ExperiencePlus! - Bicycle Tours since 1972

Travel Stories

Cycling and Eating through the Piedmont Region of Italy

by ExperiencePlus! - Sunday, August 29, 2010 bike path

When people ask me what my favorite bike tour in Italy is, I always say Venice to Florence or Venice to Pisa because I think it is such a great introduction to Italy. But, if you were to ask me which tour is my favorite to lead, Cycling Piedmont Plus! the Lakes District would be at the top of the list. Why? Food and wine—the reason we all love bike tours, right? In my opinion there is no better place than the Piedmont to bike, eat and drink and feel so sanctimoniously good about it! Home to some of the most important red wines in all of Italy (and the world) and geographically positioned to combine the best of two culinary traditions….cycling Piedmont is like cycling in France AND Italy.

I’ve tasted some of my favorite pastas and risottos in the Piedmont, as well as delicate meat and fish dishes and the omnipresent fresh vegetables that make cycling in Italy so wonderful. But more than any other region in Italy, Piedmont combines French insight/sensibility in its cuisine, creating rich but subtle sauces, pleasing the eyes, as much as the stomach, in artistic presentations of dishes. You’ll discover that cheese and wine production in the Piedmont are revered in all their different forms just as they are in France.

Our Piedmont bicycle tours start in the small town of Saluzzo, prettily positioned at the base of the Alps, just out of the shadow of the towering Monviso, considered by some to be the inspiration for Paramount Picture’s famous logo, and the tallest mountain in the region. The peak is often covered by clouds, so cycling up to its base is always fraught with excitement about whether the clouds will clear to offer a view of the mountain in its entirety. Monviso is also famous because the source of the Po river lies at its feet—on the first day of riding, strong cyclists relish the challenge of climbing as high as 2000 meters (6,000+ feet) above sea level to reach Pian del Re and seeing the headwaters of the longest river in Italy!

We head east on this tour, with a stop in Pollenzo, home to the world-renowned “University of Gastronomic Sciences” set up by Slow Food to teach courses relating to Culinary Sciences in an academic setting, from agriculture to sommelier courses to cooking lessons to properties and traditions of certain foods. Our total immersion in gastronomy and enology is complete as we cycle through the nearby towns of Barolo and Barbaresco, which loaned their names to the local grapes and wines which are some of the most famous Italian red wines. Barolo competes with Brunello di Montalcino, visited on our Cycling Assisi and Best of Southern Tuscany tour, as the most famous red wine. Tasting wines at the end of a day of cycling is so satisfying….you’ve had the pleasure of spending time in the vineyards cycling through the countryside. Bike riding through the production areas gives a whole new meaning to learning about the “terroir” (loosely translated as “sense of place” and used by wine connoisseurs to help describe wines).

Other important gastronomic towns such as Asti, Alba (famous for its truffles) and Casale Moferrato dot our route as we make our way to the Lakes District on the Plus version of the Piedmont tour. A scenic ride along the small lakes of Orta and Mergozzo sets the stage for our arrival in Intra-Verbania on Lake Maggiore, quite possibly the most famous of the Italian lakes although Lake Como is a valiant rival. Lake Maggiore’s charm lies with the villas along its shores, the Borromeo islands and the scenic mountains surrounding it. We highly recommend spending some extra time in Intra after the bicycle tour—take some boat rides, visit villa’s gardens and soak in the splendid relaxed atmosphere that permeates Italy’s lakes district. Finishing our bicycle tour on majestic Lake Maggiore, is a fitting end to grand bike tour. I hope you can join us on this culinary, wine and bicycle tour!

Monica isn’t the only one who loves bicycling and eating in the Piedmont. Here are just a few comments from customers:

This has been the best experience we’ve had ever!!! We appreciated the 2 night stays with the loop rides so that there could be a choice to rest or ride. I loved my bike – it was so comfortable and easy to ride – it made the touring so enjoyable. I love what you have done with your entire program. Having special dinners every other night was excellent as well. Thank you so much!!!

– Dona K.

Alberta, Canada

My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed our ride through the Piedmont with Experience Plus! The routes were beautiful, the towns charming, the meals were excellent, the wine palate-pleasing…can we go back tomorrow??
– Jane T.

Milwaukee, WI

Intrigued? Check out our book review of Matt Kramer’s A Passion for Piedmont: Italy’s Most Glorious Table.

Enjoy a slide show of the Piedmont.