A couple traveling around the world on a most unique form of transportation stopped in Farmington earlier this week.
Filippo Genito and Francesca Montanari from Rome, Italy began their journey in August last year. So far, the two have toured Greece, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Nepal, India, Burma, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Timor-Leste, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Belize, Mexico, and Cuba.
In the United States, they arrived in Miami, Florida on March 28 and have made their way through Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, Arkansas and – as of Tuesday – Missouri.
Now, more than halfway through the journey, they are traveling to Chicago, Illinois, then on to Indiana, Michigan, a stop in Ontario, then on to New York and Massachusetts before they head back overseas to Morocco, travel up to Spain and France before arriving back in Rome, Italy. On Friday afternoon, the couple was near Toledo, Ohio.
What makes this trip especially unique is the two are visiting five continents on a Lambretta – a vintage 1969 150 CC Italian scooter.
The two began their trip on Aug. 28 of last year and are now in their eighth month of travel. They plan to complete their trip in the United States around the first of May before heading back to travel through Spain and France before arriving back in Rome.
Why embark on such a journey?
“It was his birthday – he turned 50,” Francesca said. “So, he decided to do a big trip. We stopped our normal life … stopped the work and travel.”
Filippo is a marble stonemason during the winter months in Italy and Francesca works with the company that produces in Nutella. They met during their summer work aboard a 50-foot sailboat – Filippo as the captain and Francesca as the chef – and have been married for three years.
For this trip they sold their car and boat and took off on the vintage scooter Filippo likes to restore.
They arrived in Miami on March 28 after a stop in Cuba.
If the weather is good, Francesca said they can go around 250 km, or 155 miles, a day.
“But now, because it’s too cold, 100 (or 62 miles),” she said.
And, the top speed on the scooter is around 45 miles an hour – so the two take the back roads using their GPS as a guide. They simply map out each day looking for cities within the range they can travel.
“For example, yesterday, the problem is we were going to St. Louis,” Francesca said, “and it was too much cold … yesterday, we stopped at the petro station and the woman showed me the pictures from the day before with the snow on the garden.”
They are chronicling the trip on their website as well as their Facebook page. The web page is translated to English by clicking on the British flag.
They were enjoying a breakfast at Steak ‘n Shake on Wednesday before setting back out on the road. Their chance encounter with Chip Peterson on Tuesday led his wife, Debbie, to recommend the couple spend the night at their house.
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Peterson said they saw the couple at an intersection near U.S. 67. When he asked if they needed assistance, they said they were looking for a grocery store.
They had dinner with the travelers and spent the evening at the Peterson home, enjoying hospitality they’ve not experience so far on this leg of the trip.
Francesca noted that’s the first such offer made since they arrived in the United States. They’ve stayed in homes of locals in many of the other countries they’ve visited so far.
“We stay in hotels in America … other times, we have a tent so we sleep in a tent,” she said. “Other times, we sleep in a private house.”
She said communication with their hosts during their week-long stay in Kazakhstan was made possible by their smart phones and the language translation functions.
The model of bike they are traveling on is not made anymore. So far, they’ve changed two pistons – one while in Thailand and nine tires. They had to carry extra fuel while in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.
“You cannot find it for many, many miles,” Francesca said. “So, we had a container that would hold 18 liters. While traveling in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, we had extra (fuel) on us.”
The scooter is loaded with two spare tires and they plan to look for any other needed parts during a stop in Chicago.
In Colombia, the brakes stopped working on the decent of very steep mountains.
“There are many mountains – we went up 3,000 meters and when you come down,” Francesca said as she held her hand vertical to the ground. She got off the scooter at about 1,500 meters and walked alongside the scooter.
In some countries the two would hitchhike, with the scooter put in the vehicle along with them.
And, she said it wasn’t uncommon in some countries for others to join them.
“The people would see that we arrived and close their shop or close their office for a ride with us,” she said. “It’s fantastic, no?”
In some countries, a permit is required to travel with a scooter – which means a stay of a day or two until the paperwork is completed.
They are only the second couple to make such a trip. The first trip – which began in 1956 and finished in 1959 – was made by explorer Dr. Cesare Battaglini on a Lambretta 150D scooter.
“He and his wife traveled with two Lambretta,” she said. “We have one Lambretta. Battaglini had two people and two Lambrettas and an extra … they had many sponsors. We have no sponsors.”