The Piemonte, or Piedmont region, borders France in northwestern Italy. Piemonte is known for its wines and fall truffles, mountains with ski resorts in the west and north, and the city of Turin.
Torino or Turin
Turin, the main city of the Piemonte Region and home to Fiat cars, is an elegant city with historic Baroque cafes and architecture, high-quality shops, and interesting museums, which include the famed Egyptian Museum and the Shroud of Turin (only occasionally put on display for viewing).
Just outside Torino, you can visit the Baroque Savoy Palace and Gardens at La Venaria Reale. A little farther west is the stunning monastery of Saint Micheal's Abbey, one of Europe's most important Benedictine monasteries.
More Piemonte Towns to Visit
- Cuneo is a provincial capital worth a few days. Beautiful arcades of this 12th-century town give it an elegant appearance. You can use Cuneo as a base for excursions into the mountains and even into France.
- Ivrea is about an hour's train ride north of Torino. The famous Carnevale di Ivrea involves lots of orange throwing, parades, and food.
- Vercelli is known for its rice and the frogs that are attracted to the rice fields. A food fair dedicated to frog meat, Sagra della Rana, is held the first week in September.
Wine, Truffles, and Food
Much of Italy's best wines are found in the Piemonte region. The area around Alba incorporates Barolo, Barbaresco, and Roero while the province of Asti is known for Dolcetto, Barbera, and Moscato. This wine area, with beautiful rolling hills topped by picturesque towns, is known as Langhe.
Piemonte is famous for its aromatic white truffles found in fall and Alba holds one of Italy's top truffle fairs. Many restaurants serve truffles during the autumn truffle season and offer special truffle meals. Visiting a few of the wine and truffle towns of the Langhe makes a good excursion any time of year but is especially nice in fall.
For the ultimate truffle experience, stay and eat in a place owned by a truffle hunter or sign up for a Langhe Wine and Truffles Full Day Excursion that includes a truffle hunt. The Langhe is also a great area to see castles. Some castles can be toured and a few, such as Grinzane Cavour, offer wine tasting and wine shops.
Cuisine: Cheese, Chocolate, and Slow Food
The town of Bra is home to the Slow Food movement, which is still widely celebrated in this part of Piemonte and the region is home to some of Italy's best restaurants. Over 160 different cheeses are found in Piemonte.
Chocolate is also a specialty of this region. In fact, this is where chocolate for eating as we know it today first developed.
Ski Resorts, Mountains, and Lakes
Mountain resorts west of Turin were used in the 2006 Winter Olympics and offer great skiing and winter sports. Sestriere is one of the top places to ski in Piemonte. Pinerolo is in the scenic Val Chisone, an alpine area less crowded by tourists that also offers good skiing and mountain hiking in summer.
Domodossola, at the foot of the Italian Alps in the north, is on the rail line connecting Italy to Switzerland. The town has a good medieval center and is known for the Baroque Sacro Monte del Calvario, with its 12 chapels depicting the Passion of Christ, part of the Sacri Monte UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Part of Lake Maggiore, one of Italy's top lakes, is in Piedmont while the eastern shore is in the Lombardy region and the northern part extends into Switzerland. The smaller Lake Orta is just to the west of Lake Maggiore.