Piedmont (outside Turin) Attractions Piemonte (around Torino)
SituationPiedmont, in northern Italy, occupies the upper Po basin and the adjoining pre-Alpine moraine and hill region, bounded on the south, west and north by the mighty mountain arc of the Apennines and the Alps, which here reach their highest points in Mont Blanc, Monte Rosa, the Gran Paradiso and the Matterhorn.
The region takes in six provinces with Turin as its capital.EconomyThe geographical diversity of the region is reflected in different economic patterns. The upland area round Turin, Ivrea and Biella, with good communications and adequate energy supplies (hydro-electric power from the mountains, natural gas in the Po plain, oil from Genoa), is one of the most progressive industrial areas in Italy. The main elements in a very varied range of industries are metal-working, the manufacture of machinery and cars, the textile industry which developed out of the famous silk-manufacturing industry of earlier days, leather goods and foodstuffs. Agriculture is still predominant on the fertile alluvial soil of the Po valley, where fruit-growing, arable farming (wheat, maize, rice, fodder crops) and cattle-rearing achieve high yields through the application of modern methods. Vine-growing is important, particularly in the Monferrato. White truffles - the finest and most expensive form of this delicacy - are found in the Alba area. In the hill regions tourism has developed rapidly in recent years, supplementing the traditional pastoral farming and the relatively unproductive mining (lead, zinc, copper, coal).HistoryOriginally occupied by a number of different peoples, Piedmont ("foot of the mountain") was Romanised in the time of Augustus. After the fall of the Roman Empire it was held successively by the Lombards (Langobardi) and the Franks. It was devastated by the Magyars in 899 (massacre of Vercelli) and later by the Saracens. Thereafter it split up into a patchwork of coun- ties, duchies and marquisates, the most important of which in the 10th century were Ivrea and Turin, joined by Saluzzo and Monferrato in the 12th century. In the 11th century most of the present-day Piedmont passed to the house of Savoy (French Pieàmont) as a result of a dynastic marriage; and the territory became in the 13th century the county, and in 1416 the duchy, of Piedmont. Thereafter it was disputed between the Habsburgs and France, owing its importance and the vicissitudes of its subsequent history largely to its control of the western Alpine passes (the Great and Little St Bernard). In 1720 Piedmont acquired Sardinia in exchange for Sicily, and as the kingdom of Sardinia played a leading part in the unification of Italy. In 1861 Victor Emmanuel II (1849-78), son of the last king of Sardinia, became king of Italy, with Turin, the old Piedmontese capital, as capital of the new kingdom until 1865.The most attractive tourist areas in Piedmont are to be found in the mountains - the Graian, Cottian and Ligurian Alps - and around Lake Maggiore, all of them of great scenic beauty.
Casale Monferrato, Italy
The principal towns of interest to visitors of Piedmont are Turin, Novara and Asti, but there are many others. In eastern Piedmont, between Vercelli and Alessandria, is the old town of Casale Monferrato (116m/383ft; pop. 41,000), from the 14th to the early 18th century the residence of the marquises and later dukes of Monferrato. In the center of the town is the imposing Town Hall (1778), and to the north of this the Romanesque cathedral of Sant'Evasio, with a beautiful porch (12th century) and a number of fine works by Lombard sculptors in the interior, as well as a Romanesque silver-clad wooden crucifix, and Romanesque floor-mosaics in the perambulatory. Between the cathedral and the bridge over the Po stands the church of San Domenico, with remains of frescoes and paintings (including "The Battle of Lepanto", 1630, by Giovanni Crosio and a fine cloister. To the west, near the river, is the old Castello (15th-16th century).The "Antique Market" is open on the second Saturday and Sunday of each month.
In southern Piedmont is an interesting town, Cuneo (535m/1,766ft; pop. 56,000), beautifully situated on a wedge-shaped plateau above the junction of the rivers Gesso and Stura di Demonte. In the center of the town is a large arcaded square, the Piazza D. Galimberti, lying on the town's main traffic artery, formed by Via Roma and Corso Nizza in the newer southwestern part of the town. The cathedral, in Via Roma, has a Neo-Classical facade. Farther north, in Piazza Virginio, are the Loggia dei Mercanti (14th century, restored) and the former Franciscan church (now a warehouse), in Late Romanesque transitional style (1227) with a Gothic tower (1399) and a doorway of 1481. Nearby is the church of Santa Croce, on an elliptical ground-plan (1715). The Municipal Museum (Museo Civico) contains numerous prehistoric and Roman finds. From the promenades on the line of the old fortifications there are fine views of the Alps.
27km/17mi east of Cuneo is Mondovi (pop. 22,000), which had a university from 1560 to 1719. From the industrial lower town, Mondovi-Breo (395m/1,304ft), a road and a funicular lead to the upper town, Mondovi-Piazza (550m/1,815ft), with an 18th century cathedral (sumptuous interior) and the fine Baroque church of the Gesù, also 18th century. From the Belvedere (571m/1,884ft), with a 14th century Gothic tower, one can enjoy impressive Alpine views.
Santuario di Vicoforte
6km/4mi southeast of Mondovi is the Santuario di Vicoforte (512m/1,690ft), a magnificent pilgrimage church (1596-1733; facade and towers 19th century). The central feature is All Saints Chapel; in the four side-chapels are the tombs of members of the House of Savoy.
The old town of Saluzzo (342m/1,129ft; pop. 17,000), 35km/22mi north of Cuneo, on an outlier of Monte Viso, was from the 12th to the 16th centuries the chief place in the county of Saluzzo. In the lower town is the cathedral of San Chiaffredo (1491-1501), with a large crucifix (1500) in the choir. In the upper town (395m/1,304ft) are the Palazzo del Comune (1462); the Casa Cavassa, a Renaissance mansion which now houses the Municipal Museum, and the church of San Giovanni, in French Gothic style, containing many works of sculpture of the Lombard school and the tomb of Lodovico II (d. 1504). From the old Castello Via Griselda leads to the Belvedere, a terrace from which there are splendid views of the Alps.
4km/2.5 mi south of Saluzzo is the village of Manta (464m/1,531ft), with a castle containing fine 15th century frescoes.