We departed our “brewery/restaurant” hotel and left the keys in the room as there was no one to see us off. A simple and inexpensive brioche and cappuccino at the local cafe saved us from an extra 10 euro per person charge to our swanky room rate.
The days upcoming drive would be primarily in the Pedimonte wine growing region where hills and valleys were covered as far as the horizon with green and red grape vines. The roads in this area are a pleasure to drive as they undulate, rise and twist.
Our first stop was the Castle of Grinzane Cavour, an imposing 13th-century building with high walls and a large fortified tower. Now the only invaders seeking entry are tourists looking for expensive, served near empty, glasses of wine.
Our next stop was at the small Church of San Secondo, an example of Romanesque architecture dating back to the early twelfth century. This building was a change of pace from the overly ornate glitter domes that populate much of the region.
Continuing north we entered Riserva Naturale Speciale del Sacro Monte, a large mountainous national park with the titular Sanctuary of Oropa; a group of large Roman Catholic buildings punctuated by its huge cathedral. It is located at a height of 1,159 meters in a small valley of the Biella Alps. The roadway heading north from this complex and then east is a twisting ribbon of tarmac barely wide enough for one car let alone the two way traffic that travels on it. At unwarned locations the road surface suddenly becomes a valley of rocks used as a rain spillway. These are quite the surprise to drive through. After thinking that the roadway had shown all its surprises suddenly a tunnel appears. Carved by hand and seemingly only large enough for a donkey. The AlfaSud is pretty small so we entered the pitch black cave with a pinhole of light at the other end. Cold air and water greeted us as we bounced along on a narrow track of paving stones – one for each side of the car, broken rocks in the center and off to the sides. This road “Strada alla Galleria di Rosazza” and tunnel “Galleria Rosazza” are listed on the website “dangerous roads” here.
With most of the challenging roadway behind us we stopped at a well placed craft brewery on the edge of a hairpin turn. Micro Beer Bar JEB was populated primarily two wheeled riders, both motorized and manpowered. The beer was just ok but we were glad to have a break after the back and forth rocking from the previous roadway.
And so our drive to Italy ended on the shores of Lago Maggiore where we stayed for the night. Until the drive back north to the Netherlands our home for the next two weeks would be on the shores of Lago Orta.