Did you know that all the roads lead to Rome? The beatiful race is no exception. So, ride our bike and come with us for the last miles of the Giro d’Italia.
May 24, Abbiategrasso – Prato Nevoso (Lombardy – Piedmont, 196 km)
“Have fat”. It could sound like a weird invitation, but it is just literal translation from Italian of Abbiategrasso, where this stage of the Giro d’Italia starts. Probably, the choice of this town was not random, as the race is going through some heavenly lands of food and wine. Abbiategrasso, located in the Ticino Valley Natural Park, close to the regional border between Lombardy and Piedmont, is also famous for the Second Punic War, and in particular for the 218 BC ‘Battle of Ticinus’, during which the Romans were defeated by the Carthaginian forces led by Hannibal.
By crossing the river Ticino, the cyclists enter Piedmont, riding through the historical and famous hilly Monferrato and Langhe subregions, both new entries in the Unesco World Heritage sites. Monferrato is well-known to be a natural paradise of red and sweet wines, such as Barbera, Dolcetto, Bonarda, Brachetto and Moscato. Morever, there life is even more beautiful with its unique concentration of food delicacies like agnolotti, risotto, polenta and bagna cauda, a dipping sauce for vegetables. Then, the route will pass through the Italian capital of dessert wines, always in this area: I am talking about Asti. Asti Spumante and Martini sparkling wine are made here and then exported all over the world. This Piedmont province is also a cultural and folk center, offering a magic atmosphere during its ‘palio‘, a bareback horse race.
After these wonderful kilometres, the race will continue through the other popular food and wine subregion of Piedmont, Langhe. All gourmands know that in this land you can find the finest Italian red wines, such as Barolo, Nebbiolo, Barbaresco, but also the best truffle in the world, the Alba white truffle. We could also talk about the typical cheese and nuts, but the arrival of this stage is located uphill at 1607 meters high, in the Maritime Alps of Cuneo, not far from the Ligurian coast and the French border, so we have to make a final effort! The finish line is right in the popular ski and holiday resort named Pratonevoso, built in the 60s for local tourism, but become later attractive also for European holidaymakers.
May 25, Venaria Reale – Bardonecchia (Piedmont, 184 km)
The Giro d’Italia will start again from the outskirts of Turin, not far from the Allianz Stadium, home of Juventus, to face the second hardest mountainous stretch. In the past, Venaria Reale was a quiet location that the Royal House of Savoy used for hunting, where in 1675 the famous architect Amedeo di Castellamonte built a magnificient residence palace. Nowadays, the Royal Palace of Venaria and its beatiful gardens are frequently visited and appreciated by tourists. Every year, the city organizes many cultural and artistic exhibition inside the Palace, including the Venaria Real Music Summer Festival.
Pedaling westward across the Susa Valley, the athletes will climb the Alps, crossing the Colle del Lis mountain pass first, then Colle delle Finestre, which is the 2018 Giro d’Italia ‘Cima Coppi‘ (a name given to the highest peak in the yearly race, in honor of the Italian cycling legend, Fausto Coppi) at 2178 meters high, and finally Sestriere, known as Mount Agnelli, due to the ski resorts built in the 30s by the rich FIAT business dinasty from Turin.
Every year, Sestriere hosts several ski events and was also the beatiful scene of the 2006 Winter Olimpic Games. The cyclists will finish the stage just few kilometres away from the french border, in Bardonecchia. This town is situated at the beginning of the Frejus road and rail tunnels, and its strategic position encouraged the development of mountain tourist facilities, such as worldwide famous ski slopes and a beautiful bike park.
May 26, Susa – Cervinia (Piedmont – Aosta Valley, 214 km)
The second last stage starts from the ‘little Rome’ of the Alps, the city of Susa. Start and transit point of ancient Roman roads such as Via Domizia, Via Cozia and Via Francigena, this small alpine city retains many remains dating back to Roman times and medieval sites, such as the Arch of Augustus, an amphitheater, an aqueduct, a castle and several other sites. Some influencial historians think that in 218 BC, during the Second Punic War, Hannibal and his army (including some elephants) climbed the Alps to attack and invade Rome through this side of the mountain.
Then, the race heads North, reaching the enchanted region of Aosta Valley that, like Trentino Alto Adige, holds the status of autonomous region. These last few kilometres uphill could be crucial to the final victory. Surrounded by wonderful chalets, pine trees and medieval fortresses typical of this land, the cyclists will then climb up on Col Tzecore and Col Saint Pantaléon, at more than 1600 meters high. Pointing at Mount Matterhorn (known as Monte Cervino in Italian) on the border between Switzerland and Italy, the cyclists will across the finish line in the Breuil-Cervinia mountain resort.
The name Cervinia was added to its original French name Breuil, very common in this region, in the 30s, during the fascist period, when the regime developed tourism in this village by building one of the most modern and highest cable cars in the world, at 3480 meters high. Even now, the beautiful Breuil-Cervinia ski resort, paired with its twin on the Swiss side of the mountain, the Matterhorn Ski Paradise, is one of the biggest and most-loved alpine resorts, where tourists can enjoy the snow throughout the year, due to the high altitutude and the breathtaking Plateau Rosa glacier. As if you don’t know, ‘rosa‘ in Italian means ‘pink’, just like the color of the Giro d’Italia and of its winner’s jersey!
May 27, Rome (118 km)
All roads lead to Rome. Could the beatiful race not lead to the eternal city? The final runway will be a street circuit of 11,8 kilometers repeated ten times. Italics Magazine has already taken you to explore the Italian capital, the only city in the world where the time seems to be suspended between dream and reality. The starting and finish line is located in Via dei Fori Imperiali, the street that split into two part the ancient Rome, surrounded by magnificent remains. Then, the racers will pass through Piazza Venezia and Via Nazionale, just few meters away from the Quirinal Palace, the residence of the President of the Italian Republic, turning left in Via del Tritone to reach Via Sistina.
Here, running in proximity to the magnificient Spanish Steps and Trinità dei Monti church, the athlets will run down Piazza del Popolo, the long Via del Corso (which takes its name from the old Carnival races, ‘corse‘ in Italian, taking place here for four hundred years!) and Piazza Venezia, where the largest monument in Rome, the Altare della Patria (Altar of the Fatherland), stands out in all its glory. Pedaling next to the most important of the seven hills of Rome, the Capitoline Hill (Campidoglio), the cyclists will admire the Theater of Marcellus, to reach the final part of the circuit near the ruins of the Circus Maximus, the largest stadium all over the Roman Empire, and the Baths of Caracalla. The beatiful race comes to the end around the Colosseum, to pay the right tribute to these cycling gladiators, with the worthy background of a mythical place.
After the great football and tennis events, Rome is proudly ready to wear pink for the Giro d’Italia. Our long journey throughout the Boot is over, but let me dedicate these articles to the memory of Marco Pantani: an unforgettable Italian cycling champion that we all miss.