Piedmont, the name explains a lot to you!

Piedmont, at the foot of the mountains. A name that originated in the Middle Ages as Pedemontis. At that time, it did not distinguish any separate region; it was a way to define these flatlands at the foot of the mountains. The population that inhabited these areas was the Ligurians, a Celtic tribe. Over time, the division between Piedmont and Liguria was determined by the natural barrier of the Alps and the Apennines. And the Ligurian hinterland acts as a buffer between Piedmont and the Ligurian sea.

The Piedmont territory

Mountains dominate the physical conformation of Piedmont: 48% of the territory is mountainous. Then we find the vast plains, the Po Valley in the lead, and a hilly area covering about 20% of the region.

The salient areas are

  • the Cottian, Ligurian, Graian, and the Lepontine Alps
  • the district of the pre-alpine lakes: the main one is Lake Maggiore, both for size and fame
  • the flat area with the large rice district
  • the hilly region of Langhe-Roero and Monferrato, which has become a Unesco heritage site

It’s easy to imagine that with a geographical variety like this, it will be easy to organize a varied vacation suitable for all ages, including families.

Piedmont region



Piedmont’s borders:

On the north with Switzerland and Valle d’Aosta. On the south, crossing the Apennines, we find Liguria. On the west, with the Alps as a border, France (from which we draw the accents of the Piedmontese dialect). Piedmont borders Lombardy to the east, a region of privileged exchange for industry and economy.

For the people of Piedmont, the sea is “an idea like any other,” as Paolo Conte says in his song dedicated to Genoa. But it is also true that those who live in the southern part of Piedmont can be on the beach in an hour and a half. And what’s more, it enjoys an alpine arc that offers winter skiing and summer refreshments!

The territory of Piedmont covers about 25,300 square kilometers and has a population of almost 4.5 million people. Piedmont is the second largest region in Italy, second to Sicily.

How to get to the Piedmont region:

In Piedmont, we have two airports: Torino, Caselle, and the second Cuneo,  Levaldigi. These are mainly domestic airports, but with some routes to European capitals. The primary international connections are with Milan’s airport, Malpensa. From Malpensa, you can rent a car and reach Piedmont with a convenient freeway network or by train, going to Milan, and from there, you will find a connection every hour with Turin and the various provincial capitals.


Piedmont Provinces

The provinces of Piedmont (with their ‘specialties’), in alphabetical order

  • Alessandria

    • Hexagonal plan with bastioned fronts. A trip to The Citadel in Alexandria is not to be missed—a defense bastion built by the Savoy family in the 18th century. The last time I visited, I found it a bit neglected. But still with undisputed charm. It is one of the most important examples of 18th-century Italian military architecture and one of the most significant in Europe. It was built in 1728 during the reign of Victor Amadeus II to protect the city of Alexandria during the War of Spanish Succession. The construction of the Citadel was part of a vast defense program of the Savoy state, which included a system of forts to bar the Alpine approaches to the plains, such as the Bard fort, to control the passes of the Little and Great St. Bernard. After the defeat of Piedmontese troops in Napoleon Bonaparte’s First Italian Campaign (1796), the Citadel and the city of Alexandria came under French rule. In 1867, the prisons of the Citadel housed Giuseppe Garibaldi before the Rattazzi government sent him into exile to Caprera. The architectural complex is used as a military warehouse and has been open to the public since 1990. If you are visiting the province of Alessandria, do not miss the opportunity to see this excellent work of military architecture, which represents a historical testimony of the past.
    • Acqui, known as the hot town, is well worth a visit. The city is beautiful, elegant, and with a retro charm. Exciting and very relaxing to spend the day at the spa.
  • Asti

    • Don’t miss the event of the Douja d’Or, as well as the Palio of Asti. The Festa dei Borghi (Village Festival) is an exciting food and wine event.
    • Majestic! One trip worth mentioning is to the Don Bosco Shrine Hill. This municipality, known worldwide, is called the “Land of Wines and Saints.” Its history dates back to Roman times, as evidenced by archaeological finds, but the official birth of the municipality is indicated in 1160 under the rule of the Marquis of Turin. Don’t miss the Basilica of Don Bosco and the Sanctuary of St. John Bosco, the Birthplace, the Museum of 19th-century Peasant Civilization, and the Don Bosco Missionary Ethnological Museum. The historic center of Castelnuovo Don Bosco is also full of beauties, such as the Monument to St. John Bosco, the deconsecrated Church of the Confraternity of St. Bartholomew, and the Parish Church of St. Andrew the Apostle, among others.
  • Biella

