Riding a Harley in Italy
The road was getting narrow. Reaching out from the back seat of our Harley-Davidson Street Glide, I could almost touch the tall, rough walls on either side of the bike. Up ahead, our friend Joe was leading us to the annual Apple Festival in the small Italian town of Benevento. A wrong turn had us weaving through the labyrinth of a tiny village with streets no wider than a Smart Car. Joe’s wife Nicky was riding ahead of us, her taillight bouncing as the bike negotiated each cobblestone.
Despite the unknown of hairpin turns in close confines, I was laughing out loud. This was why we moved to Italy. This was the adventure we craved. Marveling at each old passageway, my only concern was the thumping exhaust of the bikes reverberating off the stone walls. In such an old and serene place, it seemed irreverent to be so loud. I hoped we weren’t offending the people who lived here – hanging their laundry from the tiny windows high above us.
A few more hair-raising turns and our leader stopped to ask for directions. An Italian woman was standing on her doorstep in an apron, seemed curious and friendly. Joe and Nicky approached her with big smiles and very bad Italian to ask directions to the Apple Festival. With exaggerated gestures, the woman attempts to direct us and waves with enthusiasm as we slowly thunder off again.
Ten minutes and three U-turns later, we found Benevento. A colorful, intimate town with a main street lined with booths selling apples, jams, pastries, and cheese. We are greeted warmly by the local Italians who pose next to our bikes for pictures and ply us with apple wine. Peeking from windows above the retail shops, and shyly pointing at our bikes, it’s clear they are as fascinated by us as we are by them. I’m relieved our loud entrance into their village was acceptable.
Leaving an hour after loading up the bikes with apples and cheese, we head back to Naples near dusk. The sun is getting low, and I’m a little concerned when Joe points up at the tall aqueduct we rode through earlier and diverts off the motorway onto a side road for a better look at it. Riding after dark is something we haven’t done yet in Italy and lost after dark didn’t sound appealing.
Up above the motorway alongside the arched Roman aqueduct, we could see for the first time the deep trench running down the center. Gated at both ends of its eight-foot-wide expanse, and we were surprised to see a man standing near the gate rolling up an Italian flag. Walking down to get a closer look, Joe attempted to communicate with more bad Italian and was shocked when the gatekeeper unlocked the gate and offered to let us walk across the monolithic structure. Ready to take advantage of an opportunity that may never happen again, the four of us ran back to the bikes and surprised the gatekeeper by riding through the rarely opened gate before he could change his mind.
“This NEVER happens!” exclaimed Joe as we parked the bikes high above the motorway at the center of the arches. “We are so, so, lucky we found him here at the gate, and he allowed us to do this!”
Feeling the magic of the discovery, we all agreed this was a ride where getting lost was a thrill, and finding a place atop an ancient Roman aqueduct was a pinnacle day on the streets of Italy.