Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Paradise in Piedmont

This following guest article was written by Larry Teobald, of CycleItalia,
"Angel(o) asked for a description of my favorite ride which is difficult because it requires me to pick just one! Each and every ride route we create for our cycling vacations is designed to have features to make it a “favorite ride” for our clients each summer in Italy.

Our Paradise in Piedmont tour has one of my favorite rides for sure. Why? Not only for spectacular scenery and challenge, our loop from Monterotondo (near Gavi) takes us to visit our dear friend, Piero Coppi, mayor of Castellania and first cousin to the “Campionissimo” Fausto Coppi and his brother Serse.

We depart our hotel in Monterotondo after a leisurely breakfast and weave our way through the small city of Serravalle Scrivia, then up into the hills. When someone describes a route as “roller-coaster” they’re trying to describe this road! Some of the tiny villages we pass through appear to have been forgotten by time. The steepness of the climbs carries the reward of stunning views of the valley below but we can’t spend too much time admiring them, this road twists and turns even more than it goes up and down!

Soon we see brown signs marked “Strade Coppi” designating routes the famous brothers used for training. Reasons for their incredible strength become obvious when you imagine them riding these roads with the limited gearing options available in their day. Our route continues winding its way to Castellania, birthplace and final resting place of the brothers famous throughout Italy.

Upon arrival we’re greeted by a smiling “sindaco” (mayor) Piero Coppi who, after the obligatory kisses and hearty welcome, vanishes into his nearby apartment, returning with cookies, water and (of course) a bottle or two of chilled white wine for toasting. Each of our guests in turn is offered a refreshment and welcome to the small chapel and reliquary containing memorials to the Italian champions.

After posing for many photos and making many toasts while explaining some details about the old racing days of his cousins along with some commentaries about the current Italian racing scene, Piero motions that it’s time for “pranzo” (lunch) at his favorite local osteria.

He climbs into his car and leads us out like the Pied Piper, our clients following behind on their bicycles with our support van bringing up the rear. Our mini caravan proceeds down the hill to Osteria di Pescatore where more kisses and greetings are exchanged, as this ritual has been repeated for around 10 years now.

Piero announces to those in and around the osteria who don’t already know that we are his American friends who come each year to pay respects to his famous cousins. Soon everyone is seated and enjoying a tasty lunch -- all paid for by the mayor himself! We’ve tried to pay a few times but soon learned the mayor is treating his guests who’ve come a long way to visit him and he’ll not take no for an answer when he wants to pay the bill!

Too soon we must be on our way (before we start thinking about naps!) as we still have return routes of varying lengths to enjoy before returning to our hotel. Some of us opt for a shorter route “home”, descending to the valley before weaving through the streets of Novi Ligure (where Coppi lived later in his life) and a stop for gelato before the rolling roads back to Monterotondo.

Others take the long route, featuring longer climbs and stunning views plus one or two technical descents broken up with a long, downhill run before rejoining the “Strade Coppi” on our way to Novi. Most of us by this time have burned off our lunch and the gelato stop refuels as well as refreshes before the final push to Monterotondo.

We take quick showers upon our return because we taking the van back down to Novi Ligure this afternoon to see the Museum of Champions, full of memorabilia of not only Coppi but also Girardengo, Guerra, Gimondi and all the other great Italian champions. We’ll need a good night’s rest too, for tomorrow takes us out of the Gavi hills and into the Langhe to Cortemilia—which happens to be Heather’s favorite ride!"

Photos: group visits the Fausto Coppi memorial park in Castellania, Larry Teobald far left and Pierro Coppi in center; a visit to the Museo dei Campionissimi di Novi Ligure, Pierro Coppi far right explains the legends of his cousins; Strade Coppi route sign

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1 comment:

  1. Someday I'll ride in Italy....until then, I'll keep dreaming.