The region of Piedmont (Piemonte in Italian) is located in the northwest tip of Italy, with the capital of Turin. Surrounded by the Alps, Monviso, and Monte Rosa, it is little surprise that Piedmont translated in Medieval Latin means “at the foot of the mountains. It borders with France and Switzerland as well as the Italian regions of Aosta Valley, Lombardy Liguria, and a particularly small part of Emilia Romagna.
As the greater percent of Piedmont is mountainous, many ski enthusiasts flock to take in the breathtaking landscape and ski resorts the region has to offer. But don’t for a second believe Piedmont is all about skiing. The geography is also a mix of extensive area of rolling hillsides and vast open plains. Piedmont is the second largest of the 20 provinces within Italy, right after Sicily. The countryside is quite diverse: from the rugged peaks of the massifs of Monte Rosa and of Gran Paradiso, to the damp rice paddies of Vercelli and Novara, the gentle hillsides of the Langhe and of Montferrat, to finally, the plains. There are 56 different national or regional parks, one of the most famous is the Gran Paradiso National Park, located between Piedmont and the Aosta Valley. Still Piedmont has something for everyone, not just for the scenery and nature tourist. The capital Turin is the capital for car manufacturing in Italy. Deep rooted history and culture make for interesting visits to cities like Cherasco, Alba and Ivrea. Ivrea, for example is synonymous with fine architecture and grand medieval castles, straight from the middle ages. Whether you choose to tour the Royal Savoy House Residence, or travel to Sacri Monti, Piedmont intrigues and excites in one way or another.
Sites of Interest
Turin – Turin (Torino), the capital of Piedmont, is an extraordinary city like no other in Italy, in terms of natural beauty melding with innovation. As the first capital of Italy after unification in 1861, Turin has become synonymous with design, innovation and reinvention. Turin and Piedmont have given the world Lenci ceramics, Fiat cars, Fila and Kappa sportswear, Alessi household goods, Ferrero and Caffarel confectionary, Gianduja chocolates, Lavazza coffee, Martini-Bacardi, Campari, Asti Spumante, Barolo wine, the Slow Food movement, Primo Levi, the Torino and Juventus football teams, and not to mention the popular Borsalino hat. Sitting at the foot of the Alps, Turin was the first city laid to waste by the barbarian Hannibal. It was not until the House of Savoy that Turin finally begin to take an identity of its own, with gifted Baroque architects like Guarino Guarini and Filippo Juvarra designing much of the palaces and streetscape of the city. Marvelous buildings such as the Piazza Castello, take you back to the 17th century. The right wing here houses the largest collections of arms and armor in Europe, with suits and weapons dating as far back as the 15th century. Adjoining the Palazzo Reale, the Cathedral of San Giovanni Battista was Turin’s first example of Renaissance architecture, built between 1492 and 1498. The cathedral’s main attraction to tourists is the Santa Sindone, Holy Shroud, which although only rarely on view is kept in a bulletproof, fireproof, and climate controlled vault behind the altar in the left transept. A full-size replica hangs in the north aisle of the cathedral. The Holy Shroud is quite possibly the world’s most studied and controversial artifact, but despite the studies and the research, it has never been proven or disproven to be the shroud of the crucified Christ.
Piedmont Alps – These Mountains dominate the landscape and can be seen from nearly all the towns within the region. Skiing is the preferred reason many people flock to the Piedmont Alps, having placea like Sestriere and Bardonecchia that are well known names to keen skiers. Not only is great for skiers but nature lovers as well. One of Italy’s largest nature reserves, Gran Paradiso, is also found in these mountains. Gran Paradiso is a perfect retreat for anyone wanting to escape from craziness of life for a while. This is truly a great paradise and the name Gran Paradiso in fact means just that. No better place in Italy exists to hike, horse-ride and to just enjoy the silence.
Famous People Related To Piedmont
Piedmont has produced some of Italy and the world’s famous people. The dramatist and poet Vittorio Alfieri, founder of Italian tragedy. Italy’s first Prime Minister Camillo Benso, also known as The Count of Cavour was a leading figure in Italy’s unification. Victor Emmanuel II, of Savoy, who was the first king of Italy. The innovative entrepreneur Giovanni Agnelli and founder of the Italian motor company FIAT. Fashion designer Ermenegildo Zegna, founder of the largest menswear brand in the world. Gifted neurologist Rita Levi-Montalcini, and microbiologist Salvador Luria, both Nobel Prize winners. These all are just a few of the many sons and daughters of Piedmont who have made not just the region famous, but Italy on the whole.
