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Piedmont Region

After having unified Italy in the nineteenth century, invented the automobile industry and offered years of economic development, thanks to industrial names such as Fiat, Lancia, Olivetti and Pininfarina … the Piedmont Region is also known today for the beauty of its natural and historical sights. The region offers snow-capped mountains, parks and protected areas, plus nature trails, spa facilities (Acqui Terme was already famous 2000 years ago!) and cities of art, led by Turin.
The face of this city reflects the intensive urban development activities of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, carried out according to exuberant baroque motifs. The Piazza Castello contains a number of splendid works: the harmoniously designed Palazzo Reale, whose Armoury and Grounds were conceived of by the same hand that created the grounds of Versailles, the dynamic cupolas of the Chapel of San Lorenzo and the Chapel of the Holy Shroud by Guarini. Near the porticos is the Royal Theatre, with its eighteenth-century façade, inside of which the great Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, when still a boy, dreamed that his works would one day be played. But the dominant element, found in the centre of the Piazza, is the theatrically dramatic Palazzo Madama, site of the Museum of Ancient Art: the façade, the atrium and the grand stairway constitute a baroque masterpiece wrought by the hands of the great Filippo Juvarra. Inside, with its dazzling array of stuccos, gildings, cornices and frescoes, the Baroque reigns triumphant even amidst the works of the modern painting gallery and the collection of decorative art. There are also priceless medieval collections and paintings of the fifteenth century, including the enigmatic Portrait of Man by Antonello da Messina, a work that appears to observe visitors with an air of superiority. From the Piazza Castello, the streets and neighbourhoods extend like the spokes of a wheel, creating interesting atmospheres of art and culture.
New cultural trends are followed with particular attention from the city, first and foremost at the Lingotto, a former Fiat factory now used as an exposition centre for major cultural events. Turin is a gathering point for culinary traditions and classic dishes from all over Piedmont: agnolotti, the finanziera, the bagna caôda, brasati, capunèt, and the sumptuous mixed stews. Even the rite of the aperitif has been brought back to life, with the irreplaceable vermouth or the customary Krumiri cookies.
Located near Turin, the Rivoli Castle is one of Piedmont’s most noteworthy historic buildings, housing the internationally known Museum of Contemporary Art.
Cuneo is a city that should be explored by strolling along its streets, lined with porticos, or beneath the trees that shade its boulevards, up to the picturesque Mondovì Quarter, where the antiques shops are found. Then the visitor must enter a pastry shop to taste the treat that symbolises the city: the cuneesi with rum, whose drop of delicious liqueur is sealed inside a heart of cream and chocolate, itself wrapped in a meringue dough, with the entire delight being covered over by more chocolate.
Chocolate also holds an important place in Alba, whose Nutella fudge cream is nationally renowned. The picturesque Piazza Risorgimento is an ideal stopping point, while walks through the town’s historic central portion are enlivened by historic towers. This is the heart of the Langhe district, as well as the birthplace of the famed White Truffle of Alba, not to mention one of the world’s best known wines: the Barolo.
Other wines of note are produced in Monferrato (Barbera, Dolcetto, Grignolino, Freisa, Brachetto, Moscato and Nebbiolo), whose vineyards cover the local hills with their ordered rows, while venerable burghs, feudal castles and churches, both medieval and baroque, look down from above. The chapels, placed in the greenery of the countryside, together with their accompaniment of statues and frescoes, seem to blend in to the surrounding environment, projecting their artistic motifs on Nature.
Asti is another town surrounded by hills offering charming stretches of vineyards. To the north, the rolling hills of Monteferrato disappear as they near the banks of the Po River, giving way to a flat, humid landscape. Here, the waters of the rice fields, flooded from the month of March onwards, take the place of the vineyards, creating equally intriguing landscapes.
Other enchanting views are offered by Lake Maggiore, surrounded by charming little towns, such as Cannobio and the highly elegant Stresa, while the banks of the lake itself feature rows of palm trees, flowery gardens and Liberty-style hotels, plus the nineteenth-century Villa Pallavicino. Rising from the blue waters of the lake, just across from Stresa, is the archipelago of the three Borromeo islands: Isola Bella, with the baroque Palazzo Borromeo and its scenically ordered grounds; the Fishermen’s Island, a venerable village of narrow, picturesque streets and white-washed houses; and the Mother Island, whose gardens of rare plants and exotic flowers, in which peacocks, parrots and pheasants live free, create an enchanting atmosphere.

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