The Upper Piedmont is an area of undiscovered treasures, climbs, breathtaking views, food and wine, and natural oases.
It is a destination to scour by bicycle, retracing the climbs that made the Giro d’Italia great, such as the famous “Pantani” climb from Biella to the Oropa Sanctuary, or crossing by MTB or gravel the nature reserves of Baraggia and Bessa; and the fun is no less climbing up Mount Casto, Oropa Valley or along the adrenaline-pumping routes of the Enduro Bike Parks of Oasi Zegna and Rive Rosse.
For a peculiar and unforgettable itinerary, the “Unesco Grand Tour of Piedmont“, 600 kilometers to discover the UNESCO sites and Nature Reserves of this beautiful region, which in the Biella area touches on the Sanctuary and Sacro Monte of Oropa, the Burcina Park, the city of Biella and the Zegna Oasis.
Valsesia and the Vercelli area
The landscapes of these areas are truly unique, ranging in fact from the rice fields of Vercelli to the rolling hills of Gattinara to the alpine vistas of Valsesia. With the road bike, one travels pleasant loop routes that create the Vercelli Cyclable Rice Field s circuit , an immersion in the rice field area of the province of Vercelli that also leads one to rest one’s gaze on the checkered sea framed by the Alps.
By MTB we climb among the vineyards of Gattinara, a compelling alternative for those who love dirt roads with more or less difficult gradients, suitable both for the more trained and for those who prefer a comfortable E-Bike. Or you can have an unforgettable bike experience by riding the bike paths of Valsesia. From Lower Valsesia where the bike path leading to Varallo will know how to give a wonderful interweaving of nature and art to the more adventurous Alta Valsesia bike paths where, riding along the Sesia River, you can set out to discover picturesque mountain villages to amazing viewpoints of the Alps and majestic Monte Rosa.
Finally, the hills of Gattinara and the Red Shores area are the solution for those who want to feel the adrenaline rush: in fact, among woods and vineyards there are numerous trails dedicated to enduro riding.
Biella, land of bicycle travel, in the “central park” between Turin and Milan
Excerpts from a story by Andrea Rolando – the full version can be found in the first issue of Destinations (Alvento editions) –
<<If you happen to go between Turin and Milan, either by train or by car, on one of those clear days when the wind coming down from the mountains of the Aosta Valley draws cloudsof extraordinary beauty, it is hard not to be attracted by the landscape that, in long plane-sequence, goes from Gran Paradiso to Monte Rosa.But to strike the traveler’s eye is a ridge suddenly rising from the plain. These are the mountains that provide the backdrop for the Biellese, and which develop between two mountains that, interestingly, bear the same name as Mombarone.
In between, valleys, hills, scenic roads, villages and forests.
So, just think about stopping halfway and reaching Biella to get in the saddle, following a loop route that crosses much of the province and allows you to appreciate its most famous scenery, but also its most hidden corners, kept in the maps, head and legs of the most passionate locals.
THE ZEGNA OASIS.
(We start in Biella, its historic center and industrial remains and then explore the surrounding area.) Leaving Biella, the road along the Cervo stream climbs up to Bocchetto Sessera and then descends on Trivero. It’s One of the most spectacular roads you can take on a bicycle, with views open to the entire Po plain, from Monviso toward Turin, Vercelli, Novara, to the skyscrapers of Milan, passing the profile of Mount Rosa. Leaving Bielmonte behind, a long and beautiful descent leads to Trivero, passing through other places inOasi Zegna desired by Ermenegildo Zegna.
We continue down to the plains, passing through Castagnea and the village of Mezzana Mortigliengo, with an open-air museum of contemporary art. The road meanders between ascents, descents and quieter sections; we cross a few sections of the Prevostura gran fondo, where we occasionally run into tribes of downhillers carving the terrain along the many trails of the Red Shores.
THE LANDSCAPE OF WINE
After a stop at the beautiful church of St. Theonestus in Masserano, we return to the cobbled streets of this magnificent little hamlet to head toward the vine-covered hills of Masserano and Lessona. We are located in an area of viticultural excellence. Two wines, in particular, are resounding: Lessona and Bramaterra.
Slightly downhill, along dirt roads that pass through vineyards and forests, we find the banks of the Cervo Creek again, and our first big arc closes. So we go as far as touching one of the most hidden and surprising places on our journey: the scenic sandy shores, just downstream of the confluence with the Strona Creek. It is just over a kilometer where we pedal balanced on single track suspended above a spectacular canyon carved deep by the river.
A few hairpin bends and up to another stunning environment, that of the great river terrace of the Baraggia. It is an extensive plateau of clay soil, suspended between the Cervo and Elvo streams, completely uninhabited and characterized by wide grassland glades often covered with heather, and sparse birch and oak forests.
We travel it for 18 kilometers almost completely flat, on dirt roads and single tracks that alone are worth the entire trip, with wide-open horizons and magnificent views of the mountains.
THE RICE FIELDS BETWEEN MASSAZZA AND SALUSSOLA
From here, if you wish, you can already return to Biella, following the terrace of the Cervo River and visiting the village and Ricetto of Candelo. But we point the handlebars southward and, Among open spaces and sparse birch forests., after about ten kilometers, we arrive in Massazza, where we find the plains again and start moving again among farmsteads, long straightaways that cross the rice fields of the southern part of our loop. We arrive in Salussola (train station along the Santhia-Biella line) cross the Elvo, the second watercourse that marks the landscape of the Biellese, and resume a gentle ascent toward Cerrione, putting in our sights the mountains we will cross in the last section of the loop, between Ivrea’s Mombarone and the Sanctuary of Oropa.
THE HILLS OF THE BESSA AND THE GREENHOUSE MORAINE CORDON
Back in the saddle we resume at altitude toward the Bessa Special Reserve. Long single track trails and small dirt roads, almost always shaded by the forest, we touch the villages between Sala, Zubiena and Magnano. Those who want to in these parts can treat themselves to a double stop: for the body, in some store to buy the caloric torcetti della Serra; or for the soul, paying a visit to the ricetto and church of San Secondo in Magnano, at the Bose community.
THE DESCENT TO BIELLA
To close our loop – after walking along the Serra cordon – we prefer to descend along the route of the old tramway for Biella, now disused, which we follow to Favaro. A route, perfect for gravel, that seems to take place in an electric train scenario: stone bridges, a helical curve and even a tunnel. From Favaro we break away to reach the park on Burcina Hill in Pollone. A few more curves and we arrive in Biella, passing through the medieval village of Piazzo, with its old buildings and one last cobbled street that takes us to the Piano, in front of the church of San Sebastiano. Our goal is the Zumaglini Gardens.
Our trail was a thread (of wool!) that stitched together a dozen environments all different and truly unique, linking them together in a form that, if we go over it in our minds and eyes, before we get back on the train that takes us back home, starting from the plain and Biella, passing through the hills and the mountains to return to the plain again, we can really see it as a necklace, with the shape of a heart: the one that stands at the center of that extraordinary space that is a real central park between the cities of Turin and Milan>>.
Opening photo: Credits Damiano Andreotti – Panorama of the Upper Valsessera Valley.