10 REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT PIEMONTE
Italy is well-known for its rich history, art, architecture and delicious cuisine. From the ancient ruins of Rome to the canals of Venice, Italy has something to offer for every type of tourist and for every type of appetite, with the classic pizza, pasta, risotto and gelato, and the less famous agnolotti, polenta concia and raw meat dishes, being must-tries for any foodie. But did you know there is a region, tucked away amongst the tallest peaks of the Alpine region, which tells the story of its regal ancestry and culinary traditions through a beautifully diverse and rich territory?
This is Piedmont.
Piemonte, best known abroad as Piedmont, literally means ‘at the foot of the mountains’ (pie – at the foot, monte – mountain). However, only a third of the region actually lies at the foot of the high and steep peaks, the rest is covered by the vast Po Valley (Pianura Padana). It starts here and stretches all the way to Venice across the whole of Northern Italy along the gentle bends of the river Po, the longest river in the country.
Travelling around Piedmont is like stepping back in time, a mouthful and a stroll at a time. It’s a region known for its natural beauty, rich history and delicious cuisine. It is a destination that can satisfy everyone’s needs, from outdoor enthusiasts to foodies, history enthusiasts, culture seekers and wine lovers. Piemonte has it all, if anything, we say it only misses the sea, and here are 10 reasons why Piemonte won’t disappoint you as your next holiday destination!
A city with an extraordinary historical and artistic heritage,
“packed with belle époque cafés, Savoy palaces, colonnaded walkways, imposing piazzas, ornate churches, museums and architecture that spans baroque to art nouveau and rationalist”
Will Hide – The Times
In Turin you can walk past expressions of Baroque, Art Nouveau and eclecticism in a span of only a few streets. Built by the Romans as a military camp, called Augusta Taurinorum at the time, it then became the capital of the Kingdom of the Savoy and 300 years later, in 1861, the first capital of Italy. In fact you can still visit the first Senate inside Palazzo Madama right in the city centre. At the end of the 19th century, Turin flourished as the queen of the automotive industry, when FIAT was established, and today we can revisit the history of cars from its origins to the contemporary evolution of creative thinking, by visiting the National Automobile Museum (MAUTO), one of the oldest of its kind.
Turin is a city just waiting to be discovered in all its many facets: the wealth of historical evidence, the acclaimed museums, the contemporary works of art en plein air, the cultural events, its characteristic arcades, its renowned historical venues, its riverside walks, vast parks and magical places. You can’t miss Piazza San Carlo, one of the most beautiful and important squares of the city, not only famous for its charme, but also for the important social role it has always played since its construction. On the rim of the square there are several elegant cafés, where intellectuals, nobles and royalties used to meet to discuss political or philosophical matters. Following along via Roma you end up in Piazza Castello, the very heart of Turin, with Palazzo Madama and the Royal Palace, former residence of the king Emanuele Filiberto of Savoy and power centre of the Savoy family for centuries. It is considered one of the city’s most important historical buildings, where nobles, politicians and foreign state representatives have been hosted throughout history.
Last but not least, we cannot write about Turin without mentioning the Valentino Park, the city’s most famous and oldest public park. Certainly the best-known city park, it has become a symbol of the city nearly at the same level as the Mole Antonelliana. During the summer most locals like to drop by after work to chat and have a glass of wine on its soft grass. The park has a remarkable tree heritage, an interesting birdlife, various historical sites, cycle paths, walks and opportunities for sports and recreation.
- Mole antonelliana
Turin’s main landmark and symbol, the Mole Antonelliana was initially conceived as a Synagogue before being purchased by the city council in 1861 to make it a monument in honour of the Italian Unification. At the time it was the tallest masonry building in Europe, at 167.5 metres high. On the occasion of the celebrations for the Centenary of the Unification of Italy in 1961, the Panoramic Lift was inaugurated, and it still allows visitors to climb up to the 85 metres high temple dome and admire the extraordinary view of the city and the surrounding Alpine ranges. For the more sporty people, it is possible to walk up the stairs along the dome to the Panorama Terrace.
The dome of the Mole Antonelliana also hosts the National Museum of Cinema, where you can discover the secrets of what goes on behind the camera and how a film turns into what you see in the cinema. All in a setting of projections, movie sets and light shows, from the shadow theatre and the first fascinating magic lanterns to the most spectacular special effects and virtual reality of today’s technology.
- Egyptian Museum
The Egyptian Museum of Turin is considered the world’s oldest museum solely dedicated to the ancient Egyptian civilization. It is renowned for its vast collection of artefacts, which in terms of both value and quantity of finds is second only to the museum in Cairo.
