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Dirt Roads From Alps To Sea

The Piedmontese province of Cuneo is an outdoor and foodie paradise; both are hardly surprising where Italy is concerned. Salt was necessary to preserve food and was so valuable that sometimes it was traded like gold and transported on centuries-old routes through the region. The invention of tinned goods and the fridge made these old roads obsolete.

The salt road from Limone to Upega is championed as ‘the most beautiful dirt road in Europe, spanning from the mountains to the sea.’ The whole Limone-Monesi road is a wonderful route that winds along an old military road between 1800-2100m in elevation.

The unpaved circuit, which connects Limone and Upega, is 24-mile-long (39 km) and open to adventurers in autumn and summer. The path is accessible to hikers and cycle-tourists; it’s also open to motor vehicles upon payment of a fee.

The trail crosses exciting spaces such as the lunar landscapes of the Carsene area, the untouched and protected regions of the Maritime Alps and the Ligurian Alps Park, rich in biodiversity, and lastly the magnificent Bosco delle Navette – Navette’s Forest -and the military fortifications dating back to the end of the 19th century.

Experienced cycle-tourists can challenge themselves on the 75-mile-long (120 km) loop. At the crossroad for Monesi, at the end of the toll section, the circuit continues to the right, towards the Tanarello Pass. Just before the pass, a slight detour takes in the Redentore Peak, a not-to-be-missed panoramic spot.

Coming back from the Tanarello Pass, the road goes on towards Collardente and the Sanson lowlands. Turning right from there, it is possible to reach the Notre dame des Fontaines Chapel with its amazing frescos, and then on to La Brigue, a French town.

The journey continues on paved road towards Tenda and then to Casterino. From there it stretches down a dirt road in the direction of the Peyrafica lowlands all the way to the Tenda pass which runs along 19thC forts.

Sounds like a great idea to combine such a pedal with the intriguing ‘Fat Ox Fair’, described as ‘a living mix of local traditions, excellent food, competition, good wine, colourful people from bull breeders to bull buyers, markets and emotions’ held in the picturesque Langhe wine region.

Game on!

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