Nanelli.

 

 

 

 

 

The real importance of rider training

Unfortunately we have daily reminders of the danger of riding a two wheeler be it motorcycle or scooter or moped.

Look at this one from last week:https://www.ilvescovado.it/it/sezioni-25/cronaca-1/incidente-tra-moto-e-scooter-a-castiglione-coinvo-71958

When we make a mistake driving our car, we may bend some metal but we usually get away with it especially now that a modern car has loads of driving aids from ABS to ESP, whereas the same mistake on two wheels can bring injuries or worse.

Given that the dynamics of a two wheeler is very complex and totally different to a car it would surely be a good idea if all riders took some basic rider-training to make them better equipped to survive? I have worked part-time for about 12 years with a motor bike school called Run x Fun and these guys really know their stuff. The owner is an ex-racer Luca Viola and the staff are all racers or ex racers and some famous racers such as Gianluca Nanelli and Fabio Massei both work with us as well as the amazing brother and sister team Alex and Alessia Polita. Less famous but equally brilliant riders such as Paolo Castrichini also work with Luca and we work mainly at the lovely Magione track, near Perugia about 2 hours north from Roma.

I honestly think that such a training course should be compulsory. A bike is NOT easy and is not a bicycle. Over the years we have seen many many folks improve and understand the right techniques to control a motorbike and leave the one day Base Course a different rider if not person. We use the race circuit NOT for speed but for safety and we always apply very strict safety rules and of course if all goes wrong then the grass awaits you!! Magione is a short circuit so is not built for speed but is ideal for teaching as it has almost every kind of corner available.

We also run off-road training courses starting from our base near Orte, and the fee includes the use of our bike and the safety equipment. Just turn up!! We also run road courses, off road riding and personal training as required.

Some top places to visit in Amalfi

Bar Masaniello Simply the best bar in Amalfi if not the world (ok ok I am biased, I love the place). Indoor and outdoor seating, free wifi and the best selection of beer in the town without any doubt. Service is great and very friendly and the food is also really good, no rip offs here. Good music always to listen too and sometimes live music in the evenings

Boat Museum Situated right next to Masaniello, this place is quietly amazing. Few visitors will know the history, Amalfi was one of four Italian maritime States. The compass was (perhaps) invented here and the boat museum is located where they used to manufacture the boats! Well worth a 30 minute wander out of the sun

Hotel Aurora gardens You don’t need to be staying in the hotel to go and admire the wonderful terrace gardens and sit down for a happy hour or so looking out over the harbour. Good selection of beer and wine plus cocktails and tasty sandwiches. WHAT a view

Hotel Luna Convent Cloister. This hotel building dates from the 1200s (in parts) and has been managed by the Barbaro family for more than 200 years. The amazing cloister dates from the 1200s too and is well worth a visit and a gentle cup of tea. Living history

Paper Museum Amalfi still makes paper and this lovely Museum gives you a taste of the old times, methods and traditions. Lovely place

Panza Pasticceria The Panza family owns several activities in Amalfi and the most famous is this lovely old bar. You can sit outside right next to the cathedral steps and enjoy excellent coffee and home-made cakes in the sun

La Tonnarella If you wanna eat in this town then there are several excellent restaurants. But if you want a unique eating experience then try this place. You need to book (your hotel can do that for you) and the food price includes the water taxi to and from the beach eating place which is about a 15 minute ride from Amalfi centre. Stunning place and food and experience

Paper shop This shop sells all sorts of articles and is specialised in hand made paper, great for gifts to take home to friends and family

Lacoste and Colmar shop Wonderful shop in the main street with a good selection of branded clothes including these 2 great marques

Visit the wonderful Amalfi coast with a guide or just some practical guide-lines

We all know that the Amalfi coast is stunning and well worth a visit. Nothing new there. But the best way to get there? The best way to get around? What to avoid and why? All of these important points and more are not always obvious as the coast is very long, winding and varied and each town along the coast has its own quirks and characteristics.

Here follow a few insider tips and guidelines for you to consider before you visit and/or I am happy to offer more precise guidelines for specific visits:

  1. Avoid August. Period. Unless you love sweltering heat, massive overcrowding and traffic queues then it is better to leave well alone. July is also very hot and slightly less crowded. August swells the 3,000 Amalfi population to 30,000 per day.
  2. Do not bring a car unless you have to. The coast road is very beautiful but also very crowded and narrow. Driving in the area is not easy even out of season, and from May through to October is really slow and hard work. Or get a local to drive you.
  3. From Roma you can take a fast train from Termini station to Salerno station and this takes two hours or a bit less. Then from Salerno station a walk of only about 300 metres takes you to the ferry port.
  4. The wonderful ferry service works from April thro’ to October and covers the entire coast from Salerno to Sorrento. It is not expensive and hops along the coast, the ferry is probably faster than any road transport and you also get to view the coast from the sea as well as enjoy the sea breeze.
  5. Book early, as last minute is very complex and expensive and generally you will find only out of the way places. Folks still book the same room for next year when they leave their favourite hotel, like in the old days!
  6. Be very cautious of the giants like Booking, TripAdvisor and the rest cos they are not reliable on the coast. Simply put these giants cannot get the percentages they want here as the hotels and restaurants are generally full anyway, so often they seem to publish rubbish. Use the direct web sites for better information.
  7. Avoid taxis as they generally charge you a fortune, I guess because there are so few of them. If you have to then ask then to know the fee before you go and you can negotiate. Ask the hotel to book for you for some protection and always ask the fee in advance.

Any other information you require, just ask.