‘WhatsApp’ is a wonderful tool for communicating. The only real downside is the advisory beep or vibe that dictates the endless stream of messages that get posted in the various ‘groups’ I seem to end up in. Especially once an event gets near to its starting date. Event over and hey-ho, these groups oddly fall silent.
Preceding last year’s Dolomite Tour, one such WA group was initiated and I can safely say that it’s the only one that has remained (extremely) active right up to the start of this year’s event. Such was the general consensus of how good the event was. The first crack of the Lui Tour whip saw just 12 riders partake but such was the quality of the experience had by one and all, that word soon spread and this year places were capped at a maximum of 30 riders.
As we drew closer to the event, my phone seemed to be constantly beeping as the enthusiasm sky-rocketed. Helped no end with the influx of all the new members, as they were added to the group so that info and advice could be easily shared. With all the current Covid-19 restrictions still in place in Italy, the term “A few friends meeting up for a ride on smallframe Lambrettas” was used, rather than an outright event, which would have set all the alarm bells ringing.
The Dolomite Mountains, situated in the north-east regions of Italy, is an incredibly stunning place and this year the plan was to visit other locations within the mountains, rather than those we’d been shown on the first Lui Tour.
So why is it a ‘Lui Tour’, rather than being open to the usual largeframe models? Simple. It’d be too easy to do a Dolomite Tour on a GP200, so to make it more interesting – and exclusive – the ‘underdog’ smallframe Lambretta models were chosen. The Lui/Vega/Cometa Lambretta models (all called ‘Lui’ for the home Italian market, hence the name of the Tour) are perfect tools for the event. With their current popularity at an all-time high, parts and conversions are now available offering both performance and reliability that were unthinkable just two years ago.
Lambretta J Range models are also welcomed, as they too fall into the ‘smallframe’ category. The Tour covers about 450km over three days, takes in several Alpine Passes and you’ll have memories that’ll last you a lifetime. The entrance cost is Euro 300, which covers everything from hotel accommodation to all meals, non-stop aperitifs, breakdown assistance and even the chance to see Bruno ‘Pisa’ smile, which is an unusual event to say the least. The only other need to splash the cash is for fuel.
NO SLEEP TILL BROOKLYN
The organisation of the Dolomite Experiences is a joint effort, shared between Bruno ‘Pisa’ Pisanello from ‘Scooter Italiano’ in Pordenone and Alan Casagrande & Fabio Basso of ‘TV Scooter Garage’ (TVSG) located in Nervesa Della Battalgia, near Treviso. There were a lot of early arrivals turning up on Thursday, including long-distance travellers Adam and Stephen ‘Sal’ Salvin from the UK and Tony Tessier from France – where he now resides. Another mention must also go to Giancarlo ‘Skinza’ Muscaridola who had come all the way up from Matera, in deepest, darkest Southern Italy. If he was any further south, he’d have wet feet and speak Arabic. Luna fanatic Mark Kelly from the IOM was also due to come but COVID restrictions meant he couldn’t even leave the island!
Thursday afternoon, the organisers had arranged for a small 30km trip around the area, where we were taken to see the ‘Jonathan Collection’ of vintage aircraft. About 15 Lunatics set off for a quick blast around the surrounding countryside before we arrived at the airfield. A guided tour was laid on with the owner/curator/builder – showing us the collection of self-made copies of mostly British, Italian and German aircraft, ranging from the Red Baron’s Fokker tri-plane, to the absolutely humungous triple-motor Caproni CA33Z Italian bomber from WW1, through to a working copy of the Wright brothers 1903 Flyer. And these aren’t just museum pieces either, they are all useable, flight-worthy planes that even get used for traveling across Europe and Asia. Mental. Our departure from the airfield was slightly delayed as a thunderstorm came in and really let go.
Let’s get this party started
Once back at Nervesa, we were all shown to our accommodation before we hit the only bar in the village and the party REALLY got underway. I don’t think the locals had ever seen anything like it. Or the bar staff come to that, as the place was all but drunk-dry by just 20 people. By 3 am they’d had enough (and had little else to sell) so the last party animals were sent on their merry way, wobbling their way back to the hotel in a vain bid to try to sleep off the effects before the Tours 8 am start.
Start me up
This year the starting point was the actual TVSG shop and they certainly pulled out all the stops for their guests, with a huge free breakfast buffet for everyone. Goody bags were given out and contained no end of quality items, supplied by names such as Casa Lambretta, Pinasco and Europlast, all keen to back this up-and-coming event.
