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The roads of myths, among lands of Sangiovese, Barolo & truffles: the “Italian” Tour de France

Departure from Florence, then the Food Valley of Emilia and the landscapes of Langhe, Monferrato and Roero. With many tributes from the “food” world

Exactly ten years ago, on June 22, 2014, in Doha, Qatar, UNESCO “consecrated” the wine-growing landscapes of Langhe, Monferrato and Roero, with its hills from which Barolo and Barbaresco, two Italian pride and joy in the world, are born, to the list of World Heritage Sites. Two decades later, the lands of Langa, Monferrato and Roero, Italy's leading district in terms of value, home of Nebbiolo that becomes Barolo and Barbaresco, but not only, and of the sublime white truffle of Alba, with its charm also made immortal by the pages of some big names in Italian culture such as Cesare Pavese and Giuseppe Fenoglio, will host one of the world’s most important sporting events, the Tour de France, the stage race that every cyclist dreams of winning. And that will pay, in its own way, a great tribute (giving great visibility, as often done also by the Giro d'Italia) to the territories of excellence of Italian wine and food, as emerges from this overview of initiatives and events, reported by WineNews.
Piedmont, but not only because the “Grand Départ” of the 101th edition of the “Grand Boucle”, for the first time in history, will be all-Italian, exactly one hundred years after the historic success of Ottavio Bottecchia, the first “Italian” cyclist to triumph in the yellow jersey (he wore it from the first to the last stage), passing through the roads dear to authentic champions who have written history, from Gino Bartali to Marco Pantani to the “Champion”, Fausto Coppi. A bond that between France and Italy combines tradition for the sport (Tour and Giro d’Italia are the two most important stage races), but also that for landscapes and wine production where France and Italy are the two undisputed world super powers. Culture, sports and nature with wine at the center but not only because “the scent of the next Tour will be that of the white truffle of Alba”, said Christian Prudhomme, the general director of the Tour de France, when receiving the award presented by the International White Truffle of Alba Fair in late 2023. It starts on Saturday, June 29, from Florence with arrival in Rimini, two “cradles” of Sangiovese but declined in different ways, more “noble” and emblazoned that of the Tuscan shore, with its Brunello di Montalcino, Chianti Classico, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and not only, more “pop” that of Romagna. From the capital of Tuscany, therefore, Florence, the cradle of the Renaissance, which “welcomes” in its hills Chianti Classico (along with the Siena of the Middle Ages), one of the “iconic” reds to which it is deeply linked, so much so that in the Salone dei Cinquecento in Palazzo Vecchio is depicted the famous Black Rooster (symbol of the appellation) painted by the painter Giorgio Vasari in the ceiling among the allegories of the Medici domains, to that Rimini symbol of Italian seaside tourism, which is also vital for food and wine.
On June 30, with the Cesenatico - Bologna, it enters, instead, the territories of the Emilian “food valley”, where Italian gastronomy excels, an ideal appetizer for what will be the longest stage of the Tour de France, the Piacenza - Turin, 225 km, with a passage through Tortona, where Fausto Coppi died, but also an area of wine that is increasingly in the spotlight, thanks to Timorasso, among whose “Fausto”, pronounced in the French manner (in memory of the acclamations received by the “Champion” on the roads of the Tour), produced by Azienda Vigne Marina Coppi in the small Alessandria town of Castellania, where Coppi was born in 1919. It was here that the grandson of the great Fausto, Francesco Bellocchio, decided in 2003 to start a small winery named after his mother. One of the curiosities that will characterize the third stage, which coincides with “the crossing of the Langhe, with its delicious truffles and its wine-growing landscape classified as a Unesco World Heritage Site”, the Tour de France press kit says verbatim.
They will be days of celebration but also of ideas and flavors with the Italian food world ready to pay tribute to the passage of the Tour de France, a great spectacle with its poker of outriders among the favorites, starting with defending champion Vingegaard to Pogacar, dominator of the last Giro d’Italia, from Roglic to Evenepoel. In Florence, Ditta Artigianale, founded in 2013 by award-winning barman Francesco Sanapo, launched the “Cyclist Coffee Blend” with a special blend. Cibrèo Café at Helvetia & Bristol, on the other hand, offers a menu inspired by the color of the Tour’s famous jersey, yellow, and then lunch with turmeric jelly, tagliolini cacio e burro or yellow bell pepper puree, meatballs with yellow cherry tomato sauce and Cibrèo’s panna cotta. And on the day of departure, June 29, evening with dress code in yellow and the Mary Jaune cocktail, a Bloody Mary made with yellow cherry tomato juice, Pol Roger Champagne, oysters, tartare and Grand Mère terrine in liquid formula. Wanda Caffè, the venue of Enrica della Martira, a former Masterchef 2014 contestant, offers an aperitif in the dehor in the heart of San Frediano: cecina with stracchino chantilly is paired with the Honolulu cocktail, created for the summer by Kareem Bennett, made with rum and infused with mango and turmeric. At the famous “Gelateria della Passera”, in Piazza della Passera, again, you can discover the “Bartali Bartali” flavor, ice cream created by master ice cream maker Cinzia Otri, owner of the business in the Oltrarno square. The predominant color is obviously yellow (the cream is made with saffron from Fiesole) while the purple variegation is a tribute to Florence. From aperitif to main course to dessert for foodies there will be no shortage of opportunities in Piedmont. One can start with the aperitif “La Musette” (which pays homage to the small cloth bag taken by the cyclists in the refueling that included food and water supplies), designed by Gigi Barberis, a bartender from Alexandria, strictly yellow and made with lemon juice, salted chamomile syrup, white bitter, citron liqueur and ice. Three-starred chef Enrico Crippa of Alba’s Piazza Duomo (together with the Ceretto family) offers a “Homage to the Tour de France” at his restaurant, with rice colored by the yellow of saffron and accompanied by a ragout of livers that harkens back to the Florentine local markets. And then there is gianduiotto, the symbol of “sweet” Turin, in pastry chef Giovanni dell’Agnese’s elaboration, covered with yellow-colored cocoa butter and combining gianduia chocolate with an insert of bonet, a typical dessert made with cocoa and macaroons complete with a small chocolate Mole Antonelliana and a Piedmont hazelnut. But there is also the proposal of master chocolatier Guido Castagna with gianduiotto wrapped in a special yellow-dyed package.
Just a few examples of the riot of gastronomic ideas and initiatives related to the world's most important cycling race. With the passage of an event such as the Tour de France that will also have positive repercussions on the territories involved, and therefore by reflection also for the catering and hospitality sectors. In Emilia-Romagna, the caravan will pass through 38 locations for a total of 600 kilometers, and for the region it will be “unparalleled in terms of media impact and induced activity, with more than 200 TVs connected from all over the world (1.8 million spectators present along the route between Tuscany, Emilia-Romagna and Piedmont) and more than 300,000 presences in hotels for the 3 stages, with an induced activity calculated to exceed 120 million euros”. For the Piedmont Region, the impact on the local economy “translates into a fallout between 5.1 and 15 million euros”, but these will not stop “only at the days of the competition: to be put into account there are also those in the long term, daughters of a tourism generated by the great international visibility”.

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