Waterways have always united lands and people, drawing assistance and benefits from them.
The Maira is a stream that originates in the Cuneo area. Flowing through the valley that bears its name, as tenacious as its people, it merges with the Po in the province of Turin before jointly continuing its journey to the Adriatic.
Pedaling along its banks, it leads us to discover the most beautiful and historically significant places in Piedmont. But it also takes us through areas declared Nature Reserves and Regional Parks.
We start from Casa Bart, in Villar San Costanzo, to pedal a 250 km loop tour with a total elevation gain of 1180 m. Easily navigated by gravel or with a front MTB/e-MTB it poses no technical difficulties. Given the numerous points of historical and natural interest worth stopping to visit, this tour, like the slow flow of water, ideally is organized into 5 stages.
The Maira Trail
After traversing the entire valley, the Maira reaches the plains, nourishing the municipalities of Dronero, Villar San Costanzo, Busca, Villafalletto, Vottignasco, and Savigliano, extending all the way to Racconigi and Lombriasco. Here, in the province of Turin, it ultimately joins the Po.
The Maira Trail can be traversed on foot or by bike, weaving from one bank to the other, and it offers glimpses reminiscent of the Great North. We are actually in Piedmont, in the province of Cuneo.
The total length of the trail is just over 50 km. It is easy and suitable for everyone, including families with children aged 10 and older, who may prefer a shorter extension overall development of the Trail is just over 50 km,
From Casa Bart we move to medieval Dronero. Here it is worth crossing the Devil’s Bridge (dating back to 1428), in exchange for which legend has it that the Devil had to settle for the soul of a dog. Over mixed terrain, between white and paved country roads, and crossing a Tibetan bridge suspended 20 meters over the Maira stream, we head toward Busca, in the direction of Villafalletto.
Here begins a very beautiful and enjoyable section that, alternating between dirt roads and easy single track, takes us to Savigliano. Have you ever cycled through a Fairy Tale Forest? Also known as Vottingam Forest (in the municipality of Vottignasco), you will ride accompanied by Pinocchio, Snow White and King Arthur, trying, if you wish, to extract Excalibur from the rock!
After reaching Savigliano, famous for the ‘Savigliano School,’ one of the best expressions of Baroque in Piedmont, we cross the Maira River again to continue towards Racconigi.
Racconigi Castle was the last residence inhabited by the Savoy family before exile. Its park preserves centuries-old plants that harken back to the origins of the Po Valley. We recommend taking a couple of hours to visit both.
From Racconigi, the Maira continues its slow flow toward the Province of Turin, and we follow its course to unfold another story.
From the Cuneo area to the Turin area
On backcountry roads, we arrive in Lombriasco. Here, where the Maira flows into the Po, we follow the river to Piazza Vittorio in downtown Turin.
In Turin, we cannot help but be attracted by its many souls: regal, mysterious, dynamic. Awaiting us here are the Valentino Park with the Castle of the same name, a UNESCO World Heritage Site; the murazzi, symbol of Turin by night, leading to Piazza Vittorio; and the Church of the Great Mother of God, inspired by the Pantheon in Rome. For lovers of esotericism, one might find interest in the possibility that one of the statues on either side of the staircase holds the Holy Grail, leading to the belief that the relic is actually in Turin.
Before arriving in Piazza Castello, we pedal along the Po where a piece of Italian cycling history awaits us: the “Fausto Coppi” Motovelodromo. Dating back to the 1920s, a number of stages of the Giro d’Italia and the Milan-Turin race ended on this track.
The ancient ramparts that once defended the city lead us to the Royal Gardens and the Royal Palace, the first and most significant of the Savoy residences in Piedmont. Behind them stand the Palatine Gates, the Cathedral, and the Civic Tower. We thus land in Piazza Castello, in the presence of Palazzo Madama, the first Senate of the Kingdom of Italy. And finally, there is Piazza Carignano where stands the eponymous Palace, now the Museum of the Risorgimento, which housed the seat of the Subalpine Parliament and the first Parliament of the Kingdom of Italy. It is part of the UNESCO serial site Residenze Sabaude.
On the way back, via the bike paths through the city, we head to the Palazzina di Caccia di Stupinigi, nestled in its Natural Park, once the King’s hunting estate, and pedal to Pinerolo via country roads and bike paths.
From Kingdom to Marquisate
We pass through the medieval center of Pinerolo, well served by bike paths, and take the direction of Miradolo (with its Castle), San Secondo, Bricherasio.
In Bricherasio, we embark on a former railway transformed into an evocative bike path, full of surprises—even for those with a sweet tooth!
At Barge, the end of the train ride, we leave the greenway and take the “Via della Pietra” cycleway that, crossing the Saluzzo countryside, will lead us to the town of Saluzzo. Driving this last stretch also allows a detour of a couple of kilometers to visitStaffarda Abbey, one of the most fascinating and important medieval monasteries in Piedmont, founded between 1122 and 1138.
Once in Saluzzo, it is worth tackling a tough but short climb up to the medieval old town. Here stands the Castiglia, now a museum but originally the residence of the Marquis of Saluzzo and later, from the mid-19th century until 1992, a prison. A visit to the old prisons, Prison Memorial Museum, is also worthwhile here.
Leaving Saluzzo, we continue always on bicycle paths to “earn” the last beauty with a short but intense climb: the Manta Castle, now a FAI property.
Leaving the Castiglia we continue on a bicycle path to Verzuolo, where we will ride the roads through the orchards towards Costigliole Saluzzo, Busca, Villar San Costanzo.
Hurry, it’s late; a hearty snack awaits us at Casa Bart!