Highlights and tour details
Cycling amongst art and champions has a special charm, and you can experience this right here in Lower Piedmont. Following the trail of the bicycle champion, Fausto Coppi, world renowned legend who filled the sports news pages between 1939 and 1959 and along the roads of a famous late nineteenth century painter, Pellizza Volpedo, most famous for his monumental work of art " Il quarto stato” (The Fourth Estate)
It is like biking between two legends: the brilliant painter of the Fourth Estate, and Fausto Coppi of Castellania but before that, of Costante Girardegno in Novi Ligure. The triangulation – art – cycling and history is quickly made: Volpedo - Castellania - Novi Ligure.
The route can total 90 km and it is advisable to do it in stages, enjoying every moment.
Take note of these three points of interest that cross one another, whether you start from Volpedo or from Novi Ligure makes no difference, but with the small village of Castellania in the middle. The route is best followed at the same slow pace as the country towns, rich in history, culture and flavours.
It is ideal for all levels of cyclists. The more experienced can test themselves on different surfaces, and those less expert will enjoy the variety of landscapes and savor them at a slow pace. Is there an uphill climb? The answer is yes, but with a pedal assisted bike it’s not a problem ... and getting to the top will be well worth it, for everyone.
This route is a triangle, starting from Val Curone and touching the Colli Tortonesi, looking over to the nearby Liguria.
The first leg of this cultural and historical triangle starts from Volpedo: a charming area and suitable for everyone. We find ourselves in an ancient village at the foot of the Val Curone, hometown of the painter Giuseppe Pellizza, better known as Pellizza of Volpedo, famous for his work of art “Il Quarto Stato" (“the Fourth Estate”). You will cycle back in time, to the late nineteenth century, an era and territory that that rich with charm and nature.
Here you must visit the artist's home and studio and the interactive museum, cycling through the historical centre along the characteristic paved streets. The cultural association of Pellizza Volpedo organizes visits, artistic tours and trekking.
The history does not end with the works of the Piedmontese painter, but can be felt everywhere in this small town. The ancient restored mill is also worth a short visit.
If you happen to Volpedo on a Saturday then do not miss the markets of traditional organic food in the covered market, to discover the flavors of these hills between Val Curone and Valle Staffora. The culture of biological and local produce is really taking off here. Here, the lifestyle is for simple thins, slow action and substance. There is a real return to rustic simplicity.
The streets, squares and the historic center are still characterized by the works of Pellizza. It almost feels like you are cycling through a nineteenth century work of art, creating a sense of serenity and a desire to discover the surrounding countryside .
To reach Castellania, the second leg of the route, the path is made up of secondary roads, mainly along the flat until the final spurt that leads you to the birth place of Coppi, in the Tortona Hills.
These secondary roads that wind through fields and farms are an absolute pleasure to ride through and don’t require particular attention. The only risk is finding tractors along them in the early hours. Leaving Viguzzolo along quiet roads amongst working farms, you reach Villa Romagnano/Costa Vescovato. Here, you take the road to Castellania. You will be pleasantly surprised to find a real cycle path in good condition that leads to the village of Coppi.
This is exactly the part of the route, for families or the less trained cyclists, that requires the use of pedal assisted bikes, because the last stretch, although short, is a difficult climb. This particularly difficult stretch is actually part of the LaMitica route – a historical bike race that takes place on the last Sunday of June - with its unique stretch known as "La Rampina" (the ramp). The cycle path avoids the problem and makes it much easier to reach the centre of the village.
From Villa Romagnano, where you will find the famous junction for "La Rampina" , the famous climb of La Mitica*, towards Passo Coppi , you can avoid those three and a half kilometers of gravel road , nestled in the Tortona hills that still emanate the charm of this historical bike race.
So here we are in Castellania having ridden along the cycle path, welcomed by a bronze two meter statue of the Fausto brothers – a tribute to their Olympic achievements . Recently, the statue was donated to the cultural association Serse & Fausto Coppi by the Coni.
We are now in the main square of the town, close to the Mausoleum, the Coppi house and the educational centre of the Coppi Association. It is a journey back in time to discover the history and legend of the Coppi family. Every year this is the site of pilgrimage of thousands of cyclists.
The descent from Castellania to Novi Ligure is delightful, through the well-cultivated Tortonese hills. The route to Novi Ligure (from Villalvernia) takes us to “la strada del fossato” (" the road of the ditch") that at a certain point goes towards "the Merella” This stretch is part of a circuit, used by professionals and amateur cyclists alike, even in winter.
The route continues along secondary roads between fields and working farms. We soon reach Pozzolo Formigaro and then, after a few kilometres, Novi Ligure, birthplace of Costante Girardengo.
Here, you must visit the Museum of the Champions. From Viale della Rimembranza (where there is a stretch of cycle track) it is easy to reach this important site which houses one of the world's most interesting museums devoted to cycling and the history of the bicycle. It opened in 2003 and was built by the City of Novi Ligure thanks to funding from the European Union, Piedmont local government, Province of Alessandria and the Bicycle Museum Foundation. It is considered the greatest tribute to the history of Bicycles and cycling and a way to remember the local heroes who inspired it: Fausto Coppi and Costante Girandengo. It is housed in an industrial building from the early 1900s, close to the centre.