EAT, PLAY, CHILL and STAY. During your next visit to Italy, take a few days to explore the Piedmont region. You won’t regret it!
The Piedmont Region
Imagine a region with vast mountains bordering on to Switzerland and France. With its 160,000 hectares of protected land, majestic castles reminiscent of its renaissance past, and rows of wineries that line the lush green mountainside. A region filled with art and culture, legend and traditions.
Add in the sumptuous regional cuisine, a rich history recognized by UNESCO, and you have the ideal getaway.
The Piedmont region is extraordinary. Once considered the “capital” region of Italy (Rome holds this title now) it is made up of eight provinces and is home to over 4 million people. Approximately half of the population resides in their capital city Turin, the car capital of Italy and birthplace of the Fiat.
Piedmont is a haven for thrill seekers, wine aficionados, and culture lovers.
With ongoing art exhibitions, annual festivals, theater, sporting events, historical reenactments and more, there’s a lot to discover in this region at any given time. To get started, we have a guide to Piedmont for where to EAT, PLAY, CHILL and STAY to help you plan your getaway. Happy travels!
There is something in the soil in Italy, inspiring books like Eat, Pray, Love and numerous films from classics such as Roman Holiday to Under the Tuscan Sun. Every region in Italy is known for something distinct and Piedmont is no different — cheese, wine, chocolate and vermouth readily come to mind. And let’s not forget the breadstick! Did you know that it was created in Turin? Here is another delicious fact; the decadent Ferrero Rocher chocolate and (everyone’s favorite) Nutella were also born in Piedmont, where the hazelnut is abundant. Another specialty they are known for is their white truffles from Alba.
Thus, with such a diverse palate of flavors, it is not surprising to learn that the Slow Food Movement founded by Carlo Petrini approximately thirty years ago, was started in this region.
As an alternative to ‘fast food’ he envisioned a world in which all people can access and enjoy food that is good for them, good for those who grow it and good for the planet. What began in Bra, Piedmont is now a global movement with over 100,000 members. Petrini also founded the University of Gastronomic Sciences to nuture future generations. The university is also home to the largest wine cellar in the world – a must-see!
The term agriturismo (agricultural tourism) also came into prominence the same year as the Slow Food Movement. It’s formally regulated in Italy where 60% of product has to come from the land. At Al Mulin (The Mill) in Pranzalito, a small owned and operated family farm offers the ultimate farm to table experience under the agriturismo model. Freshly made pasta, bread, salumi (salami larda) and beef tartare are traditional Canavese dishes served at this quaint and popular restaurant.
A local wine bar in Piverone called Rosso19 is a quaint establishment for those who love wine. Prominently written on the wall is a delightful message to all who enter: il vino è un viaggio, il bicchiere è il suo mezzo: wine is the journey; the glass is your vehicle. This is a lovely local haunt that will quickly become your favorite.
If your palate seeks a Michelin star fair, Del Cambio in Turin will go beyond your expectations. Situated in the heart of Turin, this historical landmark has been enchanting food lovers since 1757.
One of the oldest restaurants in the world, the likes of Puccini, Nietzsche, and Casanova count themselves as some of Del Cambio’s distinguished guests.
Today, Executive Chef Matteo Baronetto leads this legendary establishment borrowing from his Piedmont roots to appease his high-end clientele. But, no matter your budget, enjoying a heavenly meal in Italy is readily accessible at any price point. Buon appetito!
The Piedmontese are very active. Taking a hike (or run) up the mountains is par for the course. Rock climbing is also a local favorite activity. For the novice and seasoned climber, Parco Avventura La Turna in Montestrutto offers 153 climbing lines for all levels. This park is a safe venue for those who want to hone their skills to tackle the neighboring mountains.
In the city of Ivrea (close to Turin) is the Ivrea Canoe Club run by K1 national champions Marcello Pistoni and Claudio Roviera. They also offer a rafting adventure on the Dora Baltea, a beautiful river that earns its turquoise color from the Alps glacier water. In 2016, Ivrea will host the World Canoe Slalom Championships.
If you travel further north, you will reach Monte Bianco (White Mountain). It is the highest mountain in the Alps with an elevation of 4,810 meters (15,780 feet) making it a popular destination for skiing, snowboarding, hiking and mountaineering. A quick jaunt up the Skyway cable car allows for a rapid climb to the top with a 360-degree panorama view.
As active as the Piedmontese may be relaxing with a glass of wine with family and friends is commonplace. If you are looking for health and wellness on your holiday, you can choose one of the renowned spas of the region, such as Acqui Terme, surrounded by the striking remains of a Roman aqueduct. A day trip to the 16th century Bard Fortress and the Museums of the Alps is a must-see. For fans of the Avengers, Age of Ultron — it was filmed here!
A few internationally-acclaimed cultural events and festivals, like the Book Fair and the famous chocolate fair, Cioccolatò, that take place every year in Turin – as well as food fairs and cultural events including the famous Ivrea Carnival, Battaglia delle Arance (Battle of the Oranges).
Similar to La Tomatin in Spain (Tomato festival), the locals gather annually in their team colors to celebrate their quest for freedom from the Royal Napoleonic Troops. They achieve this by pelting oranges at each other. The only way to avoid getting hit is by wearing a red hat. So don the red hat, sit back, relax and watch the festivities unfold. Or join in!
Rife with history, Italy has the most cultural locations inscribed by UNESCO than any other country in the world — currently under consideration by the World Heritage Convention is the city of Ivrea.
The locals fondly remember a famous resident, Adriano Olivetti. He was world renown for his calculators, typewriters and later computers. A visionary, he shaped Ivrea with his forward thinking initiatives benefiting his staff. His modern approach not only to work place policies but also to architecture remains as a reminder of his incredible contribution to his hometown. In its heyday, the Olivetti company employed the majority of the Ivrea residents.
Whether you are looking to stay in a hotel, hostel, agriturismo, B&B, chalet or castle, the Piedmont region has accommodation options to match your needs.
Villa Soleil is an 18th century private residence turned into a hotel in the village of Colleretto Giacosa. Once owned by the Giacosa family, the property is nestled next to the home Giuseppe Giacosa, the man responsible for composing the librettos of Puccini’s Tosca, La Bohème and Madame Butterfly.
A tour of his home is only open to the public twice a year. Villa Soleil pays homage to its neighbor by naming, instead of numbering, the hotel rooms. You could ask to stay in the ‘Madame Butterfly’ room when booking your stay.
Spazio Bianco is an artsy B&B located in the historic center of Ivrea. Owned and operated by local resident, Brunella, this cozy accommodation offers six charming rooms and a delicious breakfast that includes charcuterie and local sweets.
Coming soon: Vistaterra in Parella is situated next to the Giacomo Giacosa residence and Villa Soleil. This beautiful castle once owned by royalty is under a 40 million euro restoration led by Manital based in Ivrea. Upon completion, this luxurious 13th century historical landmark will boast guest bedrooms with original frescos, a beautiful garden, park and bio-lake, a gourmet restaurant, cantina, brewery, shops, a spa and more. 2017 cannot come soon enough!
The Weekend Jaunt Travel Tips
- Try a Barolo or Barbaresco wine.
- Eat at an agriturismo family-run farm.
- Take the cable car to get a birds eye view of Monte Bianco.
- If you happen to be in Ivrea during the Battle of the Oranges, wear a red hat!
About the author: Governor General Award recipient Helen Hatzis lives to travel. A xenophile at heart, she continues to travel the world one weekend at a time sharing her adventures on her popular web series and blog Weekend Jaunt. Helen is a member of North America Travel Journalists Association and the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television.
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