Our regular bike tours in northern Italy are in Piedmont (Piemonte), east of the high Alps separating southern France from Italy, and just over the coastal range from the Italian & French Rivieras on the Mediterranean. While Piemonte is a magnet for enthusiasts of fine food and fine wine, and draws its French neighbors to visit, cyclists from English-speaking countries have yet to discover the superb cycling it offers.
Since we design your week day-by-day while you’re here, as the week progresses, we don’t have a fixed itinerary to publish. Instead, in the Rides section below we summarize some of the many choices of destinations available to us, from verdant Alpine valleys connected by challenging passes featured in the Giro d’Italia, to rolling hills over vistas of vineyards and orchards nestled below hilltop castle-towns and church spires, to easy cruising in the Po river basin.
You can read endorsements from some of our past guests on our home page.
We ride on quiet secondary and tertiary roads that have very little motor traffic. Even where there’s motor traffic, it feels much safer than in The Bay Area. Traffic regulations stipulate a 1.5 meter (5 foot) minimum distance for motor vehicles passing bicycles. Moreover, in a collision between a motor vehicle and a bicycle, the motorist is presumed to be at fault until proven otherwise. In addition, motorists accept bicyclists as legitimate fellow users of public roads, and cyclists are not ”invisible“ because motorists expect to see them on the road.
Refined daily for you. Because we stay at one home base the entire time, we aren’t obliged to conform to a predetermined cookie-cutter itinerary. Instead, we observe and listen to you, check the wind, weather and road conditions, take into account local events of interest, and each morning (or the previous evening), choose a route or destination of suitable interest, length and terrain. Here are some of the possible ride destinations and/or places along the way that we may visit, followed by a sample 1-week itinerary for those who insist on one—keep in mind your week will almost certainly be different!
Piemonte has an extensive selection open for public visits. They range from austere, forbidding medieval ones to luxurious Renaissance palaces, elaborately furnished and decorated inside. In particular, in the flatlands north of our home base are 11 to choose from for easy biking destinations, in Busca, Castellar, Costigliole Saluzzo, Fossano, Lagnasco, Manta, Monasterolo di Savigliano, Racconigi and Savigliano. We can tailor the distance to you by using our van.
The Barolo and Barbaresco wine regions of Piemonte surround the town of Alba, about 1 hour to our northeast by car. The Dolcetto region, around the town of Dogliani, is about 40 minutes away. Quiet roads, perfect for bicycling, roll along gentle ridges which look out on gorgeous panoramas of vineyards, orchards and hilltop villages with castles or church spires soaring over them. Wine-tasting is possible, at the many wineries and community wine collectives, some located in old castles. However, wine and cycling don’t mix any better than drinking and driving, so we’d reserve visits for the end of the day: you can taste (and buy a few bottles if you wish), then relax in our van for the trip home.
Numerous small hills and valleys surround nearby Mondovì, offering easy to challenging rides. Among the places to visit on these routes are the San Fiorenzo church in Bastia Mondovì: with its 16th century Provençal-style Gothic frescoes; the Sanctuary at Vicoforte Mondovì, capped by the world’s largest elliptical dome, decorated with the largest painting in the world on a single theme (the Virgin Mary, 6032 m², 64,928 sq. ft.), and fronting a spacious, park-like piazza; the grottoes at Bossea with its skeleton of prehistoric bear and caverns laden with stalactites and stalagmites, which you can see by boat.
Certosa di Pesio, a restored Carthusian monastery dating from 1173. Parco Naturale Alta Valle Pesio e Tanaro, which has an extensive network of hiking trails. Lurisia Terme, a natural hot springs resort with a spa offering a wide range of services, from basic visits to chocolate massage.
Starting counterclockwise from the northwest: Valle Varaita passes through Sampeyre and Casteldelfino on the way to Colle dell’Agnello at the Franco-Italian border; Valle Maira starts at Dronero, with its Occitan ethnographic museum, and connects to Sampeyre via Colle di Sampeyre; Valle Grana, home of Castelmagno, “the king of cheeses”, and the Castelmagno Sanctuary, peaks near Colle d’Esichie; Valle Stura ends at Colle della Maddalena (Col de Larche) on the Franco-Italian border, connects to Castelmagno via Demonte and Colle Fauniera, and connects to Colle della Lombarda (Col de la Lombarde) on the Franco-Italian border via Vinadio; Valle Gesso ends at the hot springs resort at Terme di Valdieri, and connects to Demonte via Madonna del Colletto; and Valle Vermenagna passes through Vernante and Limone Piemonte on the way to Colle di Tenda (Col de Tende) on the Franco-Italian border. Many of the passes are high enough that colorful Alpine flowers flourish on their slopes even in mid-summer.