Activities In Piedmont
Against the unique backdrop of the Alps, internationally renowned locations such as Sestriere, Val di Susa and others offer a wide range of slope categories suitable for all kinds of sporting activity. From steep downhill skiing to cross-country skiing and ice-skating to snowboarding. Meanwhile the most determined of adventure seekers can climb the rocky mountains or raft on rushing rivers.
In summer, the mountains and valleys offer trekking routes at different levels of difficulty, including some tracts on the Via Alpina with paths and well-equipped mountain shelters, from Monviso to the mountains around Verbania.
You can choose from many more outdoor activities: cycling along the River Po and around Vercelli, mountain biking along the banks of the River Sesia, playing golf on one of the area’s various courses; and sailing, windsurfing and canoeing on the shores of Lake Maggiore.
Nature also offers other paths for discovering the local culture and other of the region’s facets: in the Germanasca Valley, for example, visitors can take a guided tour through the talc mines that made the history of this valley, or take a spiritual trek through the magnificent protected areas of the Sacred Mountains. These are a series of nine cavalries and monestaries created during the late sixteenth century. Piedmont excels in its wine production, from Monferrato to the Langhe, from Astigiano to the Tortonesi Hills. The numerous wine trails lead to charming landscapes, with several stops at farms and wineries to taste wines and typical local produce, like the scented white truffle of Alba.
For those in search of a more health and wellness type of holiday, you can choose one of the renowned spas of the region, such as Acqui Terme, surrounded by the striking remains of a Roman aqueduct. The ancient baths are referred to by Paulus Diaconus and the chronicler Liutprand of Cremona. In 1870 Giovanni Ceruti designed a little pavilion, known as La Bollente, for the spot at the centre of the town where the waters bubble up at 75 °C.
Finally, hit up a few internationally-acclaimed cultural events and festivals, like the Book Fair and the famous chocolate fair, “Cioccolatò,” that takes place every year in Turin – as well as food fairs and cultural events including the famous Ivrea Carnival, the Palio horse race of Asti and many more.
The region’s cuisine is widely regarded as one of the best in Italy. Influenced by French cuisine, Piedmonts’ cuisine is both progressive and varied. The small town of Alba is recognized as the world’s white-truffle capital and a gourmet hotspot. Alba is one of the most fulfilling culinary destinations in the world with exotic and rich dishes abound. Because of the fertile nature of Lowland Piedmont it has been known to produce some of Italy’s most prestigious wines such as the Baralo and Barbaresco from the Langhe area, just outside of Alba. The vineyards of Asti, are renowned for the Barbera d’Asti, Moscato d’Asti and Asti Spumante, one of Italy’s top sparkling wines made with the finest Moscato Bianco grapes.
Piedmont is also the home of Gorgonzola cheese, among the many other cheeses such as Bra, Castelmagno, and Robiola.
Some typical Piedmontese dishes include agnolotti, a ravioli filled with beef and vegetable. Bagna càuda, vegetables dipped in a sort of fondue made with garlic, anchovies, olive oil, butter, and sometimes cream or truffles. Fonduta, which is a dip consisting of melted cheese, milk, eggs and white truffles. Panissa, a risotto made with Barbera red wine, onions, beans and lard. Tapulon, donkey stew cooked in red wine, garlic, clove and herbs. And torta alla Monferrina, a cake made from pumpkin, apples and sugar, with dried figs, amoretti, chocolate, eggs, and rum. Turin was one of the first cities to produce chocolate after the introduction of cacao from the Americas in the 16th century. Famous chocolate makers that have survived to this day include Caffarel, Baratti & Milano, and Peyrano. Piedmont really reached international fame with the products of the Alba-based chocolate manufacturer Ferrero, notably with the Ferrero Rocher, Mon Chéri, Kinder Surprise, and of course Nutella, the only brand of chocolate spread known on every continent.
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