For the most part, Piemonte is a region of Italy that flies underneath the radar and doesn’t have the same profile of the more visited cities and regions of Rome, Florence, Venice, Tuscany, the Amalfi Coast and Sicily. However, it’s a funny contradiction as the region is revered by some and not even on the radar of so many others.
For us, Piemonte is one of our favourite regions of Italy and a destination that we want to share with people who have a passion for Italy, but who also want to experience another side of Italian style and culture, without the hoards.
We have compiled our top 5 reasons why we believe Piemonte should be added to the bucket list, and not just the bike bucket list.
1. The food
There is a style of cooking in Piemonte that is traditional and time honoured, and is unlike any other Italian region. It is home to some of our favourite food things….we’ve named a few.
Vitello tonnato: an amazing primi (or starter) of thinly sliced veal with a tuna sauce (the english translation does not do it justice). If it’s on the menu, it’s always ordered.
Negroni: an aperitivo originally from Turin, of an equal measure of gin, campari and rosso vermouth. It is an absolute taste sensation. One is never enough and two is probably the limit.
Tajarin: an egg based pasta that is indigenous to the region and is very thin, flat and fine strands, usually paired with a roasted meat ragu. It is so good that Damian once had three seperate meals of this dish in one 24hr period…. he says it’s all in the name of research for the perfect plate…. the search continues.
Truffle: and particularly the white truffle of Alba, is amazing. The aroma is just heavenly and when added to pasta, it is elevated to perfection. There are times on the bike when you are flying through a hazelnut grove and you can smell the truffles in the air.
Gianduja: made in Torino, this chocolate is a combination of local hazelnuts and milk or dark chocolate, and is seriously addictive. It is probably our all time favourite chocolate.
2. Il Vino
Those in the know, will have heard of Barolo, with the tag line of the “King of wines and the wine of Kings”. This is a very beautiful, elegant wine, and is exclusively from Piemonte, but it’s not the only game in town.
The depth of varieties for such a small area is quite amazing; Barbera, Dolcetto, Barbaresco, Arneis, and the delightful Moscato d’Asti to name a few. With each of the very small sub regions of Asti, Alba, La Morra, Grinzane and Dogliani all having their own versions of these styles, there is plenty of opportunity for tastings on our tour of Piemonte, comparing each to find your favourite style.
3. Il Ciclismo
As we reflect on the riding in Piemonte, it leaves us in awe of our past rides and the desire to get back there to ride them again, and also search for new roads. This is a region that has a couple of main arterial roads that are frequently used, but also a huge number of very tiny, quiet roads and lanes that meander in every direction, linking up the small villages. These are the roads that we ride on our tour and there are days when you can head out and not only will you not see another rider, you may only see a handful of cars.
The landscape is also diverse. Le Langhe has many rolling hills covered in vineyards, so you climb, descend and climb again. The climbs and descents are not long and they are not steep, but there are many, which provides a great challenge every day.
You can then ride from Le Langhe towards Cuneo and the Ligurian Coast, and the landscape flattens, with long stretches of orchards, hazelnut groves and crops, with the snow capped Alps in the distance that border France. It’s these sections of Alps that have the climbs of Colle Fauniera, Colle Sampeyre, Coll della Lombardia, Col de Angelo, and then further north, with the likes of Finestre and Siestre.
Some of these climbs will be the best days you have on a bike; 22km long epic challenges on the tiniest roads, and in the most amazing landscape with not a soul in sight, and just the sound of the wind and the odd cow bell or two. Then there is the descent where you truly feel alive.
4. Cycling Heritage
There has always been a strong cycling heritage in Piemonte, with it being the birth place of Fausto Coppi and home to the iconic Gios bike brand.
However it’s not just these two people and brands that reflect Piemonte’s deep cycling heritage.
There is the Milano -Torino race over a distance of 199km which was first run in 1876, making it the oldest of the Italian classic races and one of the oldest in the world.
There have been epic, Giro d’Italia making stages such as in 1914 from Milan to Cuneo, over the Alps, and in one of the most famous rides in cycling history, when Fausto Coppi was first over five major Alpine passes in stage 17 for the 1949 Giro d’Italia from Cuneo to Pinerolo.
There is also a long and distinguished list of riders who have called Piemonte home, namely Costante Girardengo.
The La Fausto Coppi Gran Fondo, now in it’s 32nd year, is listed in the top 10 Italian Gran Fondos.
5. The Beautiful Towns
There are many beautiful towns in Italy, and Piemonte seems to have a very high proportion of these. The ‘most beautiful villages in Italy’ (or I Borghi piu belli d’Italia) is an association of small Italian towns of historical interest and in its list of the top 100, Piemonte has 10 of them. On our La Fausto Coppi Gran Fondo & Piemonte Tour, we take you to 3 of them.
The likes of Nieve, Saluzzo and Monforte d’Alba, are charming towns, but these are not tourist towns. They still very much have a strong local presence and sense of community. It’s refreshing to be able to visit these beautiful towns, that at times feel deserted.
Whatever your style, desire or level of challenge, Piemonte has you covered.
For an amazing riding, food and wine experience of what we believe is an undiscovered area of Italy, join us on our La Fausto Coppi Gran Fondo & Piemonte Tour from 23rd June to 1st July 2019.