Fiat cars, Nutella, white Alba truffle, Barbera wines...all were born here in Piedmont where the green hills covered with vineyards reach up towards high alpine peaks and down into the Po Valley. Italy's second largest region after Sicily, Piedmont owes its name to its geographical location "at the foot of the mountains". And what mountains! The majestic Alps, a playground for hikers and Italian and European skiers.
Turin, its capital, long regarded as an industrial city, cold and austere, surprises visitors with a reality as a dynamic metropolis punctuated with museums and cafés, sumptuous walkways and chocolates to die for. In the hills of Langhe and Monferrat, the charm of the medieval villages takes centre stage while the flavours of a prestigious and generous terroir delight the taste buds.
Further north, Piedmont invites you to contemplate the beauty of Lake Orta and Lake Maggiore, a picturesque staging for the spectacular Borromean Islands. Let’s find out what what our local experts recommend doing, visiting during your stay at one of our well-located hotels in Piedmont, Italia.
Getting to Piedmont
Undoubtedly the fastest way to get to Piedmont is by air. Land at the Cuneo International Airport or Turin Caselle's Sandro-Pertini Airport and then our hoteliers recommend hiring a car for the easiest way to explore the best of the region. For those who prefer the train, there are daily and direct links by TGV to Turin from France and from destinations in Italy. If you’re budget is a little tight then buses from Lyon and other Italian cities will give you a chance to save some Euros to splurge on Nutella or truffles.
When to visit Piedmont
Depending on the season the temperate climate of Piedmont makes for a very different suitcase packing list. June to September are favourite months for visitors looking to experience Piedmont outdoors in the warm, while ski addicts will love Piedmont and its mountains in winter. If you are here in the winter months, then the fog in the Po Valley is well worth experiencing for an ethereal ambiance.
Imagine test piloting on the roof of the Turin Lingotto, the former Fiat factory that is now a shopping centre and hotel; pretend to be royalty on Isola Bella at Lake Maggiore; carve through the powder on the summits of the Alps; head back in time in the winding alleyways of medieval villages; sniff out a truffle and get a nose of a Barbera bouquet – Piedmont invites you to experience a thousand different experiences – all of them easy to do from one of our hotels in Piedmont. The tourist’s turmoil is just choosing how to spend your time. Find here our hoteliers’ recommendations about the main attractions, points of interests and things to do in Piedmont.
Long regarded as an austere city, the first capital of unified Italy and birthplace of FIAT and Juventus is putting on a new face. From the soft banks of the Po to Turin’s elegant arcades, from old cafés where time doing nothing is encouraged to discovering the history of the Dukes of Savoy at the Royal Palace, and from visiting the highest museum in the world inside the Mole Antonelliana tower that celebrates the history of Italian cinema to observing the eponymous Shroud in the Duomo San Giovanni, Turin is generous with its many many attractions.
The Borromee Islands
Montesquieu described this family of 3 islands on Lake Maggiore as "the most beautiful place in the world". Named Borromees after the name of the family that has owned them since the 15th century, these lacustrine beauties also seduced Napoleon and Hemingway. Isola Bella with its extravagant palace, terraced gardens and Teatro Massimo; Isola Madre, with its Flaubert dubbed "terrestrial paradise" gardens; and the Isola dei Pescatori, the most relatable with its authentic streets and old fishermen’s houses.
This hidden gem of the Italian lakes is one of the most fascinating in the country. Travel through the lovely village of Orta San Giulio to the small island which shares its name. You will be able to enter the basilica founded by San Giulio around the year 390, after he drove away the dragons who used to live here! On the heights of the village, do not miss the Sacro Monte and its 20 chapels that tell the story of St. Francis of Assisi (Unesco).
At the Foot of the Mountains
Looking up into the Alps, Piedmont’s literal meaning ‘at the foot of the mountains’ is more than apt. Mountains cover nearly half of the region with peaks exceeding 4000m (Monte Rosa, Gran Paradiso). The area is a paradise for skiers, hikers, climbers and thrill-seekers planning on some white-water rafting, hang-gliding or paragliding. But if that doesn’t appeal to you, the mountains have lots to offer those that prefer a little tranquillity, which you’ll find in generous amounts in Gran Paradiso and Val Grande national parks.
The hills of Langhe and Roero, located in the centre of southern Piedmont, unfold their bucolic landscapes and vineyards dotted with medieval castles, towers, fortified villages and small hilltop villages. Among the highlights is the small town of Alba, capital of its namesakes delicate and tasty white truffle. Also, do not miss the Vezzolano Abbey, a testament to Piedmontese Romanesque-Gothic art.
Classified as Heritage of Humanity, the winegrowing landscapes of Langhe, Roero and Monferrat are also the cradle of prestigious Italian wines. This is the territory of the Nebbiolo, a grape variety, which gives birth to the most prestigious Italian wines such as Barbera, Monferrat, Moscato or Asti spumante. The viticultural tradition is so well anchored here that every year the Douja d’Or (Golden Jug) wine festival is celebrated in the 2nd and 3rd weeks of September in Asti.
Eating well and eating often is part of the regional identity. So much so that it’s here in Turin that the Terra Madre, an international fair of gastronomy is held every two years. Between the noble heritage of the Savoyard and authentic ‘peasant’ flavours, the Piedmontese tables are filled with everything from breadsticks to white truffles and Piedmontese beef to rice grown in the Po Valley. For something sweet, join Dumas, Picasso and Hemingway who couldn’t resist bicerin, a combination of coffee, hot chocolate and creamy milk.
This restaurant has been the delight of Turin since the mid-eighteenth century. A menu that is rich with history and rich with flavour and finesse. Pride of place is given to Piedmont cuisine with a perfect balance of modernity and tradition. The setting is superb and the local produce perfectly highlighted. 1 Michelin star.
This small Turin restaurant keeps things simple. At its heart are two young culinary masters who will take you on a journey deep into Piedmontese food traditions that showcase local producers and captivate delighted consumers. Bib Gourmand in the Michelin.
In a large wine estate on one of the gentle hills of Serralunga d'Alba you will find a 19th century villa which was the hiding place for the love of King Victor Emmanuel II and the beautiful Rosin. Beyond the historical and romantic setting, the flavours of this gourmet cuisine are perfectly mastered. 1 Michelin star.
In elegant Stresa, on the shores of Lake Maggiore, there is nothing quite like the homecooked charm of Osteria Mercato. Regional specialties are revisited with creativity and best enjoyed on a pleasantly shady terrace.
Cannavacciuolo Cafè & Bistrot
A visit to Novara is only complete with drinks or dinner in this historic establishment next to the Coccia Theater. This café-bistro-brewery appeals with its modern décor, terrace, and menu where sweet or salty cravings are sated deliciously.