The best trips are those that bring unexpected discoveries. I visited Cuneo by chance and I think it is one of the underrated destinations in Northern Italy.
This post was first published on my previous blog When Woman Travels.
My trip to Cuneo started in France. It was a one-day trip to a region I believed I know well enough after coming to this part of the Alps for years.
From Barcelonette, a charming French mountain town famous for its mansions inspired by Mexico, the road to Cuneo is like a zig-zagging crescendo of challenge. Motorbikers love it, of course. Magnificent views at three hundred and sixty degrees make this drive worth it even for the passengers. It is not a long drive though. In just two hours you are in another country that speaks a different language, creates another unique cuisine, and has its own saints and religious holidays. Ah, Europe, we love you for that!
Without realising it, you cross from one country to the other and just the slight change in the architectural styles makes you understand that you are now in Italy.
When you get to Cuneo, it is worth parking the car and looking around you. Do you hear it? That inexplicably seducing melody, that beautiful Italian language. How can a language be so melodic?! I can’t get enough of listening to it.
Cuneo is the regional capital of the province of Cuneo. It is less than one hundred kilometers from Turin and around two hundred fifty kilometres from Milan. The city is special with its Alpine views and thermal water and it is surrounded by two rivers – Gesso and Stura.
Why visit Cuneo
Cuneo is a little bit out of the mass tourism path. Which is a good thing! The city’s center is like a small jewelry box full of shining diamonds and sapphires. In Cuneo, you find all the amazing things with which Italy enchants the foreigner, but they are set in a more calm and slow-paced environment. With the sweetest gelato, narrow colorful streets, windows adorned with flowers, and religious festivals, Cuneo has everything to offer you!
When to go
The best time to visit Cuneo is in Spring and Autumn. Cuneo is situated in a valley between two rivers. Despite its proximity to the mighty Alps Mountains, during the summer the temperatures in Cuneo can hit high. Even the refreshing limoncello cannot help on those hot days!
Where to eat
Freshly made pasta and meat meals made according to old authentic recipes are the specialties of this restaurant. The view from the terrace is splendid! The restaurant is widely visited by Italians and locals, which speaks a lot about the quality of the food. Just next to the restaurant is the church whose facade in time of holidays is splendidly decorated.
Lungogesso Papa Giovanni XXIII, 12100 Cuneo
As this venue is now permanently closed (like so many unfortunately did during Covid), and this is the only restaurant I personally experienced and can recommend, I can only suggest that you check if there is another eatery that has opened at the same location. The reason is that it is at a beautiful square and offers spectacular views of the city, river, and even the mountains. If I do remember correctly, there is also public parking nearby.
What to taste
- the white truffle of Alba
- cuneesi with rum & torrone d’Alba – local desserts
- batiur & mariur – cured meat
What to see
Cuneo Vecchia – old Cuneo
This is the most interesting part of the city. If you are like me, an admirer of old architecture and rich cultures, you can get easily lost in the small streets. There is too much to look at! There are thousands of intricate details on the facades and around windows; small cafes and restaurants full of colour and chatter; shop windows displaying surprising merchandise; and small hidden courtyards as full of florals as of decay – the old nanas kingdoms.
San Francisco Convent & Church
This is the oldest church in Cuneo. Inside you will find the Civic Museum.
Where to stay
Best Western Hotel Principe & Hotel Palazzo Lovera
Budget: Best Western Plus Hotel Royal Superga, AirBnB, B&Bs.
Stay at a castle: At a distance of around 50 km from Cuneo there is a large choice of accommodations in castles. If you plan to stay around, check this possibility for a more memorable experience. Some of them are Duchessa Margherita Chateaux & Hotels, and Palazzo Fauzone Relais.
- Summer music festival in June
- St. Michael, the town’s patron is celebrated on September 29th. It is when the streets become opulently decorated in red drapes (see my photos).
- Chestnut Fair in November
Royal Castle of Racconigi
UNESCO heritage site, this castle was a residence of the House of Savoy.
Castle of Pollenzo
Pollenzo is a gastronomic center and projects for slow food have been developed in the area.
UNESCO heritage site.
Beautiful historical town, build on a hill overlooking the valley.
If discovering lesser-known destinations where slow travel is possible and local identity has been better preserved, Cuneo will be the right choice for you. Between enchanting mountain views, Italian food, and stunning architecture, there is a lot to enjoy at one of the underrated destinations in Northern Italy.