Piedmont Bike Tour: by bicycle on the Wine Divide
Before this ride on the hills from Casale Monferrato and Millesimo, I didn't have a clear vision on the borders of this region. Piedmont, ok… and then? In almost a week of cycling, I got more focus. Riding this Piedmont bike tour through Langhe, Roero and Monferrato by bike we got plenty of steep ascents, glasses of wine and amazing sights so famous all over the world.
Piedmont Bike Tour: where?
Since 2014 Piedmont's vineyards joined the UNESCO Heritage list, thanks to the perfect synergy between landscape and anthropic interventions. As I anticipated, I knew the area, between Po river and the mountains of Liguria, but I couldn't pin the borders of my future Piedmont Bike Tour through Langhe, Roero and Monferrato by bike.
Today I have a clearer perception of these geographic areas, Monferrato being in the Northern-East part, in the provinces of Alessandria and Asti, Langhe between the provinces of Cuneo and Asti and Roero in the province of Cuneo.
The borders are designed by the rivers Po, Tanaro, Bormida and Belbo, being the main communication connections too. Comfort, though, doesn't mean beauty: our Piedmont Bike Tour followed them only for a short stage.
Piemont lands: why are they UNESCO?
The beauty of the terracing of the vineyard on the hills, the taste of wines, from Barolo to Barbaresco, from Barbera to Moscato, aren't the only reasons to recognize these areas as UNESCO heritage: the history of these lands, with many old castles and villages, contributed to enter the list.
This mix between history and landscapes, typical of Langhe, Monferrato and Roero, together with the rhythm dictated by the bike, is the perfect combination for a great journey.
Piedmont Bike Tour
We're not the first ones to have thought about this equation (landscapes, good food and wine, history) for the perfect Piedmont bike tour. For this reason, there are many companies providing guided and self-guided bike tours on the hills of Monferrato, Langhe and Roero.
We have been lucky and thanks to some friends, we have been guided up and down the hills, with a 270km itinerary from Casale Monferrato to Millesimo, in Liguria.
Monferrato by bike: the infernot path
Our Piedmont bike tour by bike in Monferrato starts from its “historic capital”, Casale Monferrato. Laying down along the side of Po, this town is the entrance to the region, but it's more known for its industrial vocation more than tourism.
Once passed the river and the centre, the roads get far away from the concept of "flat". Terruggia, San Maurizio di Conzano, Conzano, Camagna Monferrato and Vignale Monferrato. The itinerary, like a winding and placid snake, twists and turns between beautiful little villages on top of the sweet hills. The vineyards appear, coloured by the autumn. For a while, we follow the Infernot path and we wonder what this strange word might mean. We soon realize that Infernot a sort of cellars made of "Pietra da Cantoni", a type of sandstone typical of this area: these cellars are used to store Barbera wine and can be visited... in Vignale Monferrato, in a building dating back to XVIII century, you can find the Enoteca del Monferrato, recognized as one of the first regional wine houses in Piedmont.
Once left Vignale we enter the Strada Provinciale 50 giving a little breath towards Montemagno, dominated by the namesake castle. The fortress is one of the most important of the area, know also as Castle of Conti Calvi di Bergolo. It has an elliptical courtyard with a Ghibelline crenellation that you won't miss from afar. A peripheral path allows us to cycle around the city and admire all its power, before leaving again towards the South.The road is continuous up and down the hills: down, the natural vegetation alternates the vineyards, up the villages overlook the hills. We pass through Castagnole Monferrato then underneath the highway and ride a gravel path to Castello d'Annone. Once passed the Tanaro river, we keep climbing up, on the variation to the Eurovelo 5 coming down from Moncenisio (the main path of the Francigena Way). The climb towards Rocca d'Arazzo isn't too demanding and keeps going, towards Montegrosso d'Asti.
During our No Plans Journey, we slept in a village just a bit further, in Costigliole d'Asti, where Matteo hosted us. He also guided us the next day, towards Acqui Terme, not before the discovery of Costigliole and its surroundings.The atmosphere is enchanted when we reach Castelnuovo Calcea: the sun seeps in through the fog letting above only the hills and the pyramid of Monviso, giving us the greatest of the rides. The road descends towards Nizza Monferrato, important rural centre in this valley, Valle Belbo. We stop for a coffee and then we jump again in the countryside of Monferrato by bike.We ride on a secondary road keeping us away from the traffic, but while the hills around get taller and taller, we imagine the future: the climbs get closer. Suddenly the road transforms into a very steep climb towards Castel Boglione, with gradients way over 15%. With our panniers and trailer, the temperature rises... until the road gets wider and busier, down again to Acqui Terme.
The city with Roman origins lays peacefully on the side of the Bormida river. From this point, it would be too easy to reach Savona from Colle di Cadibona, but we don't like easy things, so...
