It is the northern region of Italy near the border with France and Switzerland, not much penetrated by tourists, although it offers everything that the heart desires. Nearly half of the Piedmont area is covered by mountains – the Alps. They form the letter C around the plains, surrounding the three sides of the region’s capital - Turin.
It is a land of beautiful views: the Alps loom over the sky, crystal clear lakes, hills covered with wine bushes and hazels, charming historical towns.
Sunset over the vineyards. One of the most beautiful views in the world; photo by P. Jarkiewicz
The Piedmontese are very polite and cultural, although sensitive to their individuality. In Piedmont it's better not to braid words in you’re the local dialect because you could hear that you are pretending to be Piedmontese while it is seen that you are not EVEN an Italian.
Piedmont has a long tradition dating back to ancient times. After the Celts, Romans and barbarian tribes, Christianity entered the area, leaving beautiful sacral monuments in the Romanesque and Gothic style, often built in the places of ancient temples. For almost nine centuries (until 1946) Piedmont was ruled by the Savoyard dynasty. Ruling for so many years, the Savoyards made a lot of wealth, which we can see in their former palaces today (more in a column about Turin). Under their administrate, more or less efficient, but stable, the region developed and grew rich. No wonder it found itself in the orbit of Austria and France's interests. The Austrians did not have a chance against the French general Napoleon Bonaparte. As a result, this rich region was joined to France and to the fall of Napoleon was an integral part of the French Empire. The French emperor cared for its development leaving behind even more developed infrastructure. From the new masters the Piedmonters received something else: modern policy making under the liberalism and values of the French Revolution. It laid the essentials for the later tendencies of the unification of Italy. This movement (called "risorgimento") was born in Piedmont. In its wake, the Piedmontese lord of the Savoy dynasty - Victor Emmanuel II became the first king of the united Italy. Unfortunately, he moved the capital from Turin to Rome. As a result of this move Piedmont landed on the periphery of the new state. However, it managed this situation. It became the cradle of industry. In 1899 Fabbrica Italiana di Automobili Torino (or simply "FIAT") was founded and then were created subsequent giants: Lancia, Olivietti, Pirelli, Martini, Bialetti.
After the Second World War when the Savoy dynasty was discredited with the collaboration with the fascists, the Italians in a free referendum voted for the creation of the republic and the Savoyans until 2003 were expelled from the country to which they contributed.
In this regard, the region is very diverse. Italian art is mixed with the influences of the culture of France and Switzerland. We find here the remains of the Roman Empire, such as: Porta Romana in Turin, the amphitheatres in Asti and Ivrea, hot baths in Acqui Terme.
Porta Romana, Turin, decorated before Christmas; photo by P. Jarkiewicz
Over the 11th and 12th centuries particularly sacred art developed: cathedrals, churches and monasteries.
interior of the cathedral in Asti; photo by P. Jarkiewicz
Medieval times also left monumental castles, most of which are located in and around Turin. Another period of cultural prosperity of the region - is the baroque period which came to Piedmont with a loud stamp together with the Savoyard dynasty. Its influences can be seen especially in Turin, so we will deal with this topic in more detail in a next column.
The world-famous Piedmontese is Umberto Eco, the author of the book “Il Nome della rosa” (“In the Name of a Rose”, published in 1980) whoseaction takes place in one of the Piedmont monasteries.
Piedmont, and Turin in particular, is known for one more thing: the Italian calcio champion - FC Juventus, that has been the king of the Italian league for six years .
Magic moments at the Juventus stadium; photo by P. Jarkiewicz
Piedmont - a land of culinary and wine tradition. Italian and French cooking is found here. So there is pasta, rice but also frog legs and snails.
Piedmont - the cradle of Slow Food movement, which in opposition to fast food, focuses on popularizing local dishes, prepared in a traditional way with local ingredients taken from happy plants and animals. Summarising, this movement is defending a right to taste.
