We have a long standing love relationship with the beloved region of Piedmont.
I have these vivid memories of driving through the vine-clad hills of Piedmont researching routes with La Lorena and our local guide, Claudio. On most days, after driving around for hours to find the best cycling roads possible, Lauren would get restless and eager to get out on her bike. She’d typically jump out of the car, onto the saddle and off she’d go up and over the lovely Piemontese landscape, meeting up with us in some town or village further along the way...Those were the early days in the Land of Barolo and Truffles. More than two decades later, Piedmont still fills our hearts and bellies, and a noticeable majority of our fabulous Ciclismo Classico Guide Team is native to this eno-gastronomic paradise. Coincidence or fate?
We can’t get enough of Piedmont and I’d like to share a few things you surely don’t already know about this fine region.
The Secret White Wine
Although most are familiar with the wonderful whites of Gavi that we taste on the first few days of our Piedmont trip, there is another lesser known wine called Timorasso. This variety is native and unique to the Colli Tortonesi (southeast Piemonte, where my family comes from). Before the 1980s, most growers were ripping out Timorasso and planting Cortese, as the latter produces more and Gavi was all the rage, so they could sell the grapes easily.
Derthona is the ancient name for my grandfather’s village, Tortona, the town in southeast Piemonte after which the appellation Colli Tortonesi (Tortona Hills) is named. We often say that Timorasso is like ali ("wings"), as it floats like a butterfly (baroque fruit and honeyed minerality) and stings like a bee (lots of well-integrated acidity). Timorasso is one of the longest aging white varieties in Italy. Good vintages easily age five to 10 years! In fact, the wine often needs an extra year or two in the bottle before it becomes expressive and fun to drink.
Piedmont Cheesy Talk
For more than 600 years, people have been making the Castelmagno cheese from cows that graze in the wonderful alpine pastures of Chiappi near the Castelmagno Sanctuary. This cheese has a long, fascinating history and nearly became extinct until the 1980s, when a local passionate mayor named Gianni de Matteis brought the cheese back to recognition. It was the first cheese to receive D.O.P. protection. This cheese is second to none!
100th Giro d’Italia Celebrates Piedmont
We couldn’t be more thrilled about the fact that this year’s Giro d’Italia covers a good part of Piedmont, where most of our guides live and ride. For example, the 13th stage of the race—Reggio Emilia to Tortona on May 19—coincides with a spectacular foodie event called "Taste Tortona." In fact, the town will be celebrating for the entire month of May with all kinds of entertainment, vintage bike exhibitions, music, wine, food, sports and cultural events. The next day, May 20, the stage will depart from the legendary cyclist Fausto Coppi’s hometown of Castellania, ending 131 kilometers later in Oropa (Biella).
There’s Gold in Those Hills!
Did you know that Ovada, a town we pass through during the first few days of our Piedmont trip, is an oasis of gold? Gold extraction from sand occured during the Facist period as an answer to the embargo imposed by other nations on the Italian gold trade. Today, this activity has turned into a popular hobby. A museum of gold extraction was founded in nearby Predosa, with collections of relics from the past of this old and glorious activity.
Spring in Piedmont means festival time. Endless street food and truffle and wine festivals all year long. One of my favorites happens this June 23-25, when there's a fantastic reenactment of a 16th-century event in Canelli (another town we pass through on the Barolo and Truffles trip) called “La Rievocazione Storica l’Assedio di Canelli.” This is a lively, colorful retelling of events and battles that took place in this village in 1613. More than 50,000 visitors descend upon Canelli to view the spectacular street theater, amazing costumes, music, food and general festivity centered on this event.
Don't miss out on all this fun! Join us on an upcoming 2017 trip. Space is still available on some departures!