Italy’s second-largest region is arguably its most elegant: a purveyor of excellent food & fine wine and regal palaces. Emerging from the chaos of the Austrian wars, the unification movement first exploded here in the 1850s, when the noble House of Savoy provided the nascent nation with its first prime minister and its dynastic royal family. Piedmont is in Italy’s northwest and borders Switzerland and France. True to the meaning of its name (foot of the mountain), Piedmont is a land of mountains. It is surrounded on three sides by the Alps, with the highest peaks and largest glaciers in Italy.
The Alps form the background for sweeping, picturesque valleys but the landscapes of the Langhe and Monferrato are hilly, rather, but just as beautiful, a succession of cultivated hills and vineyards that are dotted with small towns and castles. Expanses of water and rice paddies, long rows of poplars and old farmhouses make up the typical scenery of the plains around Novara and Vercelli. The Piedmont shore of Lake Maggiore is filled with famous resorts, such as Arona with its 17th-Century colossal statue of Saint Carlo, Stresa and the Borromean Islands, with accommodation facilities, villas and gardens. The intriguing Medieval castles – like the imposing fortress at Ivrea – and prized works of architecture – the famous Residences of the Royal House of Savoy and the Sacri Monti (Sacred Mountains) certainly deserve to be mentioned. The famous spa resorts of Acqui Terme offer treatments and therapy for a relaxing, reviving holiday.
The ski resort of Sestriere – Via Lattea is one of the most important winter sports complexes in Europe.
The Gran Paradiso National Park with its glaciers, natural lakes and protected flora and fauna. Rich in natural resources and landscapes, Piedmont offers visitors the opportunity to enjoy sport, to unwind and to be entertained, mixing leisure and culture. You can choose from many more outdoor activities; cycling, mountain biking, golf and of course walking routes through the vineyards. 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.
Piemonte produces some well-known wines in the chalky hills of Monferrato. This region produces the “Asti white wines” that include Moscato and sparkling Asti Spumante. Piedmont is also home to the world famous red wines like Barbera, Barolo and Barberesco. Famous Italian vermouths, Martini and Cinzano, are also produced here, distributed worldwide and drunk locally as an aperitif. Festivals are held throughout the region celebrating both its past and its many culinary delights, including several white truffle festivals in the fall.
Piedmont is also the birthplace of the world famous Slow Food and Eataly. Slow Food is an organisation that promotes local food and traditional cooking. It was founded by Carlo Petrini in Piedmont in 1986 and has since spread worldwide. Promoted as an alternative to fast food, it strives to preserve traditional and regional cuisine and encourages farming of plants, seeds, and livestock characteristic of the local ecosystem. It was the first established part of the broader slow movement. Eataly is an Italian marketplace comprising a variety of restaurants, food and beverage counters, bakery, retail items, and a cooking school. Eataly was founded by Oscar Farinetti, an entrepreneur formerly involved in the consumer electronics business, and collaborates with Slow Food.
But this region is not only an agricultural center, but an industrial one as well. Piedmont’s capital, Turin, is an industrial powerhouse Turin is also the capital of Italian engineering and home to automobile manufacturers Fiat and Lancia.