Day 8: Barolo – Alba

Distance: 23.66 km

Time: 1 hour 24 minutes

Average speed: 16.9 kph


Cumulative distance: 370.03 km

Cumulative time: 18 hours 07 minutes


Word of the day: ‘bagnato’ (ban-yah-toe) – soaked


We really enjoyed our day off in Barolo – the sun shone, and the hotel’s position slightly above the town gave us commanding views over gentle hills covered in vines, over ochre-coloured hilltop towns, and over the town itself, which, belying its value to Italy’s GDP, is tiny.

In the morning we wanted to taste some wines, so headed to the Enoteca Regionale del Barolo, in the ground floor of Castello Falletti. We expected to taste perhaps a dozen wines, but were delighted to find out that they were holding a special tasting of the 2014 vintage. So we tasted about forty, of the one hundred and twenty-three bottles available! We took care just to sip, for fear of spoiling the rest of our day off! It was educational, and we opted to ship a few bottles home for drinking in about ten years.

The afternoon was spent pool-side, resting muscles and eyelids. In the evening, for the Captain’s birthday meal, we had some delicious food at ‘La Cantinella’, including Tajarin with Black Truffles – utterly delicious, and a seriously good bottle of 2006 Barolo. Oh, and a grappa.

As had been forecast, we awoke to the sound of rain on the hotel roof. Serious and quite persistent rain, as it turned out. The tandem, which had been resting in the hotel garage, was retrieved and loaded, and we set off towards Alba. This was to be a very short day, because we didn’t want to miss the opportunity to stay in the city of ‘Slow Food’ and white truffles.

Our first target was the hilltop town of La Morra – we could see it from the hotel, quite high above us. So, with no time to warm up the muscles, we launched uphill through successive hairpin bends, and through the pouring rain.

The climb wasn’t too taxing, but it was a shame that the reduced visibility robbed us of what are reputed to be amazing views from the Belvedere at La Morra. We could see down to Barolo, nestling in a bowl in the valley below.

We set off downhill, again around multiple hairpin bends. The roads were very wet, so we were exercising extreme caution instead of letting the tandem run. As we neared the valley floor the gradient eased and we were able to relax and pedal hard. Our next waypoint was the Castello di Grinzane Cavour, ancestral home of Camillo Benso, the Count of Cavour and a major figure in the Risorgimento, who eventually became the first Prime Minister in the newly united Italy. Every city in Italy seems to have a Via Cavour.

Unsurprisingly, the castle occupies a commanding position above the valley floor, so it was time to climb again. It was well worth it, though – the views, diminished by the weather, were still extensive.

We toured the interior of the castle, all the while dripping gently into our stylish cycling sandals. At the end of our very absorbing tour (no pun intended) we ate a good lunch in their café.

Almost done for the day, we set off again in the rain for the last eight kilometres to Alba, which were soon achieved. Shortly we’re off to explore the delights of the city, and acquire food and wine for our evening meal.

Tomorrow we’re planning a longer and quite hilly day, finishing in the town of Acqui Terme. The forecast, I’m delighted to report, is for excellent weather!

Here’s today’s track.