The arrival of the Mensa Isiaca (an elaborate bronze tablet with inlays in other metals, probably an imitation of Egyptian art from the Roman era) in Turin around 1630 marks the first step towards the museum as we know it today, then the first collection assembled by Bernardino Drovetti led to the official birth of the Museum in 1824. The Museum kept expanding thanks to continuous excavations conducted in Egypt in the 1920s and 1930s. Finally, on the occasion of the Winter Olympic Games in Turin in 2006, all the spaces of the museum were completely re-designed and modernised.
- Basilica of Superga
The Basilica of Superga was built at the request of Duke Vittorio Amedeo II, following a vow made to the Madonna delle Grazie (Our Lady of Graces) in 1706 during the Franco-Spanish siege of Piedmont. In a small church on a hill overlooking the city, in front of a statue of the virgin, the Duke made a vow: if he won, he would have a large church built in honour of the Madonna delle Grazie in that same place. After a hard battle, the enemy army was defeated and the city liberated. Vittorio Amedeo II fulfilled his commitment, commissioning the Basilica.
To build it, the existing church had to be demolished and the hill lowered by forty metres and it took fourteen years to complete it. Its interiors are enriched by six chapels and four altars, as well as the High Altar, with statues and monuments made of Carrara marble. Of particular interest are the numerous altar paintings and the dome, inspired by the Roman works of Francesco Borromini, which you can climb through a set of quite narrow stairs to enjoy a spectacular view of the city and the Alps from up high. And the Cappella del Voto (the Vow Chapel), where we can still see the same 17th-century wooden statue of the Madonna delle Grazie to whom Vittorio Amedeo II turned to win the battle.
- Museum of Urban Art (MAU)
The Museum of Urban Art (MAU), is the first permanent open-air artistic installation within a large metropolitan area, created with the crucial participation of the local residents. The museum is located in the heart of Turin’s Borgo Campidoglio, a working-class neighbourhood since 1853, which was miraculously spared from the urban development plan that transformed the city in 1959. As a consequence, it has been able to keep its original grid-like structure made up of low-rise houses with large inner courtyards, narrow streets and a strong presence of commercial, arts and crafts, and social services. In turn, this helped maintain that sense of community typical of small towns among the residents, making this neighbourhood a one of a kind example of a ‘village within a city’. The museum consists of an open-air itinerary covering more than 180 works placed on the walls of private buildings. Since 2014, the MAU’s collection and its participatory art project have extended beyond the borders of the Borgo Campidoglio, with the creation of around 60 more works in other neighbourhoods around the city.
- Langhe, Monferrato e Roero
Langhe, Monferrato and Roero are the green heart of Piedmont, and cover a large area guarded by the mountains. The Langhe region is famous for its truffles, hazelnuts and wines. The truffle is a rare and highly prized delicacy found in a few very specific areas. The region’s most famous truffle is the white truffle, which is harvested between September and December in the Alba area, now a well-renowned site for truffle lovers. The Alba International White Truffle Fair is held in October and November every year, attracting visitors from all over the world. The Langhe region is also famous for its exquisite premium wines, from barbaresco and dolcetto to the more premium barolo. The hills are covered with beautiful vineyards, and there is a wine producer and a wine cellar at every turn, each of them with its history and traditions. The experience of a wine tasting while enjoying a beautiful view of the surrounding hills has no equals.
Another fascinating area with a similar, yet quite different, landscape is Monferrato, where nature is left to run more wild in between neatly groomed vineyards fields, resulting in a more diverse scenery. The most common grape varieties here allow for another excellent and valuable wine production, like barbera, freisa and grignolino. In Monferrato there are also some of the most beautiful castles in Italy and some of them have been converted into charming residences where you can spend the night and relax.
Last but not least, the Roero region is an unspoiled landscape between the wild beauty of the woods and the softness of the hills where the wine trails that started in the Langhe wind their way down and end, blending harmoniously with the landscape. Like pieces of a mosaic, lush vineyards cover the hillsides and give life to yet more high quality wines, like roero and roero arneis. In addition to its ancient wine traditions, Roero is also famous for its solid farming culture and its heritage of ancient fortresses.
These hillsides have a millennial history to be discovered step by step, without hurrying to be able to enjoy the refined food and wine delicacies that have made them famous all around the world. The region has also been recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for the uniqueness of its landscapes and traditions.
- National Parks and natural beauty
Piedmont is home to some of the most beautiful and diverse natural landscapes in Italy. The region is surrounded by the Alps, which offer stunning views and opportunities for outdoor activities like hiking, trekking, skiing, snowboarding, climbing and any other outdoor activity you can probably think of. Piedmont is home to more than 80 natural protected areas, the most famous one being the Gran Paradiso National Park, home to a wide variety of flora and fauna, including ibexes, chamois and marmots. It is also the oldest Italian National Park. Next, how not to mention the Regional Park of Monviso, which surrounds one of the highest and most iconic peaks of Piedmont, the Monviso, perfect in its unique pyramid shape. Amongst many others, also the Avigliana Lakes National Park (Parco Naturale dei laghi di Avigliana) is worth mentioning, a protected natural area on the outskirts of the city of Turin. Beside these, Piedmont offers many other spectacular natural protected areas covering a wide variety of ecosystems and landscapes.
