Although it mostly lies in the south of France – the so-called Midi – the Occitania region stretches from the Mediterranean to the Pyrenees and includes some neighbouring areas of Italy and Spain. It’s a land rich in art and nature, history and culture. It’s home to marvellous medieval towns nestled at the foot of perched castles and is the homeland of the langue d'Oc, used by troubadour poets in 12th-century troubadour poetry and still in use today under the name Occitan.
In Italy, Occitania comprises 14 valleys and 120 municipalities in the provinces of Imperia, Turin and Cuneo. It’s precisely in the Cuneo area that the Occitan Paths are developed, an itinerary suitable for mountain biking that connects Villar San Costanzo to Dronero and loops around the Maira Valley for about 175 kilometres (109 mi). You also discover many side valleys, which are often less well-known and less frequented.
In this Collection, I've chosen to divide the Occitan Paths into five stages suitable for mountain biking. I based them on the 14 Occitan Paths’ hiking stages in this Collection: komoot.com/collection/1441046. Each of the stages ends in a small hamlet, usually at a family-run guesthouse. When organising your cycling trip, you can re-plan the itinerary and combine the stages in a different way to ensure you can stay overnight at the end of the day. In any case, I recommend booking accommodation well in advance, especially in summer. You can find the list of stage places on the official website of the Occitan Paths Association: percorsioccitani.com/percorsi-occitani-posti-tappa (in English).
The Occitan Paths mostly follow narrow singletrack, which requires some riding confidence and technical ability. In addition, some sections may require you to dismount and push on foot. Whether you're an amateur or a professional cyclist, I recommend tackling the route on a mountain bike or a gravel bike at least. Don’t ride a road bike.
Always carry a good supply of water (ideally two litres, but at least one) and food. As far as clothing is concerned, I recommend wearing breathable technical clothing and bringing a waterproof coat, as well as some warm layers for the higher passages. Speaking of altitude, in the winter months, you may find heavy snowfall on the high trails. I, therefore, recommend this route between June and October.
The starting point of the Occitan Paths, the Ciciu del Villar Nature Reserve, has ample parking, so it’s convenient to come by car. Travelling by public transport, on the other hand, is longer and more complicated. You'll have to arrive in Cuneo by train and ride about 22 kilometres (14 mi) to reach the Reserve. Alternatively, from Cuneo station, you can take bus number 96 (you can put your bicycle inside the luggage hold) to Roccabruna and get off at Dronero, which is about 20 minutes by bicycle from the reserve car park. The town of Dronero is also the finishing point of the official Occitan Paths route, but I've chosen to end the last stage of this Collection at the Ciciu del Villar Nature Reserve so you can cycle back to the starting point.
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Last updated: September 25, 2023
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The first stage of the Occitan itineraries will take you from the parking lot of the Ciciu del Villar Nature Reserve to one of the most fascinating villages in the lower Maira Valley: Camoglieres. The route develops mainly on paths and singletracks that make wide ups and downs and end, after almost 36…
The second stage of the Percorsi Occitani develops largely on singletrack and will let you get to the heart of this itinerary. It will take you from Camoglieres to San Michele di Prazzo, where you can stay overnight at the official stopover La Tano di Grich. For approximately 36 kilometers and 2,000…
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The third stage of the Percorsi Occitani is the halfway point. The town of Chiappera is in fact the westernmost point of the entire itinerary, which after the town begins to point towards Dronero developing south of the Maira. The stage begins in San Michele di Prazzo and after about 38 kilometers and…
In its first half, the fourth stage of the Occitan itineraries develops on the Gardetta plateau, at the foot of the Dolomite Rocca la Meja, between 2,000 and 2,500 meters above sea level. In the second half, after Colle del Mulo, the itinerary descends inside the Vallone di Marmora, until it reaches…
The fifth and final stage of the Occitan itineraries marks the return to the plain. In fact, it will take you just over 37 kilometers from Palent to Dronero, just a few minutes from Villar San Costanzo, the starting point of the Percorsi Occitani. It also develops in little frequented areas and through…
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