Piedmont is Italy’s most varied region and arguably its most beautiful. Join me and my lovely Italian wife Maria on a journey through this enchanting land where the "real Italy" is still going strong.
Unchanged by tourism, hidden gems are scattered throughout. For many years we lived in Piedmont, and what discoveries we made, all of which we are excited to share with you.
The diversity of the landscape is incredible, ranging from the snow-capped Alps with their famous ski resorts through to rice paddies and the rolling hills of the Langhe. This diversity of landscape is matched only by the variety of cultures and traditions.
The region is home to a variety of distinct cultural groups, each with its own unique customs and heritage. For example, in the mountainous areas of Piedmont, you'll find the Germanic Walser people, who have inhabited the area for centuries and maintain their own language and traditions.
Meanwhile, in the city of Turin, you can explore the vibrant southern Italian neighborhoods, where you'll find a mix of influences from across the Mediterranean. The city's rich history as a hub of commerce and culture has made it a melting pot of diverse traditions, all of which contribute to the rich tapestry that is Piedmont.
But the cultural diversity of Piedmont doesn't stop there. In the northwest corner of the region, along the border with France, you'll find the Occitan-speaking valleys of the Val Chisone, Val Pellice, and Val Germanasca. These valleys have a distinct culture and history, and their language and traditions are a testament to their unique identity.
Similarly, in the southeast of the region, closer to the Ligurian coast, you'll find communities that speak the local Ligurian dialect, which has its own unique features and quirks.
The cultural richness of Piedmont is truly remarkable, and it's one of the reasons why the region is such a fascinating place to explore. Whether you're interested in language, history, or culture, there's always something new and interesting to discover in this beautiful corner of Italy.
To really get the most out of your time in Piedmont, I would suggest that you stay in one particular part of the region, allowing you to get closer to what living here is really like. If you like castles, then a great place to stay is the Pavone Castle (Castello di Pavone).
The Langhe wine region (see photo above) is one of the loveliest parts of Piedmont, and you really should try to spend, at the very least, a couple of days here. If you do visit the are then these are some exceptional places to stay.
Prefer to rent a holiday home in Piedmont? Try these.
Start with our guide "10 Days in Piedmont", it provides a selection of wonderful things to do.
Read the guide? Let's start discovering Piedmont...
I'll begin in Turin/Torino (read our guide here), an elegant and beautiful city with a magnificent setting.
The city, once the royal capital of Savoy, is still regal in appearance, with wide arcaded avenues and many magnificent palaces and royal residences.
The cuisine of Turin is perhaps the best in Italy—a delightful combination of France and Italy. Perhaps the original fusion cuisine! It was the Royal Court that dictated the menu of the day. Hence, some of the most sophisticated Italian recipes originate in Turin, and the elaborate pastries, chocolates (chocolate from Turin is like no other! Read why here), and antipasti recipes bear this out.
Then their are the drinks, in Turin, drinks before dinner is not a quick tot before getting on with dinner; it is an art form like nowhere else. It is no secret that vermouth was invented here and that Turin is the home of Martini and Cinzano.
The whole tradition is taken to dizzy heights—a veritable delight for gourmands.
Besides the great food, Turin is an elegant city located in a beautiful setting and should not be missed.
The Alps dominate the landscape and can be seen from nearly all the towns in the region. For many years, I used to sit in my office in Turin, gazing out of the window at them and wishing I wasn't in the office. I was not alone; the mountains are the weekend escape of so many of Turin's citizens.
One of my favorite mountain towns is the fairy tale village of Macugnaga, which few tourists visit but it is absolutely enchanting - completely unspoiled by tourism.
Piedmont's mountains, however, are not given over entirely to skiing. One of Italy’s largest nature reserves, Gran Paradiso, is found in these mountains. Gran Paradiso is a perfect retreat if you'd love to escape from the rat race for a while. This is truly a great paradise, and the name Gran Paradiso in fact means just this. No better place in Italy exists to hike, horseback ride, or just enjoy the silence.
The other mountain regions that are firm favorites of mine are the Val di Susa and the Valli di Lanzo. The Val di Susa is my preferred choice. One of the great attractions of this area is the famous castle that housed the man in the iron mask, the Castle of Exilles .
Another splendid place is a monastery, very like that of the famous novel - Name of the Rose. The monastery, called the Sacra di San Michele, is an unbelievable sight. You need to see it to believe it. The photos in our guide (click to view) will give you an idea of what you can expect. Also worth a visit are the Chisone and Germanasca valleys.
Besides spectacular natural beauty, lovely little towns, and a unique culture, these valleys are also home to The Great Wall of Europe - the greatest defensive structure ever built in Europe and second only to the Great Wall of China in terms of length (view the Chisone & Great Wall article here).
The Piedmont region is also blessed with magnificent lakes.
Lake Maggiore is the better known of these lakes, but my favorite, and the favorite of most Piemontese, is Lake Orta. It may not be as big as Lake Garda or the other Italian lakes, but the lovely atmosphere and natural beauty more than make up for this, and it is by far the most picturesque.
This, to me, is one of the most romantic places in all of Italy, and my wife agrees completely. I am sure you will love it too.
It’s perfect for that romantic long weekend or honeymoon!!
The Palio of Asti and the Carnival of Ivrea are two of the best traditional festivals.
Beware of the Ivrea Carnival though: you need to love oranges in a big way, and it gets very, very wild!!!
Not far from Ivrea is a cobblestoned village called Candelo. One of Italy's loveliest, here the festival is far more restive than that of Ivrea. What is it all about? Click here to find out.
Piedmont's wine route is perhaps the best of all Italy's wine routes. This area is known as the Langhe, and the lovely town of Alba is at the heart of it.
It is a place I absolutely love.
Home to the famous Alba truffle, you will find a veritable feast of good and slow food (view article here), cheese, as well as the best Italian wines from the most famous of Italian wine grape varieties. In the name of research, I have spent a lot of time sampling the wines - perhaps too many, as Maria (my wife) would say.
Hills and towns are every bit as picturesque as the better known Tuscan ones. In fact, there are more hills per square mile here than in Tuscany, and set amongst these hills are a few of my favorite villages - Barolo , La Morra, Serralunga d'Alba and Neive.
Autumn is a wonderful time to visit, this is when vineyards are a blaze of red and gold color, and every small town has a local truffle, mushroom, or wine festival. Nothing beats wandering around historic old towns, savoring local delicacies and great cheeses and getting caught up in the excitement and buzz of harvest time.
Talking of old towns, don’t miss Saluzzo, a little to the west of Le Langhe. This wonderful and as yet undiscovered old town, perched on a glorious hilltop, is just superb.
Montiglio is another gem. One of the loveliest hill towns in Piedmont and should not be missed.
Not yet convinced?
In the top left hand corner of Italy, a little to the left of Milan.
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