Piedmont is a region in the northwest corner of Italy that borders France and Switzerland. Almost half of Piedmont can be described as mountainous while most of the remainder is considered hilly. Its terrain is higher and perhaps more challenging than the description "the foot of the mountains,” the literal translation of its name, might suggest.
The Langa and Monferrato regions of Piedmont are in one of the most important wine production areas in Italy and received UNESCO World Heritage status in 2014. The Piedmont Barolo cycling tour will take us to the heart of these regions, over rolling hills covered with endless vineyards and past ancient castles and hidden hilltop hamlets. These hills offer superb riding along peaceful secondary roads.
Vineyards cover most of the hills here and wines such as Barolo (the so-called King of wines), Barbaresco, Barbera, and Nebbiolo are perfectly paired with dishes that will make each meal a gastronomic event. Towns like Barolo, Acqui Terme, and Alba are perfect stops for a taste of what the region has to offer, where strolling through the cobbled streets and sipping a glass of local wine in piazzas bursting with cafes and wine bars is a great way to end a day on the bike. You’ll see how connected the local people are to the land, and how they take pride in everything they produce.
The first two days revolve around Alba, our stay for two nights, which is the capital of the Langa region and a charming, midsize town. There, a local guide will explain its history and link to agriculture, the economic foundation of Langa along with wine and truffle tourism.
The second part of the itinerary will take us to Monferrato (province of Alessandria) and we will explore the area of Novi and Gavi, known for its white wine (mostly Gavi from cortese grapes).
The riding itself is hilly and extremely scenic with beautiful ridges and rolling hills. Days are fairly short (except for day 4) but the terrain will ask for several power bursts which are always rewarded by stunning views. On a clear day, snow-capped Mount Blanc and Mount Rose appear closer than they really are and are easy to spot. On the western side, one can easily recognize the triangular shape of Mount Viso where the Po River rises (the main river in Italy running all the way to the Adriatic Coast south of Venice).
E-bikes are available and they will make the hills seem like an afterthought.
Alba - Barbaresco - 20 mls - Rolling
After a transfer from Turin (about 1 hr), we’ll make it to Alba and ride from there. The area southwest of Alba is part of the Barbaresco wine production zone. The three villages where Nebbiolo grapes for Barbaresco wine can be grown are Neive, Treiso, and Barbaresco.
The original, small, and elegant village of Barbaresco will be part of our ride today. As you approach Barbaresco, its imposing 12th-century tower stands out in the landscape. The tower is what is left of an imposing fortification that once crowned the hilltop where Barbaresco rises. Down a winding ridge, we’ll head towards Treiso before an exhilarating descent back to Alba. Enjoy some free time before dinner.
We spend two nights in Alba, the elegant capital of the white truffle, also nicknamed the town of a hundred towers. Only a few of these fine red-brick towers have survived, but they still give the town its distinctive appearance. A tour program description will precede our first group dinner.
La Morra and Barolo - 28 or 35 mls - Hilly
Today’s ride starts out with an ascent to La Morra. La Morra is considered the balcony of the Langa region because of its wonderful views of the entire area. In Barolo, we’ll visit the Enoteca Regionale di Barolo (regional cellar of Barolo), where you will have an instructive explanation of the King of Wine’s production and differences. Between La Morra, Barolo, and Monforte, you’ll ride past rows of nebbiolo vines cultivated by such legendary producers as Renato Ratti, Bartolo Mascarello and Roberto Voerzio.
We will then ride on a beautiful ridge that borders the Alta Langa and continues with some ups and downs all the way to Serralunga d’Alba, and then Grinzane Cavour. The 13th-century Grinzane Cavour castle, once home to the famous strategist Cavour and now a Regional Wine Cellar, also hosts a literary prize and a world-famous white truffle auction. If we are lucky, majestic view of the Alps will accompany us for the majority of today’s ride. This evening, we will partake in an Italian tradition: l’aperitivo. Dinner is at one of the best restaurants in town. Tomorrow we say farewell to the Barolo area.