    • An excursion in May for rhododendrons in Burkina Park; mark it on your calendar!
    • The Sanctuary of Oropa is not to be missed. It is an exciting destination for Christian believers and those who enjoy natural and serene landscapes. Built-in the 4th century to spread the Christian religion in a predominantly pagan area, the shrine houses a Gothic statue of the Black Madonna, which has attracted pilgrims for centuries and is still a pilgrimage destination today. The complex currently boasts more than 300 rooms. The complex is divided into several buildings, the New Basilica, the Museum of Treasures, the Royal Apartment, Sacro Monte, the Meteorological Observatory, and the Library. In the surrounding area, twelve chapels are dedicated to the Black Madonna and related to moments in her life, such as the Chapel of the Annunciation and the Wedding at Cana Chapel. To get to the shrine, one can also walk paths over several days, with hospitality stops and sites that help with organization. These years’ pilgrims are a tad easier than past ones!
  • Cuneo

    • I have spent rivers of words on the Langhe on this site! So… don’t miss them.
    • A beautiful day to spend in Cuneo. Beautiful and elegant. Excellent taverns and sparkling air
  • Novara

    • Castles! Castello Visconteo Sforzesco (Galliate), Castello Sforzesco (Vicolungo), Castello di Caltignaga.
    • A corner of peace? The Convent of Monte Mesma.
  • Torino

    • The Church of San Lorenzo, a small treasure trove beside the Royal Palace
    • Porta Palazzo and it’s market
    • Cinema Museum inside the Mole Antonelliana – Dedicated to historian Maria Adriana Prolo, it is one of the most essential cinema museums in the world and the only one of its kind in Italy. The project to build a museum entirely dedicated to cinema in Italy was initiated by historian Maria Adriana Prolo herself in 1941. In 1992, after her death, the museum became a foundation to which her name was given. The museum was inaugurated in 2000. It also includes a cinema hall, located in the Cinema Massimo not far from the Mole, dedicated to retrospectives. The prestigious Torino Film Festival is also held in this hall. A visit to the Cinema Museum of Turin is a true journey of discovery into the fascinating world of cinema, culminating in a unique experience aboard the transparent crystal panoramic elevator. From here you will enjoy a spectacular view of the city of Turin.
    • Museum of the Risorgimento
    • Egyptian Museum: The Egyptian Museum of Turin was founded in 1824 by Charles Felix, Duke of Savoy, and is now run by the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities Foundation of Turin. The Egyptian Museum of Turin is one of the world’s most important museums of ancient history, famous for its collection of Egyptian objects. There are more than 30,000 artifacts. The museum can be found in the center of Turin, in Piazza Carlo Felice.

Turin is the capital city of the region. Turin is organized as a metropolitan city. It has an administrative structure includes the City of Turin and the municipalities in its metro area. Turin is home to several institutions and organizations, the Piedmont Region buildings, and the Piedmont Regional Council. The city also has several universities and research centers, such as the University of Turin and the Polytechnic University of Turin.

The Winter Olympic Games, held in Turin in 2006, made Turin known worldwide. Turin hosted the Winter Olympics from February 10 to 26, 2006. During the Games, 84 events were held in 15 different sports. The 2006 Turin Olympics were a great success from an organizational and tourism perspective! More than 2,500 athletes arrived from about 80 countries.

  • Verbano-Cusio-Ossola

  • Vercelli

    • Sacro Monte di Varallo Valsesia (Unesco World Heritage Site!)
    • A visit to the Roman amphitheater in Vercelli. One of the most extensive built. It must have had an ellipse of about 30 meters.

Piedmont’s provincial capitals are a discovery for every taste, every age, and every budget!



In Piedmont, there was the sea.

Observing the Po Valley in Piedmont, we notice a very particular characteristic. Between the lowlands and the Alps, we find an almost clean break. We do not see, as, in Lombardy and Veneto, the chains soften into less imposing mountains called Prealps. This difference is linked to the fact that the Ligurian gulf was much further back, and the beach arrived much further inland. Traces of this “beach” can be seen very well in the fortresses of Roero and in the numerous fossils that can still be found today. Probably the cause was a significant uplift of the seabed and an opposite sinking of the central part of Piedmont. It must have been a very long geological event and is presumed to have occurred about fifteen million years ago.

Archaeological finds in Piedmont

Archaeological artifacts have been found in Piedmont that testifies to the presence of different cultures throughout history. The region has been inhabited since ancient times, and artifacts have been found from different periods, from the Bronze Age to the Roman period.