Piedmont cuisine - a sophisticated cuisine, though modest in expression. The depth is sensed in taste not look. It's the tradition of Slow Food: simple things prepared in complicated way. Piedmont is famous for its excellent fresh vegetables, which are served in the form of a salad ("insalata mista") or as an addition to dishes (called “contorno”). The cuisine is also known for its high quality: seafood, olive, veal and ... chocolate.
meat mix - specialty of the region - with vegetables; photo by P. Jarkiewicz
A traditional Piedmont meal is a real jollies for a palate. It starts with grissini (breadsticks) for a starter, followed by primo and / or secondo: traditional Piedmontese dumplings stuffed with everything that a cook can find: from beef to spinach, risotto (rice grown in this region), veal in wine sauce or truffles prepared in all possible ways. Finally, how much the size of your stomach can allow, dolci: chocolate, cream zabaione or mini cream puffs called profiterole.
Profiterole, yummy; photo by P. Jarkiewicz
Popular products of the region:
1 / Truffles - white gold. The white truffle found in the Alba district is one of the rarest food products in the world. Its price gives way only to saffron. Why the fungus that smells of a rotten leaf or unwashed body is so popular? According the chefs, it enhances the taste of dishes; it is unique and it is known that such things always arouse the biggest desire. This fungus grows very slowly, for a few months, hidden under the soil. Only when it is up in late autumn, it gives off its characteristic smell for only 10 days. People, armed with specially trained dogs and pigs, embark on it’s the search like knights of the Round Table for the Holy Grail.
2 / Hazelnuts - in Piedmont you don’t pass olive groves on the slopes but haze groves. This, next to vineyards, is the most popular element of this region’s landscape. After Second World War brothers Ferrero created a company producing chocolate products. The best known and liked chocolate cream in the world (Nutella) began to be produced in 1964.
really big one; photo by P. Jarkiewicz
3 / Cheese: 9 of the 30 registered Italian cheese types come from Piedmont, including the excellent sheep cheese murazzano.
4 / Grissini - these sticks were invented by a doctor from Piedmont in the 17th century as a cure for gastric problems of the contemporary lord of the Savoy dynasty. Currently grissini function in the form of appetizers in restaurants and will always appear on your table before ordering a meal. However, it should be remembered that this snack, when you get it, will be included in a bill.
"cover a table"; photo by P. Jarkiewicz
5 / Chocolate - Piedmont is famous for it; some say that the recipe of the most famous in the world Swiss chocolate comes from Piedmont . It is worth testing regional desserts based on chocolate; in Turin there are also cafes specialized in serving chocolate in any form but this subject is in another column. The most famous specialty of Turin is: il gianduia - this soft chocolate stuffed with hazelnuts.
no chance without a chaser; photo by P. Jarkiewicz
6 / Wines:
The best Italian wines come from Piedmont: Barolo and Barbaresco, also among the best in the world. Barolo is called "the king of wines and the wine of kings." Barolo and Barbaresco are made of a very capricious grape variety is called Nebbiolo which grows only in Piedmont. The shortcoming of these wines is the necessity of long-term mature (2 years in oak barrel, and then 10 years in a bottle) which affects their price. I buy wine cheaper vines that mature about 2 years before consumption. Well, but what we don’t do for the "king". The second graft variety of red wine, grown in the Piedmont, is Barbera which is as capricious as Nebbiolo but definitely less sublime. However, the most famous Piedmont wine, the second most popular of Italian wines after the Tuscan Chianti, is white wine from the Asti region - spumante. Asti spumante - sparkling wine, is mainly produced for export. Locally, wine Moscato is more popular, among which the most popular is: Moscato d'Asti.
great and mature, waiting to be pick; photo by P. Jarkiewicz
If we don’t like wine, maybe we will not despise its derivative. Almost everyone associates such brands as: Martini or Cinzano. The recipe of vermouth, produced from Piedmont wines, was created in the 18th century, in Turin, and today it accounts for about 25% of Italian alcohol exports.
Each of the Piedmont restaurants, even the most modest trattoria out in the boondocks, has a wide wine list. In addition to the wines mentioned above, it is worth trying local inventions, often from small, family owned vineyards. When traveling around Piedmont, there is also the possibility to taste wine directly from the producer, especially during the grape harvest period wines are presented on small tables by the wayside. That is why it is always worth traveling with a driver .
