The Cuneo province, with its 6,903 square kilometres, it is one of the largest in Italy and for this reason its nickname is “Provincia Granda” (the biggest); people generally call it in this way to this area and inhabitants are proud of it.
Its appearance is mostly mountainous: the mountains occupy more than half of its surface. The major reliefs are located on the south-western border and descend to occupy most of the territory up to the plain. The alpine chain that surrounds it on two sides is more than 150 km long and 40 km wide on average. The rest of the provincial territory is divided into substantially equal parts among the hills, another of the Granda landscape and fount of economic wealth, and the plain.
The Cuneo mountains include the western part of the Liguria Alps, from the Colle di Cadibona to the Colle di Tenda, the Maritime Alps, which go as far as the Colle della Maddalena, the Cozie Alps, which reach the Colle delle Traversette, in the Monviso group. The most significant peaks are the Monviso, which with its 3,841 meters and its elegant and massive pyramid shape dominates the whole plain, the Marguareis, the Argentera, the Clapier, the Pelvo d’Elva, the Salza. The most important is certainly the Monviso, an elegant and majestic mountain, already mentioned by Virgil in the Aeneid, by Dante, by Geoffrey Chaucer, perhaps crossed by Hannibal in his descent into Italy during the Second Punic War. It was an English man, William Mathews who climbed it for the first time, in 1861. Among the curiosities of this unmistakable mountain, the “Buco di Viso”, a gallery 75 meter long and 2 meter wide, that connects Italy with France at an altitude of 2882 meters; it has been built at the behest of the Marquis of Saluzzo Ludovico Il in 1480. It has recently been reopened and it represents an extraordinary testimony of the past.
The Alpine valleys are another important feature of the province of Cuneo. Often connected to France and Liguria through galleries, they are an important heritage not only for tourism, but also for the preservation of ancient culture which is still firmly rooted in habits and traditions, as well as in the language of the populations.
Starting from the south and going north we find the Valle Tanaro, the valleys that flow into Mondovì (Mongia, Casotto, Corsaglia, Ellero, Pesio and Colla), those that descend on Cuneo (Vermenagna, Gesso and Stura), and then the Grana, Maira, Varaita and Po valleys.
The mountain extends over more than half of the provincial territory; the rest is occupied by the alluvial plain formed by the deposit of the debris of the many rivers that have dug the sides of the mountains and filled them, over the millennia, and by the sea that was wedged deeply in northern Italy where today there is the Po Valley. The fertile and rich plain that opens up in the central northern part of the province, between the Tanaro and Po rivers, is today one of the riches of the Cuneo area, because agriculture has been able to develop and give rise to valuable crops and renowned cattle farms. The Cuneo plain is closed to the north by the hilly system of the Langhe and which has the geographical centre and economic capital in the city of Alba.
The hills have an average height of 600 meters and a very irregular course. Another hilly complex of smaller dimensions, but equally important for viticulture, is that of the Roero on the left bank of the Tanaro. ln the province of Cuneo the Po is born, which with its 652 km is the longest river in Italy. It rises from a series of pools and springs at Pian del Re, at an altitude of 2020 meters, on the north-eastern slope of Monviso; the second river for length, is the Tanaro, which can be considered the most important of the Granda, since the Po flows for a rather short and not very significant section in the province of Cuneo. The Tanaro, on the other hand, with its 276 km of course, is almost entirely from Cuneo. It originates from the Maritime Alps and flows into the Po towards Alessandria after receiving numerous tributaries including Bormida, Ellero, Pesio, Stura di Demonte.
The “Granda”, divided as it is among mountain, hill and plain, has different environments, with very different landscapes and climates. An alpine climate prevails in the area, with cold winters and short, cool summers. Rainfall mainly in spring and autumn, while snowfalls are frequent and abundant in winter. The plain instead has a more continental climate, with hot and torrid summers, high temperatures, sudden and violent precipitations in the form of thunderstorms. Winter temperatures, on the other hand, are rigid, with the appearance of snow and frost; the phenomenon of fog is not infrequent especially in the north-eastern part of the province. The hilly area has a climate halfway between the alpine and the plain; summers are still cooler than the flat area.
The most widespread flora and fauna are obviously those of the Alpine environment. Chestnut and oak woods are found in abundance up to 1000 meters above sea level, accompanied by oaks, oaks, brooms and a minor flora consisting of violets, buttercups, bellflowers. At higher altitudes woods of beech, birch, ash, elm, with juniper, rhododendron, blueberry and ferns. Climbing further up you come across the typical mountain flora, with large forests of white and red fir, pine and larch. Among the flowers, the columbine, the edelweiss, the lilies, the artemisia and the very rare Saxifraga Florulenta that blooms only once in its vegetative life that lasts 20 years. Also the fauna is typical of the alpine environment with wild boars, badgers, hares, squirrels, foxes, owls, chamois, ibexes, marmots, stoats, martens, grouse, eagles, buzzards.
The population of the province, at 30 April 2018, was 587,901 inhabitants. The municipalities of the province are 250 divided into four large areas: Alba-Bra (75 municipalities), Mondovì (64), Saluzzo – Savigliano – Fossano (58), Cuneo (53). The most populous cities are in the order: Cuneo (587.901), Alba (31.453), Bra (29.604), Fossano (24.372), Mondovì (22.511), Savigliano (21.471), Saluzzo (16.968), Borgo San Dalmazzo (12.427) , Busca (10.132), Racconigi (9.958), Boves (9.802). The province of Cuneo does not have an outlet to the sea, but both Liguria, with the Riviera di Ponente, and France, with the Côte d’Azur, are easily accessible through numerous passes and tunnels. Contacts and exchanges with these lands have therefore always been frequent, so much so that over the centuries a commonality of ideas and interests has been created which has been able to overcome the obstacles represented by mountains or political borders.