Notes taken when getting ready for our Pidemont Trip:
We plan to visit the Piemont region of Northern Italy sometime in November. Were planning to do this by motorbike, but as it will be cold at this time we’ll be renting a car instead. Not making any reservations at this time as we are going to wait and see how the weather forecast is. No sense going if it’s going to be raining or clouded in.
Piedmont seems like a very interesting area, often described as “Tuscany without the tourists”. This is what Italy’s tourism website has to say about it: Piedmont is in Italy’s northwest and borders Switzerland and France. True to the meaning of its name (foot of the mountain), Piedmont is a land of mountains. It is surrounded on three sides by the Alps, with the highest peaks and largest glaciers in Italy. Monviso, the Piedmont side of Monte Rosa and the other spectacular mountains in the region, create incredibly beautiful landscapes, and ski resorts abound. The Alps form the background for sweeping, picturesque valleys, e.g. the Val di Susa, Valsesia and Val d’Ossola. The landscapes of the Langhe and Monferrato are hilly, rather, but just as beautiful, a succession of cultivated hills and vineyards that are dotted with small towns and castles. Expanses of water and rice paddies, long rows of poplars and old farmhouses make up the typical scenery of the plains around Novara and Vercelli. Lake Maggiore is the most sought-after tourist resort, including Stresa and the Borromean Islands, charming as they are with their ancient villas surrounded by beautiful lawns and gardens. Next up are the intriguing Medieval castles – like the imposing fortress at Ivrea – and prized works of architecture – the famous Residences of the Royal House of Savoy and the Sacri Monti (Sacred Mountains) certainly deserve to be mentioned.
With the fall of the Roman Empire, Piedmont underwent the fate of much of Italy – by a sequence of invading hordes from the east and north. Among them, the French feudal family of Savoy occupied Turin briefly in the 11th century. The Savoy house was back again in the 13th century and ruled for about 500 years, until the French Republican army defeated it. They returned to power after the fall of Napoleon’s empire and remained the ruling family until the end WWII and the birth of the Italian Republic.
- Day 1: Drive from Nice to Ventimiglia and drive up E74. Stops at Tende and Cuneo. Overnight near Alba, B&B Cascina Barac
- Day 2: Explore between Asti and Alba, Monferrato, Nizza and Acqui Termé. Night 2 also at Casina Bara
- Day 3: Torino – explore the city. Leave early to have the day here. Do a Walking Tour
- Day 4: Torino – Drive east along E70 (see Itinerary below). Explore Turin at night
- Day 5: Torino – Drive south along 663 (see Itinerary below), perhaps last day, returning home. Follow 663 to Cuneo and get back on the E74
What to do:
- Drive Highway E74; from Ventimiglia to Borgo San Dalmazzo, supposed to be a beautiful drive. Best way to get to Piedmont from Nice.
- Drive also highway S663 (from Turin) between Carignano and Saluzzo: Itinerary
- Drive also highway E70 or S24 (from Turin) between Bardoneccha and Rivoli: Itinerary
- Drive highway SS11 (starting in Asti) between Vercelli and Novarra: Itinerary
- Visit Asti, one of Piedmont’s most elegant cities, famous for its magnificent tower houses, superb wines and spectacular Palio horse-race. The historic center of Asti, where the remaining 12 of what were once 120 towers can be seen, has conserved its typically medieval radial plan, and is best visited on foot or by bike.
- Visit Alba, medieval city. The International White Truffle Fair is a not to be missed event, an occasion to taste and purchase Alba’s famous truffles, but also to participate in the medieval games held in the city and in the surrounding towns and villages, held in October/November.
- Visit Acqui Terme
- Visit Nizza Monferrato
- Try the wine. So many good wines from this region
- Visit Turin
- Turin Walking Tours
Things to know:
- If you are visiting Piedmont, and especially Turin, you have to read up on the history of the House of Savoy
Hotel Options (what we’ve found most interesting)
- La Villa Hotel – A little above our budget, but looks very nice. 14 rooms and each is unique and very nicely decorated. Rates range from 170 to 260 Euros.This is the intro to the hotel on their site: La Villa has been designed as a place to escape and relax. Besides the bar and lounge area, there are many outdoor spots to relax, including a large pool area, courtyard, garden and rooftop terrace. There is a massage room for some one-on-one pampering and a small library for those who run out of reading material a little too early in the holiday. For the more energetic there is a well-equipped gym, plus a table tennis table for some mild competition. There are also bikes for venturing out and about, plus tennis racquets for use at the local courts. We stock over 200 wines here at La Villa – see here for details. Right next to the bar, we have our own wine tasting room where we can arrange to talk you through the wines, with selected tastings. These are normally managed by Nicola, who has a Diploma in Wine and who is passionate and very knowledgeable about our local Piemontese wines, including Barolo and Barbaresco. If she is not at the hotel, she is probably on one of her frequent visits to the winemakers to check out the latest vintages for our cellars!
