The 2021 edition of the Giro d’Italia commences on Saturday 8th May and is the 104th edition of the race. It is also the 90th edition of the maglia rosa, used to signify the leader and winner of the race, and the 160th anniversary of the unification of Italy, with its commencement in Turin celebrating this great city becoming the country’s first capital in 1861. So, as the first stage’s ITT rolls through the streets of Turin, it marks a significant day for not only the Giro d’Italia, but also Italy and the history of Italian road racing.
As stages 2 and 3 traverse through the Piemonte countryside, we take the time here to reflect on our own Tour of Piemonte which also meanders across the beautiful, undulating landscape, and share some of our Piemonte highlights and favourites with you – which you may see on the Giro broadcast for now and hopefully enjoy in person one day.
Our Favourite Towns
Turin is a seriously beautiful town and one that is not on many people’s radar, but should be. Its many streets in the centro storico that restrict traffic, make it the perfect town to discover on foot, with 18km of covered arcades, of which 12km are continuous. Turin is architecturally stunning, home to over 40 museums, including the Egyptian museum and the national museums of Cinema, the Automobile, the Risorgimento and many venues for contemporary art. Most importantly in our view, it is the home of the aperitivo – and in particular, vermouth – and Its grand outdoor piazzas and promenades make for the perfect afternoon of sipping negroni’s, while people watching.
Alba is another of our favourite Piemontese towns and it’s great to see the race will pass through here towards the end of stage 3. Alba is often referred to as the Gourmet Capital of Piemonte and with its wonderful restaurants and bars lining the collection of beautiful cobble stoned streets, this town in the heart of the Le Langhe wine region, is a ‘must visit’. A particularly good time to visit is during the Alba White Truffle festival in October when the local festival stalls take over all the piazzas and small spaces, selling a sensational array of different foods and tastes from the region, while cultural events are enjoyed by locals celebrating the Autumn harvest.
Nieve is a tiny hamlet sitting on a hill in the Le Langhe wine region and is more firmly a Barbaresco producing town (more on that later). A handful of relaxed but very beautiful wine bars, restaurants and places to stay, make it a very easy place to hang out for a few days. While it doesn’t take very long to walk through all of its streets, its tranquility and artful expression can be the perfect antidote to the sometimes frenetic pace of travel.
Our Favourite Rides
La Fausto Coppi Gran Fondo
This is more than just a Gran Fondo, it is a day on the bike that will remain etched in your heart and mind for a very long time, and one that you’ll look forward to riding again if you are able.
Capped at 2800 riders, it is a mass start, that at a minimum will see you ride 111km and climb 2510m, with most of that elevation coming from Colle Fauniera and its very narrow, but beautiful ribbon of tarmac that is delicately laid up and then down the mountain. This ride is just a feast for the senses.
The Old Salt road in the Maritime Alps. We have not ridden this yet but it is on the “must” ride list and very close to the top. It is an ancient trade route between Italy and France, with plenty of gravel and elevation that would require a multi-day excursion and a night or two in a mountain top rifugio to complete.
Le Langhe Loop, is our sensational, short and sharp loop that takes in Monforte d’Alba, before rolling down to Barolo, the collection of undulating hills that is home to the “king of wines and they say the wine of kings”. This is then followed by a climb to the hilltop town of La Morra and it 200 degree views of the Le langhe below. The loop continues with a great free flowing descent before a couple of pinches that hover around 15% mark, as we make our way up to the hilltop hamlet of Castiglione Falletto, with its castle sitting at the highest point.
Our Favourite Food
We tried but couldn’t limit this to just one or two dishes. The food in Piemonte is just sensational.
This is an iconic primi of very thin slices of veal that are served with a tuna and caper sauce. While the description may not sound that enticing, the flavour combination is unforgettable.
If this is on the menu, it is always ordered and with the recent purchase of a meat slicer, we are now looking forward to making this Piemontese classic at home.
Tajarin is a pasta that is made with a high egg yolk to flour ratio and then cut into very thin silky strands. It is either served with a sage and butter sauce or as in the photo above, a veal and pork sausage ragu.
Both are delicious and we are salivating as we write this because this pasta is just melt-in-your-mouth goodness.
Carne Cruda is just as the translation says, ‘raw meat’. This description however again does not do this dish justice. The carne cruda is a very special piece of lean veal that is hand chopped to avoid any excess heat from spinning blades.
This is then blended with salt, pepper, lemon juice and whole smashed garlic, which is removed before serving with thin wafers of Parmesan or Grana Padano cheese.
Our Favourite Wine
As with the food, it is difficult to name just one, as there are many very beautiful wines from the Piemonte region – some you will have heard of such as Barolo, Barbaresco, Barbera, Nebbiolo and Arneis, and others that you may not have such as Dolcetto di Dogliani.
Dolcetto translates to ‘little sweet one’ in Italian because the grapes are quite sweet just before harvest, although the wines are always dry. The variety is made in many of the different locales of Piemonte and is one of the most important grapes in the Lower Piedmont region. We particularly enjoy a Dolcetto di Dogliani from the San Luigi area, which is described as ‘a wine which is distinguished by its freshness and drinkability, while maintaining the excellent body and elegance of an important red wine’. Fruity and aromatic, this is an everyday wine that surprises at every sip and is one of our favourites.
Now, while you watch the Giro d’Italia 2021 edition as it navigates its way around the Italian countryside, take some time to get into the spirit and make your own favourite Italian dish or pop the cork on one of your favourite Italian varietals, and bring a slice of Italy into your home. Salute!
You can find out more here about our Giro d’Italia Tour or our Tour of Piemonte and La Fausto Coppi Gran Fondo, and if you’re interested in joining us in 2022 or 2023, be sure to check out our dates here.