Rome, Venice, Lucca, Florence, Naples, Milan, San Gimignano… What do all of these have in common, you ask? Well, they’re all quite famous or at least well-known Italian cities. They’re all boasting with history, mouth-watering restaurants and a never-ending flow of culture. Yet sadly, that also means the number of tourists is almost uncountable. Which isn’t always what you’re looking for when you’re going to Italy for a relaxing getaway. Luckily, there are also a lot of untouristy cities to find in the land of pasta, pizza and wine. And one of them is Cuneo.
Chances are, you’ve never heard of it before. After all, it’s a city with only … inhabitants and no world-famous sights, which means it’s easily overlooked. Yet there’s a lot of Italian charm to be found without having to deal with the tourist crowds you’ll encounter in more famous parts of the country. On top of that, the location is actually quite impressive. Although settled amidst a plain, the Alps can be seen from almost everywhere in the city, guarding its people and buildings like an unbeatable army of stone warriors.
So let’s start the day, shall we? Whether you travel to the city by train, car or plane (yes yes, there’s even a teeny tiny airport) is up to you. If you want to make the most out of your stay in the region though, a car isn’t a big luxury. It’s the only way to discover the surrounding mountains and villages and it would be a shame not to. You’ll probably arrive in the city center via the impressively straight Corso Nizza, leading you to the Piazza Galimberti, the city’s main square if you’d like. Park your car somewhere, step out and go on by foot – it’s the only good option to discover the city and its many authentic shops.
When I think of Italy, those shops are actually quite a big part of the country’s image. Be it butcher shops, bakeries, tailors or something else: Italian shops tend to be small, beautiful and old. Sadly, they’re often not that authentic nor small anymore, which has a lot to do with mass tourism and its consequences on the local economy. In Cuneo though, there’s no shortage of small business. A personal favorite and must-see is Cappelleria Cerati in the car free zone of the city, a traditional hat shop filled to the brim with borsalinos and other hats where you’ll probably come across a chique Italian lady.
If you’re looking for an old school drugstore/supermarket, pop into Drogheria Giraudo. And if you’re looking into spicing up your rusty Italian by reading a good old book, Senza Polvere is the way to go.
Honestly, you can easily spend a whole day shopping in Cuneo, strolling from one beautiful shopping window to the other. So don’t hesitate to just walk around. If you’re a vintage lover just like me, then you might want to visit on a last Saturday of the month, when the Mercatino dell’antiquariato e collezionismo takes place. Don’t get up too early, sellers only start to arrive around 9 AM.
Just like any other city in Italy, Cuneo’s got a lot of churches and other religious buildings on offer. The Complesso monumentale di San Francesco is a large religious complex, meticulously restored and including amongst others a church and civic museum. The Santa Maria del Bosco is worth a stop too and at the Torre Civica you’ll be able to enjoy a splendid view over the surroundings, with the Alps in the background.
Of course, you’re in Italy, so you’ll want to eat well. For breakfast, honestly, there are numerous old bakeries to choose from, all looking and smelling very yummy. Don’t forget to order an espresso or cappuccino with your croissant of course because well, local habits you know.
For lunch, I’d recommend having a look at Al 37. Their menu is short but sweet and they offer an unbeatable value for money. Don’t forget your dessert!
And now onto my very favorite address in Cuneo. It’s a restaurant well worthy of a spot in any international city and one you’d be queuing for. Q.B. Bistro works exclusively with locally sourced ingredients and their menu changes almost monthly, meaning you could easily go back over time and not eat the same twice – although honestly, that wouldn’t be a punishment, on the contrary.
With just a handful of options to choose from, ordering still remains difficult as every single dish is and sounds mouthwatering. And their wine menu is just as delicious and local, so don’t hesitate to ask for suggestions. A restaurant I could talk about for hours yet to be honest, you just have to try it out for yourself. Don’t be surprised if you’re back again the next day.
A 24-hour guide wouldn’t be complete without a place to stay so I’ll suggest two. The one I got to try out on numerous occasions is the Hotel Royal Superga which again offers great value for money. The staff is professional, everything is meticulously clean and their 3 euro-menu is stupefyingly good.
An address I didn’t get to try out for myself yet but which would look undeniably good on Instagram is the Cupola Rubatti Tornaforte, where you get to stay in a former chapel, including frescoes and everything. So Italian!