Back Roads of the Italian Countryside, or My Daily Commute

Note: This post is mostly geared towards UNISG students, so it will be fairly useless to you unless you need to get from Bra to Pollenzo.

Living in Italy, you start to realize that there are always two ways of doing everything, the official system and the back door in-the-know route. Take the process of acquiring a permesso di soggiorno residency permit, required for all non-EU citizens staying in Italy for over 90 days. In Bra, you can either go to the Post Office, pick up an application kit and struggle to figure out what to put down so as to not have your application rejected, or you can go to the Al Elka-L’incontro center for foreign citizens, which provides consulting services and staff who fill out the application for you. Granted, the center is only open for 7 hours a week, on Tuesday afternoons and Friday mornings, but that is different gripe. Ah, Europe.

Similarly, there are many ways to get from my apartment in Bra to UNISG campus in Pollenzo. There is a bus available and one of my flatmates has a car, but I have opted to make use of my bicycle and bike to class daily. This has led to some scary, ahem, entertaining rides to class, since intercity Italian roads strongly favor wide trucks and no shoulders. And so, I set out to find an alternate route to school besides the one suggested by Google Maps, and began exploring the back roads between Bra and Pollenzo. After a week of exploration, I had discovered a number of small dirt-lined roads, some of which were unpaved and lined with gravel (e.g. a bike flat waiting to happen), others which were just as crowded with traffic as my original route. Then Laura, one of my classmates, told me that she had learned the perfect route to get to campus from an undergrad student. Free of traffic and thoroughly paved? I jumped to follow her.

Start on the southern edge of town, going south/downhill on Via Cuneo. Tucked in on the left side with some hedges, you will see a sign for Strada Gerbido. Turn left and continue going downhill.

In the next few minutes, you will lose approximately 250 ft in elevation. Sit back and enjoy the power of gravity. The road winds sharply in a couple places, so make sure your brakes are working properly.

At the bottom of the hill, take a left at the intersection with the sign for Testa Giacomo.

You will begin to pass a delightfully bucolic series of farms. Here is some red and green leaf lettuce, happily basking in the sun.

At the intersection with Strada La Bassa, bear to the left.

All sorts of old farmhouses and sheds with terracotta roof tiles dot the landscape, but this one is my favorite. I wonder how many years the trellis of roses has been growing?

At the next intersection, take a right followed by a quick left to continue going west.

Continue to pass by fields of crops, with the town of Bra in the hills above.

Some of the fields remain uncultivated, filled with the blooms of wild poppies.

Cross over the small bridge…

…on the other side, take a right when you reach the pink house.

You will end up on Strada Franca, which intersects with a busy, traffic-congested street (Via Einaudi). Simply cross the street carefully and continue along Strada Franca which will deliver you directly to the main campus building.

Here is a map of the whole route, with a graph of elevation change thrown in for good measure. This path will not appear on Google Maps, even if you select the walking option, because there is a small section which is unmapped. The route is about 2.77 miles, with a net decrease in elevation of 243 feet, and takes about 15 minutes to bike, depending on how often you stop to smell the roses. Doing the reverse commute uphill is quite a bit more strenuous, but I’ll save that for another story.

4 thoughts on “Back Roads of the Italian Countryside, or My Daily Commute

  1. I laughed when I read “Ah, Europe”, as if Italy was representative of Europe in general! No, this is only typical of Southern Europe 🙂

    I hope you get the chance to see more of Europe and not just the Mediterranean cultures.

Drop me a line!