In addition, Piedmont is famous for gastronomic markets, popularizing local products: food and wine, especially in October - the period of grape harvest.
the grape harvest; fot. P. Jarkiewicz
In Piedmont it is necessary to have a car and get to know this region wandering around it in „slow foot” tempo. Among the hills covered with grapevines are located small charming towns bringing a different attraction. It does not require a car to travel to Italy. It is possible to rent it in a simple and inexpensive way at the Turin airport. It does not have to be a sophisticated one. We were conquering the Italian Alps using a small Fiat500. The truth is that Piedmont is well communicated. There are highways along the region, Turin has its own bypass and, because using motorways is very expensive, they are rather empty (especially the motorway between Turin and Aosta - the capital of the Valle d'Aosta region in the heart of the Alps).
Alps in the light of the sunset; photo by P. Jarkiewicz
It is worth going for a trip along the wine track stopping in villages and small towns to: visit, consume or buy regional products. The track goes from Dogliani famous for its red wine, Murazzano (famous for its cheese milk made from sheep) to Barolesco and Barolo (that there are not needed to present) where you may learn in local museums about the history of the production of these splendid wines.
Barolo village; photo by P. Jarkiewicz
Planning such a “slow foot” tour you have to be wary. To make sightseeing a pleasant one and have the chance to test local victuals during the day and not in the middle of the night, it is advisable to eat lunch before a visit. Otherwise, in this wonderful land, flowing with fantastic wine, we will be hungry. Yes, it's a terrible truth. At 2 p.m. o'clock all restaurants are closed (even in Turin) and if we don’t get a meal till this time, we will go hungry until 7 p.m., when there are be open again. The stores are also closed, so you can’t get a roll with a tomato .
somewhere on the road to Barolo; photo by P. Jarkiewicz
Here are a few towns that, in my opinion, should be on the track of our Piedmont road trip:
1 / Alba - my favourite place in that I always try to come around by while staying in Piedmont. It is the cradle of truffles and Nutella with the beautiful old town. Along the main street there are small shops, enticing with wines, pasta, olive oils, and, of course, truffles in every form. Here, too, at the exhibition, I saw the largest Nutella’s jar in my life. For visitors there are charming churches, for those who prefer to support the body instead of spirit, I recommend small restaurants where you may find traditional Piedmont cuisine and, of course, dishes with the pride of the region - truffles.
Alba street, truffles are everywhere; photo by P. Jarkiewicz
2 / Bra - the city that makes the English laugh because of association with women's underwear - is the capital of slow food cuisine and the nice town with a charming old town and an impressive Romanesque-Gothic church from the 13th century.
Bra during siesta; photo by P. Jarkiewicz
3 / Asti - known mainly for two things: a horse race on the city streets (Palio) and excellent white sparkling wine.
photo: P Jarkiewicz
The city, remembering the times of the Roman Empire, is full of magnificent churches, stately palaces and tenements.
themarket in Asti; photo by P. Jarkiewicz
4 / Cherasco - a charming town, famous for signing a peace agreement between France, represented by Napoleon Bonaparte, and Austria, flea markets and edible snails.
In this building Napoleon dishonoured the Austrian commander; photo by P. Jarkiewicz
photo by P. Jarkiewicz
5 / Acqui Terme - a spa town of the ancient Romans famous for its hot springs with still working thermal baths and a wonderful steaming fountain in the main square.
the steaming fountain that I research organoleptically
I particularly recommend vineyards as the best place for stay during the trip to Piedmont. On the occasion of rest, you may take part in wine tasting and purchase products directly from the manufacturer. You can also live like a prince/princes in a Piemonte palace overlooking the Alps or play a knight/white lady living in a medieval castle.
a Piedmont’s vineyard - agritourism; photo by P. Jarkiewicz
photo by P. Jarkiewicz
photo by P. Jarkiewicz
Then I invite you to a column devoted to the capital of Piedmont titled: "Turin – the association modernity and tradition".