This post is by Marica Gatti
Turin might be the tourist gem of Piedmont, but the region has a fabulous countryside. This is dotted with majestic residences that testify to the power and wealth of Italy’s former royal family, the House of Savoy. The Crown of Delights Trail is a way of combining the pleasures of cycling in Piedmont with an exploration of some of those historic palaces.
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Savoy Royal Residences
Mainly built between the 16th and 18th centuries, the Savoy Royal Residences are part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. To visit many of them you need to venture beyond the centre of Turin. They are part of a beautiful landscape of vineyards, hills and metropolitan parks, with mountains in the distance. One of the best ways to explore this area is by biking along the “Crown of Delights” trail.
What Is The Crown Of Delights?
The Crown of Delights is a cycling route over 90 km long that connects Turin to the Savoy Royal Residences scattered around it. This cycling trail was made possible by the work of Bici & Dintorni, part of the Italian Federation of Friends of the Bicycle. The trail was opened in 2011, and has become one of Piedmont’s favourite cycling routes.
You can decide to follow the ring route and visit the municipalities of Collegno, Pianezza, Grugliasco, Druento, Venaria, Settimo, San Mauro, and Rivoli. Or you could take detours and explore beyond the residences in the itinerary.
Since the cycling route is a ring, you can freely choose the starting and end points of the tour. The following itinerary will allow you to see the majority of the royal residences outside of Turin.
Starting from the Sassi-Superga tramway station, you can easily reach the stunning Basilica di Superga. Technically, this church isn’t part of the Crown of Delights, but it is very close and too beautiful to miss. The Superga hill offers a spectacular view of Turin with the Alps in the background.
Superga is located just above the Ciclovia del Po. This magnificent cycling path runs through many parks along the River Po.
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Stop No 2: Venaria
Pedalling northward, skirting the industrial area of Turin, you will arrive in Settimo Torinese, where the Parco Della Mezzaluna is an excellent choice for a relaxing stop.
Now far from Turin’s urban area, it is time to reach the first royal residence: the Reggia di Venaria Reale. Built at the behest of Duke Charles Emmanuel II, this residence was used by the Savoy family as a hunting lodge.
The next stop is the large Parco Naturale La Mandria, where you will find the Castello della Mandria. The park is the second-largest enclosed park in Europe, so take your time cycling around it.
Next, head to the castle, which harmonises perfectly with the surrounding landscape.
The route continues through the towns of Druento and Pianezza, where there is a fantastic bicycle path on the banks of the Dora Riparia River leading to the town of Collegno. This scenic path will get you to Rivoli. In Rivoli is the next Savoy Residence of the trail, the Castello di Rivoli. Today this hosts the Museum of Contemporary Art.
Head toward Rivalta and keep pedalling to arrive in Stupinigi, where you will find the impressive Royal Residence of Palazzina di Stupinigi. Behind the residence is the Parco Naturale di Stupinigi, where the Savoy family used to hunt.
After having spent time in Stupinigi, the next stop is Moncalieri. Here, you will visit one of the last Royal Residences on the trail, the Castello di Moncalieri, which the Savoyards used as a summer palace.
From the Castello di Moncalieri, the cycling path runs again along the River Po. Enjoy the view while reaching the Castello del Valentino, the last delight in this majestic crown.
If you aren’t tired of pedalling, you can also head to the uphill Villa della Regina or to one or more of the Royal Residences in Turin’s historic centre.
The Crown of Delights Trail has a mix of paved and gravel roads, but it can be cycled by either city bike or mountain bike. The total time you will need to complete the trail depends upon your ability and how long you will stop in each place. Generally, it takes a total of 6 hours to complete the Crown of Delights path.
If you are too tired to get to the end of the path, you will find several train stations along the route: Collegno, Moncalieri, Settimo, Borgaro, Venaria, and Turin. So you can catch a train and move from one place to another or return to Turin.
Marica Gatti was born and raised in Italy and currently lives in Rome. With a degree in Cultural Anthropology and a true passion for travelling, she works as a freelance travel writer as she loves writing about her experiences in Italy and beyond.