Before keeping on with this Piedmont bike tour, we have to discover Acqui Terme. As I said before, this city has Roman origins and got an important role thanks to its road connecting Piedmont to Liguria. This road once called via Aemilia Scauri then via Julia Augusta was one of the main connections towards the West. The Square of the Bollente (literally steaming water) is the heart of the city and you cannot leave Acqui Terme before having touched or sipped the 74,5 C° thermal water next to the octagonal aedicule in its very middle.
To proceed on this itinerary we have to cross the river Bormida and reach the remains of the Roman Aqueduct next to the new bridge.
Langhe by bike: truffles and Barolo
Following the river Bòrmida on the right orographic side, we leave Acqui Terme riding a few km on a cycle path to the Sassello provincial road. We follow it until Melazzo, where we cross the river Erro, a tributary of the Bormida, then the same main river, to then reach Monastero Bòrmida. The itinerary follows backwards the river and after a farewell to Matteo, we meet Luca, who will guide us for a few hours. The fog is very thick, the atmosphere gets darker, but our fella's extravagance is contagious. On secondary roads where Nala can run free, we pass by Vesime abandoning the valley and get to a constant ascent towards Castino. After a good lunch with salami, cheese and good wine, Luca says goodbye. Once we reach Castino, the last hill is passed, but the illusion of the descent ends too soon, so after having crossed the river Belbo, the road gets climbing again. We notice Alba getting closer and closer for the presence of many hazelnuts... Ferrero is a yummy and bulky presence, not only in the city!
This time the ascent is longer than the usual... for the first time we pass 600 m altitude. The pass is close, and the city is underneath. During our Piedmont bike tour, it is the most relevant city in Langhe, the well-being of its inhabitants is clear from the first meters in the centre. Truffles, wine and hazelnuts gave this city huge fame and prosperity. After a short tour in the city centre, we reach the river Tanaro, with its own cycle path, leading us to the centre of the region.Just next to Ferrero we find this cycle path (more of a cycleway), being unpaved and accessible to rural vehicles for many kilometres. Anyway, this stage is very suggestive and - most importantly - out of the traffic. Autumn does not help: humidity gets into our bones. The last kilometre to Pollenzo is pretty busy, but it's worth making a detour to see this beautiful little village founded by the Romans in the II century B.C.This village looking abandoned is actually rich in history and buildings to look at: the main square once passed the entrance door, hosts the Church of San Vittore and the University of Gastronomic Sciences, a Slow Food school.
A short tour through the streets and we're back on track. The landscapes that gave fame to Langhe are waiting for us: we start climbing towards La Morra, beautiful little village just before Barolo and Monforte d'Alba, on the hills overlooking the valleys below. Another descent to Dogliani is just a prelude to the most exciting stage of this Piedmont Bike Tour through Langhe, Roero and Monferrato by bike.
We cross the river Rea and the road rears up towards the Belvedere Langhe. The name says it all: all the South-West Alpine arch is in front of us, the point of Monviso being always there, staring at us.In the middle, we see the valleys of the province of Cuneo (also known as La Granda, the big one), while next to us and underneath many vineyards close this picture. After the first ramp, the road is pleasant up and down until Murazzano. These lands can't stop amazing us, while slowly Piedmont slips away. Montezemolo is the very last village of the Langhe before officially entering Liguria. The road gets down in the valley, but you can close the itinerary in Millesimo, one of the most beautiful villages, dominated by the Castle of Carretto.
Piedmont Bike Tour: tips and tricks
We divided this Piedmont Bike Tour into five stages: it was winter so shorter days, we were travelling fully loaded and carrying Nala's trailer. To fully enjoy the land and the beauties of this region, we suggest cutting this track into at least three stages, even if the most trained cyclist will ride for one weekend only. Unfortunately, it is hard to connect the starting and the ending point of this Piedmont Bike Tour by train, so it would be ideal to continue the journey to Finale Ligure (where we got) or Savona to then get back by regional trains or carry on towards Cinque Terre, where you can carry the bicycle(s) to Casale Monferrato (via Genova and Alessandria).
Don't forget the typical wines of this area, from Barolo to Barbaresco, passing through Barbera and sparkling wine, and the food like Piedmont mixed fried, bagna cauda, bonet, Fassone meat.
So... ride, but with some tasting!
If you're looking for further info, take a look at this website, or the official web pages of Asti, Alba o Alessandria. What are you waiting for? Let's explore this region on to the next Piedmont Bike Tour!
ITA - Ho 31 anni e sono piemontese, anche se da qualche anno vivo e lavoro in Lombardia. Dopo un inizio da totale inesperto in questo campo, mi sono avvicinato al mondo dei cicloviaggi e della bicicletta sempre più. Oggi posso definirmi "cicloviaggiatore", e assieme all'altra mia passione - il videomaking - non mi fermerei mai! Cyclo ergo sum, pedalo quindi sono, per cercare di capire perché andare in bici sia così bello, terapeutico, ricco... E ogni volta che provo a capirlo, non ce la faccio, e sono costretto a ripartire sui pedali!