The border between Italy and France is marked by the Alpine range which spans for over 150 miles. Julius Caesar, Charlemagne, Napoleon, popes, pilgrims and merchants left signs of their passage: let’s go cycling at the feet of Western Alps to enjoy its views and old stories. Through low valleys and plains, an easy itinerary with very little ascents.
Laghi di Avigliana lakes
At the feet of Sacra di San Michele
Val Maira valley
The rock of Cavour
The piramid-like Monviso mount
The apple route
The Maritime Alps
The Pinocchio murals of Vernante
When: On Request from April to October
Cost: 820€ per person
Level of difficulty: intermediate
Lenght: 4 days/3 nights
Distance/Elevation Gain: 212 km/1440 metres
Terrain: minor roads, bike paths
Accommodation: hotels, b&b
Meals: restaurants and trattoria
Note: in case of bad weather the tour might be cancelled
4 days/3 nights
212 km/1440 metres gain
Day 1: we meet in Susa for the tour breafing and the bicycle set-up. Founded by the Gauls in the I centuty A.C. Susa is the main centre of Valsusa valley and has been a communication hub for centuries, showing precious heritages from the Roman empire and the middle ages. We start cycling through the archeological park with its Roman amphitheatre and the Augustus Arch, then head towards the Francigena old pigrim route. We pass the Orrido di Foresto gorges, a natural canyon very popular amongst the climbers, and take the secret cycleroute of Diacono Martino riding across trails and mountain villages. We cross now te Dora Riparia river flowing right in the middle of the valley and reach the south side of Valsusa where we stop for a tasty gelato lunch in a diary farm making ice-creams from their cows’ milk. The Alps are surrounding Back on track we ride the narrow strip of plain land at the feet of the high peaks, the Alps are surrouding us. We enter now the Valsusa cyclepath which brings us to Chiusa di San Michele standing at the base of the millennary Sacra di San Michele abbey, the symbol of Piemonte region, built on top of a rock at 1000 metres of altitude. Sacra is also famous for having inspired The Name of the Rose novel by Umberto Eco. The valleys opens up while we enter the natural reserve of Avigliana lakes: we’re almost arrived, reach the shores of Lago Grande then head towards our hotel. Alpine specialties tonight for dinner!
DISTANCE: 42 km
ELEVATION: 120 mt
Day 2: today we will border the Alps crossing the small river valleys of Noce, Chisola and Chisone until the rock of Cavour. We proceed by the lake Grande shores and get round Mount San Giorgio until we hit the plain at the foot of the Cozie Alps. The route runs mostly on minor and dirt roads, following the base of the mountains. Sleepy country villages shows along the way, like Piossasco and Frossasco, founded by pre-roman tribes. The landscape is peculiar: plain on the left side, and uplands of the right: almost no hills divide the Alps from the Pianura Padana lowlands. We reach the Chisone river valley and its capital Pinerolo, a beautiful medieval town with a long history of wars and sieges: disputed until the XIX century by France and Italy, Pinerolo has been under the control of Paris for decades and it is considered the “most French-looking” city of Italy. Let’s cross now the Chisone river and reach the southern strip of the Pellice valley, starting point of the Bricherasio-Barge cyclepath. The cyclepath is built over the old railway and brings us to the town of Cavour: the capital of apples, sitting on a plain dominated by a massive rock, marks the end of today’s leg. Tonight’s menu features local recipes from the valley.
DISTANCE: 56 km
ELEVATION: 380 mt
Day 3: early wake up this morning, the day will be a long one! We move out of Cavour and head southward to Saluzzo, crossing corn field and orchards. The flatland soil has proved to be perfect for the cultivation of apples, making this production area one of the largest in Italy, featuring a large number of classic and indigenous varieties. We ride flanked by the pyramid-like shape of the huge Monviso mount, which will accompany us for most of the day. Mid morning we arrive in the gorgeous medieval town of Saluzzo, capital of the antique and flourishing Marquisate: riding across its narrow roads is truly a dive into the past! We stop for a cappuccino then take the route towards the Castello della Manta, a castle building dating back to the XII Century sitting on top of a hill at the entrance of Val Varaita. Parallel to Val Varaita runs Val Maira: we enter it and tackle the ascent to the mountains, climbing gently and steadily along the river shores. Almost done for today, after 60 kilometers we reach Dronero, our place for the night. Dinner will take place in a trattoria serving local tasty dishes.
DISTANCE: 58 km
ELEVATION: 520 mt
Day 4: we descend the Val Maira valley through orchards and fields then cross the Grana river until we hit Cuneo, the capital town of the province. The word “cuneo” means wedge, due to the shape of the city located on a highland at the confluence of two rivers. Its old centre is a rare example of medieval town which has remained intact over time. We follow the old road to France taking to the Gesso river cyclepath then head south towards the Maritime Alps: it is the well knwon Colle di Tenda road, leading to one of the oldest and most used alpine passes of ancient times. The narrow valley runs parallel to a river and climbs up gently surrounded by the mountain peaks. We ride it for 10 kilometres, finally reaching the town of Vernante situated in the middle of the valley: the centre of the village will be a surprise, all decorated with murals reproductions from the children novel Pinocchio of 1911. An homage to the fellow citizen Attilio Mussino who enriched Collodi’s classic with colour illustrations. Vernante also marks the end of the tour, we’ll celebrate it with a toast in the local winehouse!
DISTANCE: 48 km
ELEVATION: 420 mt
Costs may vary depending on the travel period and number of participants. The figures shown are therefore approximate based on average.
PRICE 820€ PER PERSON INCLUDES:
– three night stays in 3*** hotel or b&b, double room accommodation with breakfast
– three 3-course gourmet dinners drinks excluded
– four light lunches drinks excluded
– aperitive in the winehouse
– touring bicycle+helmet
– luggage transport
– taxes, entrances, fees
Additional services such as support van, private transfer to/from the start/end of the tour, electric-assisted bicycle, licensed tour guide, shall be quoted upon request.
The tour will be escorted by an english speaking volunteer local expert: he is not a licenced tour guide but a trustworthy companion, fine connoisseur of the places, culture and oenogastronomy. He will join for free, if the clients enjoyed the tour they can tip him at the end.