Archaeological artifacts found in Piedmont are preserved in several regional museums, such as the Regional Archaeological Museum in Turin, and the Archaeological Museum in Asti. In addition, many of the finds are normally found in the region’s landscape: an interesting example is the arches of the Roman aqueduct. They are located just outside Acqui Terme. The route of the aqueduct runs for about 12 km. They date back to the first century AD. And they make us think!


An excellent plate of polenta in front of the ski slopes

Piedmontese mountains

The Alps cover 48% of the Piedmontese territory. They are a vital resource from an economic and a tourist point of view. Over the years, the depopulation of some valleys has seen a total countertendency phenomenon. Many young people have returned to their family homes and have undertaken activities linked to the territory.

Networking among all the actors, symbolic of the Valle Maira area, has built a well-managed site that attracts more and more tourists every year. And all this without having among its resources alpine skiing!

If you want, I’ll tell you a secret, or rather a very intriguing secret place: Elva, the Maira valley.

Alpine skiing is another matter. Here we find the splendid area around Mondovì, the Mondolè, where Prato Nevoso, Artesina, and Frabosa overlook, with excellent connections and accommodation facilities.

Much better known on an international level is the Sestriere ski area. Thanks to the 2006 Olympics and the Bardonecchia ski area, they have more than 500 km of slopes and all hotel offers.

In summer, vacations in the mountains are increasingly appreciated. Families, groups of friends, and couples try to recover after the months spent in crowded cities. The Piedmontese offer is varied and satisfies all demand levels, from the most luxurious to the simplest. And it also offers itself to the international market of mountain lovers, both summer and winter.


Alta Valle Po - Da Paesana

Green and welcoming valleys in Piedmont

I mentioned the Maira Valley by highlighting its being a mountain. But of course, I must also say it as a valley! As well as the Varaita Valley, the Stura Valley where large fields of lavender bloom in the summer, and the Grana Valley, all in the western part of Piedmont.

But, of course, it is the Po Valley, and its wonders are worth discovering, at least for its reputation as the longest river in Italy!

In the north of Piedmont, an extraordinary landscape is that of Valle Sesia, which takes us up to Monte Rosa. Another vital valley is the Susa Valley, which takes us to Bardonecchia and Sestriere.

The Valle Grande National Park is an absolute natural beauty that satisfies nature lovers’ needs!

Still, we find the Lanzo valleys in the northern part of Piedmont, which borders France. Critical and strategic vacation area for the province of Turin. Also, this valley is carefully looked after to avoid the depopulation of small villages.


What to see on Lake Orta

We don’t have the sea, but the lakes of Piedmont are a pleasant discovery.!

I was saying that Piedmont does not have direct access to the sea. But to overcome this “inconvenience,” it has thoughtfully exploited its lakes and made them a popular destination for relaxing vacations.

Unique for its beauty and its history is Lake Maggiore: Stresa, Intra, Pallanza, and the Borromeo family merge into the account of international tourism that arrived via nearby Switzerland.

But are also inimitable and poignant walks around Lake Orta with the island of San Giulio and the lakes of Avigliana.

Water sports can be practiced in a fairytale setting!

After this introduction on the characteristics of Piedmont, I invite you to continue with the chapters dedicated to Langhe, Roero and Monferrato. Unesco heritage well located in the wonderful Piedmontese territory!


Physical map of the Piedmont region
some hints of geography

Piedmont physical map

As mentioned, we are located in the country’s northwestern part. The Piedmont region is the second largest in Italy.

Mountains: Monte Rosa, 4634 meters. Gran Paradiso, 4061 meters.

Rivers: The Po, Italy’s longest river, has its source here. Significant tributaries were the Tanaro, the Dora Baltea, and the Ticino.
Cities: Turin, the capital of the Piedmont region, has about 1.5 million inhabitants, Italy’s fourth largest city. Novara Piedmont’s the second largest city in terms of population. Other cities, including provincial capitals, are under 100,000 inhabitants.

Industries: Automobile, first of all, although no longer with the splendor of the past. Confectionery with the important Ferrero of Alba, textiles to a lesser extent, and then in excellent expansion tourism (which is a particular industry, of course).

If you want more in-depth information, I recommend the Piedmont Region website. On the other hand, if you are interested in what to see, visit and taste in Piedmont, follow the next chapter of the Guide!

Tenersi per mano camminando sui sentieri delle Langhe
The fog that creates a sea near the rows