Some popular cycling climbs in Cuneo province, most of which have been included in the Giro d’Italia and some in the Tour de France:
|* 3 other Alpine passes are higher: Col de la Bonette in the French Alps, artificially raised to 2,802 m; Col d’Iseran in the French Alps, 2,764 m; Passo dello Stelvio/Stilfersjoch in the Italian Dolomites, 2,758 m.|
|Colle dell’Agnello||2,744||9.45||939||10%||14%||highest paved pass* on the French-Italian border|
|Colle Fauniera||2,481||20.9||1,687||10.1%||14.75%||monument to Marco Pantani|
|Colle della Lombarda||2,351||21.3||1,447||6.8%||9.1%||2008 Tour de France HC climb|
|Colle della Maddalena||1,996||33.2||1,092||4.1%||12%|
|Colle di Sampeyre||2,284||14.5||1,354||9.4%||15%|
|Prato Nevoso||1,615||11.0||974||8.9%||16%||2008 Tour de France cat. 1 climb & stage finish|
|Sant’Anna di Vinadio||2,010||15||1,106||7.4%||9%||highest-sited church in Europe|
Sample 1-week itinerary
While every week is different and designed to suit your abilities and aspirations, here’s an example of how one particular week might go…
Saturday: We meet you at the train station in Cuneo to transfer you to Chiusa di Pesio. Assemble/fit bikes in the afternoon to take a short spin into the Pesio Valley to visit the restored Carthusian monastery at Certosa and the nature park. Continue with optional added hills or an easy spin in the flats, with distance and altitude adjustable on the fly. Welcome dinner at the hotel.
Sunday: Mostly downhill ride to award-winning microbrewery Baladin in the village of Piozzo, overlooking the Tanaro Valley across to the Dolcetto Langhe hills, or via a more challenging hilly route through the Dolcetto Langhe. Dinner at the hotel.
Monday: Ride to Vernante, a village known for its murals depicting scenes from Pinocchio, a tribute to the illustrator of the original Italian edition (not the Disney version). Optional visit to the Venchi chocolate outlet. Dinner out at an agriturismo, featuring ingredients raised/grown on the farm.
Tuesday: Ride along the Stura Valley to Vinadio on an old military access road now used only by residents and cyclists. Option to climb a scenic alpine valley to Sant’Anna di Vinadio, the highest-sited church in Europe and a popular pilgrimmage site for Italian and French survivors of devastating traffic accidents. If you’re still game, add a short but challenging out-and back to the French border at Colle della Lombarda (Col de la Lombarde, in French). Dinner at the hotel.
Wednesday: Mid-week rest day. Take the bus into Cuneo to visit, or catch a train to Turin or the Mediterranean coast. Take a guided tour to learn more about the ancient Occitan cultural heritage of the local alpine valleys (shared with Provence and Catalonian Spain) with visits to sites rarely open to the public—advanced reservation required. Go hiking, use the outdoor climbing wall in Chiusa, visit the thermal hot springs spa in Lurisia. Or ride on your own, we’ll supply maps and cue sheets. Dinner on your own (we can suggest places in town within easy walking distance).
Thursday: Ride along the scenic alpine Valle Maira. Climb to Elva, the highest-located year-round community in Europe, via a spectacular gorge with the road going through short tunnels cut into the hillsides. Visit the Hans Clemer frescoes, a 15–16th century masterpiece. Or, climb to the ski resort at Prato Nevoso, a Tour de France stage finish, via the quiet and scenic Corsaglia valley. Dinner out at another agriturismo, featuring home-made specialties from Piedmont and the South Tyrol: we have yet to manage to get to the secondi (main courses)!
Friday: Ride along the rolling ridges of the Langhe, overlooking gorgeous landscapes of vineyards, orchards and picturesque hill towns topped by church spires and/or castle towers. On a clear day, the Alps forming a natural wall between France and Italy are visible in the distance. Visit a family-owned and operated winery in the Barolo region to taste (and buy, if you like). Disassemble and pack up bikes in the afternoon. Farewell dinner at the hotel.
Saturday: We transfer you to Cuneo train station from Chiusa.
Once more, we emphasize that this is just one possible scenario from an endless palette we mix and match for a week uniquely adapted to you.
We’re effectively encircled by the Alps: they form a natural barrier to the west with France, and to the south with the Ligurian coast. To the northeast are the wine country hills of the Langhe, while the agricultural flatlands extend to the north towards Turin. The map image below indicates where we ride in Piemonte—the more frequently, the redder. Note that we’ve ridden on the Mediterranean coast too.