Alba - Benevello - 27
Today we’ll say farewell to Alba and ride to the Alta Langa (high Langa) area past more vineyards, while gaining elevation. Our first stop is in Neive. Neive is not on the usual wine routes but for that reason, it is still very authentic. Take your time here and have your cameras ready.
Next is the unpretentious village of Mango and that is where lunch is planned. Time to enjoy life and to appreciate slow-travel the Tourissimo way! We then pedal on a ridge, which is part of the Alta Langa, the highest and wildest portion of this territory. The views are stunning. The vegetation changes as hazelnut-topped woodland covers the northern side of the round and gentle hills. These hazelnuts are harvested by the ton and transported to the Ferrero factory in Alba to make the famous Nutella spread, as well as Italian Gianduja chocolates, which you should of course try!
Our hotel affords a great view of the Alps, but also a pool and a nice Spa. Dinner is at the fine hotel restaurant.
Benevello - Gavi - 56 or 29 mls - Hilly
This morning, we pedal from Alba to the hills of Acqui Terme via the Bormida River Valley. Monferrato is not as well-known as Langa and wine tourism does not bring very many people there. That said, we consider it a hidden gem for cycle tourism.
We stop along the way in the authentic village of Monastero Bormida for a nice picnic of focaccia and local specialties, such as robiola di Roccaverano cheese. We won’t spoil it, but this place offers a good photo op with a unique landmark.
In a few more easy miles we are in Acqui Terme. Founded by Greek colonists, Acqui Terme has been well-known for its hot springs since Roman times. We’ll regroup in Piazza della Bollente where a fountain with thermal water stands in the middle. Hint: we know the best gelato place in Acqui Terme and you surely deserve to try it out. The last part of the ride will end on the hills of Gavi at Villa Sparina, a charming wine resort.
We finish the day with aperitivo with a view of the sunset and a gourmet dinner.
Gavi - Castellania 32 or 40
A fairytale ending is planned among more cortese vineyards and on the uncelebrated training ground of the legendary Italian cyclist Fausto Coppi.
The route takes us to Castellania, which is the birthplace of Coppi. Coppi’s modest house is now a museum and pilgrimage destination for cyclists. We’ll then cross Novi Ligure, once an important trading spot on the way to and from the Mediterranean Sea, and in a few miles we are back at the hotel.
Enjoy some free time before a short drive to Gavi. Gavi is an unpretentious village in the Lemme River Valley. The first thing you notice is the impressive medieval fortress that was meant to control the way from the Ligurian Sea towards Piedmont and the north. It served its purpose as a defensive fortress until the mid 800’s when it became a prison.
Aperitivo and dinner in the village of Gavi are our farewell to Piedmont.
Transfer to the Turin airport after breakfast.
It is possible to extend your stay in Turin or at Villa Sparina.
• Two professional tour guides throughout the program
• All accommodations in 4-star hotels
• All breakfasts, all lunches, and four dinners
• Wine and beer with meals, coffee, cappuccino, and gelato stops
• Tastings of wine and local specialties
• Entrance to thermal spa
• Logistical support during the tour and luggage transfer
• Guided tour of Alba
• Shuttle at the beginning and at the end of the tour
• All activities mentioned in the day-by-day description
• Bianchi bike rental
• GPS navigation and maps (digital)
The territory offers first class ingredients, that together with traditions handed down from generation to generation, allow you to enjoy the authentic Piedmontese dishes. The egg pasta used to prepare the tajarin, or plin, ravioli is homemade and the precious veal meat from the Province of Granda (name of the province of Cuneo in local dialect) is the basis for the preparation of ancient recipes like hand chopped raw meat, cold veal with tuna sauce and red wine braised meat. The simplest dishes are usually the most delicious and they look like they have been specially created to espouse the most precious autumnal ingredient, the Alba White Truffle, which will enhance their perfumes and tastes. In fact, the Slow Food movement was born in Bra (near Alba). The regional wine production boasts the most DOCG appellations of any other region in Italy, and during the week we will learn about Barbera, Dolcetto, Nebbiolo, Arneis and many other indigenous grapes.