On yer bike, Mike


The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - GRA­HAME WARD

CAR­RARA, QLD TRIPS with my care­free friend Mike have al­ways been a mat­ter of ‘‘let’s see what hap­pens’’. So we de­cided to go to the mo­tor­cy­cle races at Mugello, a per­ma­nent cir­cuit just north of Florence. Ac­com­mo­da­tion in the city was all booked, but Mike knew about a ‘‘won­der­ful ho­tel’’ across the moun­tains at Ri­olo Terme, a spa town he in­sisted was a two-hour drive. It turned out to take al­most twice that time over twisty roads.

Next day I in­sisted we could not con­tinue driv­ing to and fro on such a dan­ger­ous route. He said I would have to find us ac­com­mo­da­tion closer to the track. I had once stayed at Ronta, be­hind the race cir­cuit. Mike scoffed. I would have to do the ne­go­ti­a­tions.

I found the on­ceim­pos­ing ho­tel, apol­o­gised for my poor Ital­ian to the woman in charge, and asked for a room. I recog­nised the words ‘‘full up’’, but when she re­alised I was Aus­tralian she ex­claimed, ‘‘Mick Doohan!’’ She ges­tured ex­cit­edly and told me to wait. She reap­peared with two men and waved to their or­ange Fiat out­side. We were to fol­low the car.

Back in our hired Alfa Romeo, Mike wasn’t happy. Soon the Fiat turned through a set of wrought-iron gates. A gravel drive­way led to a beau­ti­ful villa; the men waved us in with sweep­ing bows. We were shown a se­ries of ele­gant rooms and a folder in­di­cat­ing the tar­iff was only j20. Break­fast at the Ronta ho­tel was j18 each. We were also given a hand-drawn map of a short­cut to the Mugello cir­cuit. Mike didn’t talk to me for the next 24 hours, once he’d crit­i­cised the cost of the break­fast. Send your 400-word con­tri­bu­tion to our Fol­low the Reader col­umn: travel@ theaus­tralian. com.au. Pub­lished colum­nists re­ceive a 200ml So­dashi Mint Soother Foot Treat­ment lo­tion ($63.60) to cool aching feet and legs; the lo­tion is per­fect for a deeply mois­tur­is­ing overnight treat­ment. More: so­dashi.com.

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