Ultimate Travel Guide: Piedmont, Italy
Piedmont is a region of Northwest Italy that has been rated Lonely Planet’s top destination of 2019.
Loosely translated in Latin as “the foot of the mountain”, Piedmont borders France and Switzerland and sits at the foot of the Alps. Piedmont provides the “authentic Italian experience” and is known for many things; Italy’s largest food fight (The Battle of Oranges), the slow food movement, home of the Fiat, Nutella, White Truffles and Italy’s best football team (Juventus F.C.). But overall, it’s a place where one can indulge in the food and wine scene, catch sight of beautifully designed baroque palaces and gorgeous lakes, be inspired by contemporary art and ski with breathtaking views.
The small, rural town of Alba is like the person we should all strive to be; confident yet warm and humble. It’s quite easy to get around from Alba, sitting between the two wine towns, Barolo and Barbaresco, with a population of around 30,000. It’s the perfect place for foodies alike, clustered with Michelin-starred restaurants and is known for its delicious white truffles. Piedmont’s truffle season is between September – December, so be sure to check out Alba’s month long truffle festival every October, that also sells truffle butter, olive oil, roasted hazelnut cakes, cheese and pasta. Or perhaps you want a more bucket list experience? In which case you can go truffle picking in the Alps with cute hunting dogs.
Piazza Risorgimento, 4, 12051 Alba CN, Italy
Piazza Duomo was ranked 16th for “World’s 50 Best Restaurants in 2018”. Chef Enrico Crippa takes traditional dishes and successfully re-invents them with great precision and perfection. He likes working with flowers and herbs that he grows in his vegetable garden near Alba, which makes for both aesthetic and delicious dishes. You can try the “Albese,” well-known Beef Carpaccio and the Truffle Menu is worth the penny – available in Autumn and early Winter – where you can try Alba’s renowned Tajarin pasta that’s sprinkled with white truffles.
Alba 15, Località Fontanafredda, Serralunga d’Alba CN
Fontanafredda is an ancient yet still relevant wine estate, said to be one of the most beautiful in the world. Dating back to 1858, Fontanafredda is owned by Oscar Farinetti, the founder of Eataly. Here, you can try a glass of iconic Barolo wine at the hotel and the estate also offers a casual osteria and market.
Strada Profonda 21, 12051 Alba, Italy
Hotel Langue is a restored farmhouse, only a ten minute walk away from the bustling centre of Alba. This place offers a diverse and delicious range of food for breakfast, getting you nice and energised for the day ahead. The rooms are homely and spacious, some of them having terraces and balconies with views of the vineyards.
Turin is the capital of Piedmont and sits on the river Po. It has abundant baroque architecture that you can walk alongside at the Central Square, Piazza Castello, which is lined with museums, theatres and cafes. Dominating it is the part-medieval, part-baroque Palazzo Madama, the original seat of the Italian parliament. To the north, is the exquisite facade of the Palazzo Reale, which is one of the biggest royal palaces in the world and now hosts exhibitions and concerts. For archeology buffs, the Egyptian Museum, Museum Egizio, is worth a visit, housing the most important collections outside of Cairo. You can also learn about one of Piedmont’s main industries at Museo Nationale dell”automobile – Turin being the home to the Fiat. Finally, your trip would not be complete without a visit to the monumental landmark Mole Antonelliana, which towers above the skyline. Originally a Jewish Synagogue, the building now houses the National Cinema Museum and is the tallest museum in the world.
Via Nizza, 262, 10126 Torino TO, Italy
Located inside the iconic old Fiat factory, Torpedo is a restaurant that is not only set in a unique location that but also serves incredible food. So you can try Piedmont’s favourites while enjoying a view of an old Fiat car displayed among the tables. Visiting this place will allow you to see an import part of Turin’s cultural heritage, touching on the city’s history from the 20th century. Car fanatic or not, this is a cool experience!
Since the 1850’s, a whole lot has changed in Turin, yet Vinni Caffe has stayed. Locals call this famous water hole “Vini Ranzini”, which was set up by Emilio Ranzini 50 years ago. It began as a wine store and now exists as a tavern serving traditional foods and local wines, known for doing basics the best. Regular crowds fill this tiny tavern, with old men often arguing about their favourite Juventus football team. Here, you can try Turin’s most famous dish, “Vitello Tonnato” – thin slices of veal topped with a creamy tuna sauce – and a glass of Vermouth, which was invented in Turin 230 years ago and has become an important ingredient in cocktails all over the world.
Turin Palace Hotel
Via Sacchi, 8, 10128 Torino TO, Italy
Turin Palace Hotel is in a convenient location, right next to the city’s main railway station, a five minute walk from the historical centre and ten mines away from GAM – the city’s Modern Art Gallery. The hotel has six floors and dates back to 1872, but has undertaken renovations so some interiors are modern yet others have original features that have been preserved. Elegant green armchairs fill the lounge and modern art paintings by renowned Torinesi artists decorate the walls. The gorgeous terrace has panoramic views of Turin, where you can bask in the summer glow with your aperitivo (Italy’s take of happy hour). Guests love the hotels delicious, fresh food, spacious rooms and the spa area, which includes a a whirlpool tub with a waterfall, sauna and steam room.
The enchanting Lake Maggiore is the second largest North Italian lake and hosts internationally renowned resorts in Cannobio, Cannero Riviera, Verbania, Baveno and Stresa. Stresa is a good town for a delicious meal, has many luxury hotels and villas and nearby you can go on a wine and cheese tour – something Lake Maggiore is known for. The town is surrounded by nature, with Mount Mottarone just behind it, making it a good destination for hiking. The perimeter of Stresa includes several interesting places, including the Borromean Islands. The three fascinating Borromean Islands: Isola Madre, Isola Bella, Isola dei Pescatori, are in the middle of Lake Maggiore and can be reached directly from Stresa by boat. Isola Bella is particularly popular, being a tiny island with a Baroque palace and has gorgeous gardens filled with camellias, azaleas and rhododendrons; flowers typical of Lake Maggiore.
Exploring the lakes of Piedmont makes for a perfect day trip. There are boat services that connect most lake towns, but some of the more popular attractions are not reachable by boat and are best to drive to, such as Lake Orta, which is nearby Lake Maggiore and a serene, less touristy alternative.
Isola Pescatori, Via di Mezzo, 28838 Stresa VB, Italy
The restaurant Belvedere has won Trip Advisor’s Certificate of Excellence for 2015 – 2018 and we can see why! Weddings are booked there for its surreal views of the lake and the excellent service. The menu is vegetarian friendly and boasts excellent, fresh, locally-sourced seafood that Chef Alberto prepares with great detail and passion.
Bar Il Molo
Lungolago Dino Ciani, 21020, Ranco Italy
Molo Bar is a great place to pop by for a typical Italian aperitivo and admire the waterfront lake views. It’s also does breakfast, lunch and dinner, having great coffee, brioche and pizza. It’s right next to the ferry wharf, so you can plan your trip accordingly.
Hotel Milan Speranza Au Lac
Piazza Marconi 9, 28838 Stresa, Italy
Situated in arguably the best location in Stresa, Hotel Milan Speranza is composed of two adjacent colourful buildings and is right next to the pier to the Borromean Islands. There, you can wake up to views of Lake Maggiore and Stresa, as well as surrounding mountains, and be greeted with a smile by warm staff. You can also relax in their free outdoor pool in the sister hotel 150 metres away, and have dinner at the popular Milan Au Lac restaurant.