We have just wrapped up our Piemonte @ Harvest cycling tour and what a week it has been in a special and almost untouched region of Italy; a region that in my opinion is a big and beautiful playground for all cyclists and certainly a paradise for lovers of fine Italian food and wine.
It’s also a region that is at its absolute best in Autumn with an abundance of colour, produce and energy; an Italian energy that reflects their appreciation for special, seasonal produce.
On our first ride, we rolled around the spectacular Le Langhe (meaning in local dialect: the narrow ridge of a chain of hills). Its name perfectly depicts the landscape; an area with a collection of short and rolling hills, ancient and historic towns perched on top and joined together by short flat valleys… both exhilarating and challenging in equal measures.
One of the great things about riding in Italy is the mid ride lunch. At the very worst, you’ll have the best panino made for you while you wait and at best, a pizza direct from the wood fired oven on the thinnest base you can imagine or a local salumi plate….. can it get any better than amazing riding and then an unexpected taste sensation for our mid ride lunch, followed by a quick shot of espresso?
Our riding adventure continued through the week as me made our way throughout the hills surrounding Barolo, Alba and Barbaresco; taking in climbs up to La Morra, around to the iconic Barolo and then heading for home past Serralunga d’Alba and Grinzane Cavour, along quiet roads that snake through the absolutely stunning vineyards, with their patchwork of rows. The landscape keeps changing with every corner and delivers vistas again and again that are just spectacular. It’s hard at times to take in such beauty, with the changing colour of the vines in the foreground and the snow capped alps in the distance.
Post Ride Aperitivo & Dinner
After taking some time to relax and freshen up post ride, we often headed around the corner and up the cobblestoned lane of our tiny hilltop town to a little enoteca for our nightly aperitivo. This enoteca, with its tightly packed shelves of every type of Piemontese wine and its many customers sprawling over the crumbling brick walls, park benches, and small tables, epitomises Italian style. How the Piemontese treat the serving & sharing of wine is special; a round of drinks is ordered and for every different type of vino (on this occasion, Arneis, Barolo, Barbera, Barbaresco and Dolcetto), a small taste is poured to ensure that you like what you are about to drink; and this is just for a glass, not the full bottle.
We sat amongst the locals and decompressed a little, debriefing our amazing rides each day as we took in the relaxed vibe of our charming hilltop towns of Monforte d’Alba and Neive.
Before long it’s time for us to adjorn for dinner to a beautiful, family run ristorante with incredible views across the vineyards at sunset.
Vino and water are ordered before we settle in with the menu, which for most of us amounts to an almost instantaneous decision; it’s the Piemonte classic double of Vitello Tonnato and then Ravioli d Plin with sage and butter sauce. A taste sensation.
For others, the Brasato di Barolo with contorni of patate al forno (roast potatoes) and insalata mista was a hit; this tender meat, slow cooked for hours in Barolo wine is another cult dish in Piemonte and rightly so. Its juicy tenderness and full flavour is simply delicious.
We decide to forgo dessert on this occasion, but relished another opportunity to each enjoy a small glass of the other local sensation, Moscato d’Asti, what a revelation this dessert wine is.
The double act of amazing riding and fantastic food & wine is what I like to call the perfect day, which we repeated for a week.
As well as exploring the roads of Le Langhe region, we also indulge in wine tastings in ancient cellars, long lunches on terrazzi and understanding more about the Alba white truffle.
We didn’t want this cycling tour to end….. but the good thing is we’ll be back again next year for another Harvest Tour, as well as rolling through another part of the region for our La Fausto Coppi Gran Fondo bike tour in July.