On the lash
Friday’s route initially took us to the stunning Valdobbiadene area, with the road passing through endless, rolling hillsides completely covered by perfect vineyards. We took in the first pit-stop at the ‘Terrazza Garbara’ residence, where we were greeted with wine, prosecco and snacks laid on for us by the owners. Not bad; after just 40kms the Tours participants were already on the lash.
From there we started to climb up into the mountains, where we passed through the San Boldo Pass, which was carved out of sheer rock in just 100 days during WW1. Not many people know that Italy was an Allie in the Great War and was given substantial backing by the British army during their fight against the Austrians, which is why there are numerous Commonwealth gravesites scattered throughout the north-east of the country.
The ascent became more tortuous and there were a lot of hot clutches by the time we reached Trichina and Sedico, where yet another aperitif pitstop was waiting for the group at the ‘La Stanga’ restaurant. One of the points of the Lui Tour is to give the participants a chance to try out regional/local delicacies (all within the price of the event ticket) and here we were given special meat cakes washed down with ice-cold local beer.
HOLIDAYS IN THE SUN
Suitably fed ‘n’ watered, Bertone’s moped-fest continued its way up to Alleghe, where the Lambretta Club of Friuli was waiting for us by the side of the picturesque lake. They kindly laid on lunch for everyone and the chance to sit and relax on the lake’s shores in the hot sunshine was nothing short of perfect. An hour later we continued up the breathtakingly beautiful Giau Pass, 2236m above sea level. The weekend warriors on their rice rockets were out in force, as were the BMW brigade looking pleased as punch with themselves having reached the summit of the pass. Until we turned up on our humble diminutive 2-stroke steeds and suddenly their collective faces dropped, realising they had taken the easy option. Fair play to them though as the Lui riders were inundated with questions and compliments, along with looks of disbelief…
LAST OF THE BOY SCOUTS
During the ascent, we’d lost Alan from TVSG and Gegio of Scooterismo.it/RLC and they ended up at the top of another nearby pass (the Falzarego) but as both were running ‘CP One35’s they made short work of catching the main group up once they realised where we were! Getting to the top of the pass wasn’t all easy though, and several people had mechanical issues, mostly afflicted to machines that were build-fresh or hadn’t been used/tested prior to the trip.
Back up van?
One bike had a condenser failure, another had a Vega exhaust turn bright blue as it was coked-up solid and overheated. The general opinion was that it looked good, albeit this was of little consolation to the owner who was wondering how he was going to clean out a sealed pipe. Vega exhausts have a (reasonably useless) dogbone-shaped closure plate in the end ‘for inspection purposes’ so all that remained was to remove that, rev the scooter to within an inch of its life and luckily a shower of incandescent carbon deposits came shooting out! The lad with condenser problems messaged the back-up van (the wonders of WhatsApp) to come and collect him. Except the back-up van had just broken down with a burst radiator hose. Ooops. We tried not to laugh.
Mechanical issues sorted, both in two and 4-wheeled formats, we finally arrived at the Hotel Argentina on the outskirts of super-chic Cortina d’Ampezzo. This is the same place we’d stayed at the year before and with decent rooms, an in-house restaurant, garage and ample safe parking, this proved to be a good choice.
Saturday’s departure was slightly delayed as a few running repairs were carried out and people took the time to admire Marcello Taglialegnas chromium-blue exhaust. The intended route was to cover 163kms, taking in the Falzarego Pass in the Parola Valley, over the Furcia and Cimabanche Passes, with a visit to the UNESCO recognised Fanes-Senes-Braies nature reserves and Lake Braie, before returning to Cortina d’Ampezzo.
The winding roads around Falzarego and the Paola Valley proved wonderful playgrounds for those with ‘CP One35’ kitted machines, as they ran circles around the bikers, despite having just 12-15bhp to play with. Watching the warriors trying to shake off the kitted Luis sat firmly on their tails had us in stitches. Being unable to get away from half-century old mopeds on your 1000cc pocket rocket doesn’t make for good stories at the bar.
The route was littered with tunnels, bar stops, aperitifs and narrow, winding roads – right up until we reached Lake Braies. Everyone was on a high and the riders had naturally split into groups of similar powered Luis, before reuniting once again in front of a glass of Prosecco or Aperol. A few riders got temporarily lost en-route but the supplied road-books soon got them back on track. The organisers had it buttoned up, right down to the last man with organised pitstops every 30-40kms so stragglers could catch up and join in the fun. This isn’t a race, it’s a cultural Tour with all the trimmings.