Piedmont Italy is the home of the “slow food” movement. So you can bet on some of the best food in all of Italy. Lots of different food grows here, especially in the lowland regions which lie in the central and eastern parts of Piedmont. You’ll find cereal grains such as rice, lots of different fruits, milk and cheese (from all the cows) and hazelnuts which are quite abundant. There are some amazing restaurants in the region — from fine dining to simple trattoria (family run, casual restaurants) that serve up fresh, local and tasty meals. And there are some wonderful markets where you can buy fresh, local food to make your own meal. I went to the Saturday market in Alba which is quite large. It has more than just food, but the food is the best part of the open market with meats, cheeses, fruit, veggies, hazelnuts and hazelnut products. Oh, and wine. There’s always wine!
Being a person who is happiest in la natura (the nature), I have fallen head over heels for Piedmont. Mountains, vineyards, fertile plains, forests, rivers, rolling hills — Piedmont has all of these. You can easily spend time in the region capital of Torino (Turin), taking in all the culture, then drive an hour and ski or hike in the mountains. There are gorgeous rolling hills with rows of grapevines on them and a charming town at the top — its church bell tower standing tall and proud. You can view flat green plains from a 10th century abbey on top of a mountain. Piemonte is a such a rich and diverse landscape that, I think, will appeal to everyone.
There is a rich and intriguing history in this region of Italy as well. Piedmont is an area that was invaded by many different people including the Burgundians, the Ostrogoths, the East Romans, the Lombards and the Franks. It was also under the Holy Roman Empire for a time. But it’s probably the Savoys that left their biggest mark on the region with lots of beautiful palaces and, one of my favorite sites, Forte di Fenestrelle. There’s also a great history of industrialization in Piedmont with the area being the first to jump on board with manufacturing. Turin is the home of Fiat, so for car lovers, this is your region! You can find interesting history in some of the smallest villages, some of which have castles. Wander about this region and you’ll have no problem finding fascinating stories of times gone by.
It’s Italy so there is no shortage of charming towns. Everyone thinks Tuscany has cornered the market on charming towns. This is so NOT true! I’ve only had the opportunity (as of this writing) to explore a couple of the towns — Barolo and Roddi. There are a few more I plan to explore before I travel to my next stop with Serralunga and La Morra at the top of the list. But, from hearing Rafaella talk — she is the hostess at Agriturismo Il Gioco dell’Oca — there are loads of lovely towns just in the Langhe area of Piedmont. Then there are all the towns in the mountain valleys that I drove through! Even the less famous towns have something worth while. For example, Roddi which is not far from where I am staying, is not all that well-known. It’s small, but I found a castle, interesting art around the town and stunning views. I also witnessed some every day life, which I always find appealing. So be sure to check out some of the towns and villages, even if it’s not in the guide.