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Piedmont Travel Guide

Ponte vecchio in Ivrea, Piedmont (© Sebastian Hamm - iStockphoto.com)
Ponte vecchio in Ivrea, Piedmont.

Introduction

Piedmont (Piemonte in Italian) is the second largest of Italian region after Sicily, and the sixth most populous, with 4.4 million inhabitants. The name Piedmont comes from Latin ad pedem montium, meaning "at the foot of the mountains". The region evolved from the Duchy of Savoy (1416-1713), then the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia (1720–1861), which under the rule of the the House of Savoy went on to unify Italy in 1861.

Piedmont is heavily centralised around its capital, Turin, around which the House of Savoy erected 15 royal residences. They were added together to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list in 1997. Nowadays the region is dominated by another dynasty, the Agnelli, owners of the Fiat Group, which produces such brands as Fiat, Lancia, Alfa Romeo, Maserati and Ferrari.

While most of the people can speak Italian, there are 2 million speakers of the local Piedmontese language, as well as substantial minorities of Franco-Provençal and Occitan speakers near the French border.

Famous people from Piedmont include (chronologically): the dramatist Vittorio Alfieri, Italy's first Prime Minister Camillo Benso (Count of Cavour), Victor Emmanuel II of Savoy (first king of Italy), the entrepreneur Giovanni Agnelli (founder of Fiat), the fashion designer Ermenegildo Zegna, fashion designer Nina Ricci, the neurologist Rita Levi-Montalcini (Nobel Prize), the microbiologist Salvador Luria (Nobel Prize), the industralist Gianni Agnelli, the fashion designer Nino Cerruti, and the writer Umberto Eco.

Cuisine

Piedmontese cuisine is widely regarded as one of the best in Italy. Influenced by French cuisine, Piedmontese cuisine is both progressive and varied. The small town of Alba is recognised as the world's white-truffle capital and a gourmet hotspot. As of 2012, Alba and its outskirts had the fifth highest number of Michelin stars in all Italy, making it one of the country's top culinary destinations.

Lowland Piedmont is a fertile agricultural and viticultural region. It produces prestigious wines such as the Barolo and the Barbaresco from the Langhe area near Alba. The vineyards around Asti, Italy's largest producing appellation, are renowned for the Barbera d'Asti, Moscato d'Asti and the Asti Spumante (made from Moscato Bianco grapes), one of Italy's top sparkling wines. 55% of all Piedmontese wines have a DOC(G) quality label, one of the highest proportions in the country. All in all, Piedmont has no less than 45 DOC and 16 DOCG for wines, the highest numbers in Italy for both categories.



The region's most famous cheese is without contest Gorgonzola (also produced in neighbouring Lombardy), but there are many other noteworthy ones like Bra, Castelmagno, Castelrosso, Maccagno, Robiola, and Toma.

Typical Piedmontese dishes include agnolotti (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 (dip consisting of melted cheese, milk, eggs and white truffles), panissa (risotto made with Barbera red wine, onions, beans and lardo), tapulon (donkey stew cooked in red wine, garlic, clove and herbs), and torta alla Monferrina (cake made from pumpkin, apples and sugar, with dried figs, amaretti, 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 chocolatiers that have survived to this day include Caffarel (founded in 1826), Baratti & Milano (1858), and Peyrano (1915). Among the traditional praline-like chocolates, let's cite the Gianduja (a sweet chocolate containing about 30% hazelnut paste), the similar Gianduiotto, and the Cuneese (chocolate custard and rum in a meringue coating covered with dark chocolate; specialty of Cuneo). But 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 recognised on every continent.

Attractions

Attractions are listed geographically, from west to east (left to right) and north to south (top to bottom).

West

Ducal Castle of Agliè
Ducal Castle of Agliè (© PHOTOERICK - Fotolia.com)
outstanding Ducal Castle of Agliè.
Sacra di San Michele
Sacra di San Michele (© Roberto Zocchi - iStockphoto.com)
outstanding Sacra di San Michele.
La Venaria Reale
La Venaria Reale (© PHOTOERICK - Fotolia.com)
outstanding La Venaria Reale.
Saluzzo
Saluzzo (© Alix Marina - Fotolia.com)
very good Saluzzo.

Other attractions

very good Avigliana
very good Bardonecchia
very good Forte Albertino, Vinadio
good Pinerolo
very good Susa

Central

Turin (Torino)
Royal Palace, Turin (© vivienne bellini - Fotolia.com)
must-see Turin.
Palazzina di caccia di Stupinigi ※
The hunting residence of Stupinigi (© I.Ivan - Fotolia.com)
outstanding The hunting residence of Stupinigi.
Royal Castle of Racconigi
Royal Castle of Racconigi (© amidala - Fotolia.com)
outstanding Royal Castle of Racconigi.
Alba
Alba (© Rostislav Glinsky - Fotolia.com)
very good Alba.

Other attractions

good Asti
good Barbaresco
good Bra
very good Ivrea
must-see Other residences of the Royal House of Savoy

East

Cannobio
Cannobio on Lago Maggiore (© Ralf Kabelitz - Fotolia.com)
very good Cannobio on Lago Maggiore.
Cannero Riviera
Cannero Riviera on Lago Maggiore (© rifberlin - Fotolia.com)
very good Cannero Riviera on Lago Maggiore.
Stresa
Stresa on Lago Maggiore (© Nicola Di Nozzi - Fotolia.com)
outstanding Stresa on Lago Maggiore.
Novara
Novara Cathedral (© rifberlin - Fotolia.com)
very good Novara.

Other attractions

very good Arona
very good Baveno
very good Intra
very good Domodossola
very good Lake Orta
very good Pallanza
very good Varallo Sesia
good Vercelli

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Cities, towns, villages & historic buildings

  • : Moderately interesting - nice for a quick stop
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Natural attractions

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  • : World-class natural attraction
  • ※ : UNESCO World Heritage site


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