Destinations To Put On Your List : Piedmont, Italy

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Piedmont is Italy's second-largest region, and arguably its most elegant for a variety of good reasons, while also being famous for fine wines and fine foods, pretty pastoral landscapes reminiscent of nearby Tuscany, and the unification movement which started back in the 1850s. It sits at the foot of the Alps in Italy's northwest, sharing a border with Switzerland and France, and is surrounded on three sides by mountains with the highest peaks and largest glaciers in Italy. Piedmont’s capital, Turin, is a city blessed with an abundance of baroque architecture and is home of the first Fiat car factory however, beyond the city limits is a collection of smaller towns which attract the gourmet traveller euro. So what do you need to know about this fascinating part of Italy? 

Piedmont’s Towns

Piedmont is nothing if diverse when it comes to its landscapes. The Alps form the background for sweeping valleys including the Val di Susa, Valsesia and Val d'Ossola, while in contrast, Langhe and Monferrato are a succession of cultivated hills and vineyards dotted with small towns and castles. And then there’s the ski resorts, with Via Lattea and Sestriere, which welcome winter sports fans with their state-of-the-art facilities. Meanwhile the plains around Novara and Vercelli enjoy expanses of water, paddy fields, long rows of poplars, and quaint old farmhouses. Lake Maggiore is arguably the region’s most famous tourist resort, with highlights including Stresa and the Borromean Island, which charm visitors with ancient villas surrounded by beautiful lawns and gardens. When it comes to heritage most visitors start their explorations in Turin, the Italian car manufacturing capital, and plan to take in other Piedmont cities such as Cherasco, Alba and Ivrea. And if you love ancient history medieval castles, you’ll be enchanted by sites including the imposing fortress at Ivrea and the famous Residences of the Royal House of Savoy. Acqui Terme and Vinadio are spa resorts where you can indulge in treatments and therapy, while the provincial capital, Cuneo, is a 12th-century town worth a few days visit and can be used as a base for excursions into the mountains or France. And finally there’s Ivrea, about an hour's train ride north of Torino, which is famous for its Carnevale di Ivrea with lavish parades and food.

What Else To See

The Reggia di Venaria Palace is one to put on your list visiting Piedmont, a charming architectural structure which has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site along with the other Residences of the Royal House of Savoy which include the Royal Palace and Palazzo Carignano in Turin, the hunting lodge at Stupinigi, the Royal Castle at Racconigi and Turin’s Palazzo Madama. The aptly named Sacri Moni, or sacred Mountains, are home to a stunning collection of religious architecture dotted around the region's mountaintops including Varallo Sesia, Serralunga di Crea and Ponzano Monferrato, Orta San Giulio and Domodossola. Other unmissable destinations to see include Savigliano, which is rich in monuments. Piedmont’s most famous abbeys are located in Staffarda, an impressive example of Gothic architecture, and Novalesa, near Susa, and the ancient sanctuary of Sacra di San Michele should also be on your list. Along the shores of Lake Maggiore are famous resorts including Arona, with its 17th-Century statue of Saint Carlo, Stresa and the Borromean Islands dotted with hotels, villas and gardens. For snow lovers, the ski resort of Sestriere is one of the most important winter sports complexes in Europe, and for nature lovers, many nature reserves dot Piedmont, including the Gran Paradiso National Park marked by glaciers, natural lakes and protected flora and fauna.

What To Do

Piedmont offers visitors the opportunity to enjoy everything from sports and culture, to kicking back and being entertained. Ski resorts including Sestriere, Val di Susa and others enjoy an Alpine setting and therefore offer a wide range of winter sporting activities including downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, ice skating, snowboarding, mountain climbing and rafting. Meanwhile in the summer, the mountains and valleys are ideal for trekking, with a number of different routes to suit different levels of difficulty, including some on the Via Alpina with well-marked paths and well-equipped shelters. Other outdoor activities to enjoy in Piedmont include cycling along the River Po, mountain biking along the River Sesia, playing golf, and sailing, windsurfing and canoeing on Lake Maggiore.
For something a bit different, visitors can take a guided tour through the talc mines in the Germanasca Valley, or take a spiritual trek through the magnificent protected areas of the Sacred Mountains. Wellness holidays are also a growing trend and can be enjoyed in Piedmont. Visit a famous spa such as Acqui Terme, which is surrounded by the striking remains of a Roman aqueduct, or time our visit to enjoy an internationally-acclaimed cultural event or festival, like the famous chocolate fair, “Cioccolatò,” in Turin, or the Palio horse race of Asti. 

Eating And Drinking

Specialties of Piedmont’s regional cuisine include fondue and bagna cauda: two out-of-this-world dips celebrating the Alba white truffle and raw vegetables. Some of the many excellent local dishes include braised beef in Barolo wine, civet of hare and cheeses including bruss from the Langhe, gorgonzola from Novara, and sernium from Biella. Some world famous products such as  breadsticks and vermouth are from Turin, while those with a sweet tooth with enjoy a lineup of typical desserts and sweet treats including gianduiotti chocolates made with hazelnuts from Langhe and Monferrato, Novara biscuits, Cuneo chocolate sweets made with rum, nougat from Alba, and amaretti almond cookies from Novi. Piedmonte is also famous for aromatic white truffles, and Alba is home to one of Italy's top truffle fairs during the autumn truffle season, with local restaurants serving truffles and offering special truffle meals. For the ultimate truffle experience you can stay and eat in a place owned by a truffle hunter or go on a truffle tour which includes a truffle hunt. Langhe is also abundant with castles, some of which can be toured and a few, such as Grinzane Cavour, offering wine tasting. The Piedmont region also produces some of Italy’s finest red wines, in particular the area around Alba incorporating Barolo, Barbaresco, and Roero, and Asti which is famous for Dolcetto, Barbera, and Moscato. There are numerous wine trails which wind through charming landscapes, and the opportunity to stop at wineries to sample wines and local produce. 


Ben Hall


  • 5
    Dreaming Of Italy

    Posted by George D on 3rd Jun 2019

    I have never been but it's on the bucket list. My biggest problem would be choosing which part of Italy to visit for the first time....I mean there's Rome, Milan and this beautiful region. The skiing might just swing it to Piedmont!

  • 4
    Prefer It To Tuscany

    Posted by Carol Gee on 27th May 2019

    I've been here and Tuscany and preferred Piedmont. We were based in Turin and Lake Maggiore and toured from there as much as we could in a week, but sometimes we'd arrive somewhere and just want to stay! The truffles are amazing if you enjoy that sort of thing.

  • 5
    Loved Sestriere

    Posted by Brian the Dragon on 27th May 2019

    I went skiing in the French Alps years ago with friends while living and working in France and we went to Sestriere for a day, and we all wished we'd gone there instead! Great place....lots of fun and very scenic.

  • 5
    Looks Dreamy

    Posted by Jenny K on 27th May 2019

    Love the detail in this article, very helpful. I will be putting Piedmont on my bucket list!