- Baur B&B – Only a couple of rooms, but looks very interesting, and interesting people. One of the owners, Diana Strinati Baur, writes for Slow Travel Italy (lots of great recommendations and testimonials on this site for this B&B) and we’ve found her articles fun and informative. Wine included in the price! 180 Euros a night for a suite.
- Cascina Christiana – A farm with a guest house with four apartments and two rooms, ranging in price from 80 to 100 Euros a night.
- *** Cascina Barac or here – Very nicely decorated. This is from their website homepage: Cascina Barac is a charming boutique hotel nestled in the vineyards of Langhe’s hills, 5 km from Alba, a village known for Barolo and Barbaresco wines, the truffle festival, the Michlein starred restaurants and hazelnuts: here the famous Nutella cream was born! Albino is the friendly owner who moved from Calabria to Piedmont and, after a job in an architectural firm, decided to restructure the old family farm to open a delightful hotel that manages with his wife. There are 9 rooms and 1 apartment, renovated with wood and local stone, furnished with simplicity in a rustic style, with a splendid view over the surrounding vineyards. In addition, there are a nice common room with a fireplace, a small library, a restaurant serving local cusine in the evening, a beautiful garden, equipped with sun beds and a nice porch with chairs, tables and a swing. Prices range from 75 to 175 Euros a night.
Hotel Options in Turin:
- Townhouse 70 (Turin) – Very modern, seems to have a great location. Priced from 160 to 280 Euros.
- Residence Saachi (Turin) – Wonderfully decorated apartments and flats at reasonable rates. Good location. Top rating with TripAdvisor.
- Magazzini San Dominico (TripAdvisor B&B)
- B&B Carlo Alberto (TripAdvisor B&B)
- Colazione in Piazza Castello or here (TripAdvisor B&B) Rates: double room from 100€ to 120€. Wanted this place but they were already booked.
- *** Grand Hotel Sitea (#1 on TripAdvisor) Decided to go a little more upscale, about $200 US a night.
With 46 different DOC and four DOCG areas, Piedmont produces the largest number of best known Italian and world-appreciated prize-winning wines such as Barbera, Barolo, Barbaresco, Dolcetto, Nebbiolo and Asti Spumante among others. There are two primary grapes prominent in the region of Piedmont: Nebbiolo is the base for the famed DOCG Barolo, Barbaresco and Gattinara wines while the Barbera grape provides regional wines such as Barbera d’Alba or Barbera d’Asti.
As all other great European capitals, Torino is a result of the stratification of cultures, people and civilisations.
- The city is disseminated with testimonials of the past that tell of a history that began over 2000 years ago: the oldest documents mention a small village at the foot of the Alps called Taurasia, a small settlement populated by the “taurine” tribe, descendants of the union of the Gauls and Celtic-Ligures that was destroyed by Hannibal in 218 B.C.
- It was a military citadel during Roman times and in 28 B.C., under Augustus, it was given the name Augusta Taurinorum. This is a colony whose layout was similar to a checkerboard: roads running parallel and perpendicular. This system will characterise the city’s zoning in centuries to come, when Torino will be under the dominium of the Franks and Lombards, then a bishopric and after that, a city.
- In 1280 the House of Savoy conquered Torino. Under their reign, the city experienced one of the most important transformations of its history. In 1563, the Savoy transferred their capital from Chambéry to Torino and called the finest architects of the times. Thanks to their talent and creative genius, the city was transformed into one of the major capitals of the Baroque era. Torino acquired a style, charm and elegance all its own that has been one of its distinctive features for centuries.
- Torino took on an importance from a religious viewpoint as well, in particular from 1578, the year in which the Duke Emanuele Filiberto definitively transferred the Holy Shroud from Chambéry. Tradition would have it that the body of Jesus Christ was wrapped in this shroud.
- The Savoy reign was interrupted in 1798 when Napoleon’s troops occupied the city and forced Carlo Emanuele IV to abdicate and move to Sardinia. Piemonte became a part France and Torino saw the crumbling of her defense walls, that until then were one of the distinctive traits of her planning structure.
- The Congress of Vienna returned Torino to the Savoy in 1814. After the concession of the Albertine Statute by King Carlo Alberto it was with the ascent on the throne of Vittorio Emanuele II, along with the work of Camillo Benso Conte di Cavour, that the city became protagonist of national history, leading the process that will result in the Unification of Italy. In 1861, Torino became the first capital of the Kingdom of Italy. The first Parliament was installed at Palazzo Carignano.