- The lake district of Piedmont
As we have seen, Piedmont is particularly well known for its mountains, offering breathtaking landscapes to visit both in summer and winter with a lot of fun activities. However, Piedmont’s lakes represent another beautiful attraction waiting to be discovered.
Impossible not to start with the beautiful Lake Maggiore, one of Italy’s most important and well-known lakes. Its shores hide real artistic and scenic treasures, such as the Isole Borromee with their beautiful palaces and gardens. This small archipelago is made up of: Isola Madre (or Mother Island), Isola Bella (or Beautiful Island) and Isola dei Pescatori (or Fishermen’s Island), the tiny island of San Giovanni and the Malghera rock. On Isola Bella and Isola Madre there are two palaces where you can admire beautifully decorated salons, paintings and gorgeous gardens, with lots of flowers, plants and an enchanting view.
Lake Orta is another of the pearls of Piedmont on whose shores lies Orta San Giulio, a small town of a little over a thousand citizens in the district of Novara, nominated as one of the most beautiful villages in Italy. The lake also hosts the enchanting little island of San Giulio where a monastery was built at the end of the 19th century and which now houses the convent of cloistered Benedictine nuns.
Besides these, Piedmont is rich in smaller lakes and ponds, some surrounded by colourful villages and others fully immersed in the beauty of nature, all waiting to be discovered.
- Royal Residences
Piemonte has a rich history that is reflected in its architecture, art and traditions, across the numerous churches and ancient buildings its villages and cities host. The whole region was once ruled by the powerful Savoy royal family, who left a lasting legacy in the form of palaces, castles and churches. Turin was home to the Savoy Royal family and hosts the first and most important of the Savoy residences in Piedmont: the Royal Palace, the main residence of the family for three centuries. The building is one of the oldest and most charming we can find in the city centre, located in Turin’s most important square, Piazza Castello. Each of the countless rooms of the Royal Palace is unique in its enchanting and opulent elegance, decorated by refined gilding and incredible paintings. The palace now hosts the Royal Museums, where the self-portrait and a selection of Leonardo da Vinci’s original drawings are kept, along with the Holy Shroud, which can only be seen on special occasions.
The Queen’s Palace, another royal residence, is a baroque treasure on the hillside of Turin, located less than 3 km away from the Royal Palace in a neighbourhood which was outside the city walls at the time, but is now one of the most charming residential areas of the city. It was originally commissioned by the Savoy family in 1600 as a grand country residence with attached vineyards, but owes its name to Anne-Marie d’Orléans, queen of Sardinia, and her successors who chose it as their summer residence. Today, the grounds of the Queen’s Palace are home to one of the oldest urban vineyards in Europe still in operation, called the Royal Vineyard, which produces Freisa DOC. Within the city we also have Palazzo Chiablese, Palazzo Madama, Palazzo Carignano and the Accademia Reale e Cavallerizza, which are a must see.
The surrounding cities of the Turin district host many other palaces and castles once owned by the Savoy family, like the Venaria Palace, considered one of the most enchanting and fascinating of all. Its imposing yet elegant structure attracts millions of visitors every year, who are captivated by its monumental grandeur and beauty. The palace is surrounded by a village and an immense garden, declared ‘the most beautiful public park in Italy’ in 2019. The complex, surrounded by a village and an extensive park, was built in the 17th century drawing inspiration from the beautiful Palace of Versailles, whose harmonies and spaces it recalls through its splendid interior decorations and the perfect distribution of flowers, plants and fountains in the gardens. Around the area of Turin we also have the hunting lodge of Stupinigi, the Rivoli Castle and the Moncalieri Castle, in the homonymous cities.
In the Canavese area, about forty kilometres from Turin, you can reach the Castle of Agliè, while in the province of Cuneo you will be amazed by the beauty of the Castle of Racconigi with its vast surrounding park. In the Langhe area, you can find the Castle of Govone and the Pollenzo Estate, now home to the University of Gastronomic Sciences and the Wine Bank, surrounded by gentle hills and small villages. Most of the Royal Residences in Piedmont have been designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites, as a unique example of one of the most important periods of Italian history, architecture and traditions.
Have you ever been to Piedmont or are you curious to come explore its hidden treasures? WOW Piedmont will take you to the best spots tailoring your experience on your desires.
LINKS per idee articoli futuri
10 ragioni per visitare torino – link
Parole in italiano – link