Piedmont is an attractive region which lies in the northwest of Italy at the foot of the Alps sharing its borders with France and Switzerland. With cities, rich in art and culture as Torino, the capital of Piedmont; the Royal Residences, like the Venaria Reale, a unique treasure recognized as world heritage by UNESCO; unforgettable mountains with 2,000 km of ski slopes for winter sports that turn into summer trekking heaven; national parks, gardens and lakes, such as Lake Maggiore, to feel surrounded by nature; a heritage of unique food traditions in the world among which the White Truffle of Alba, appreciated wines - Barolo, Barbaresco, Barbera, Asti Spumante.
This is Piedmont - Discover it, live it, taste it!
Cuneo > Racconigi
Easily accessible by the Train des Merveilles from the French town of Nice (2h47 trip), Cuneo, a city surrounded by an imposing alpine panorama and deserves a careful visit in order to enjoy its colours and fragrances. Its name Cuneo derives from the wedge-shaped plateau where it is located, at the confluence between the Gesso stream and the Stura river. Founded in 1198 in a militarily strategic position, it was besieged several times over the centuries.
A basic itinerary winds across the wide square called Piazza Galimberti, core of the town and site of the well-known Tuesday market that extends to Via Roma, the main street of the old town, with its medieval arcades. Just beyond the square is the Cathedral, the old church of Santa Maria del Bosco dating back to the times of the town foundation. Walking down Via Roma visit the church of Santa Maria and the church of Sant’Ambrogio, jewels of the baroque style. Among the civil buildings that deserve a visit, are the Town Hall, the Civic Tower, the Vescovado (Bishop’s Palace), Palazzo Lovera, Palazzo d’Andonno and Palazzo S. Giovanni, the former Brotherhood Church.The former church and monastery of San Francesco rise in the square called Piazza Virginio. It was completely restored in 2011 and houses the historical and ethnographical collections of the Civic Museum. The church is a unique example of piedmontese gothic style and nowadays hosts cultural events.
One of the most attractive places in Cuneo is Contrada Mondovì - the ancient district of the Jews - a promenade loved by citizens and tourists who can walk admiring the small palace traditionally considered to be the first town hall, as well as the synagogue and the beautiful church of S. Sebastiano founded in 1320. The arcades house several fashion shops, craft workshops and a seasonal flea market. A walk around the modern quarters of Cuneo finally leads the visitor to the green promenade of the town called Viale degli Angeli.In the afternoon take a train to Racconigi (44 min trip) to see the Royal Castle in Racconigi, an elegant summer residence of the Savoy family. It was originally a fortress, and then it became a hunting residence. It is possible to visit the first floor and the residential floor upstairs, the big kitchens and the royal chapel. Do not forget to visit the wonderful park with its greenhouses and the neo-gothic Margherie Reali, typical examples of the evocative taste of the 19th century. Spend the night in Racconigi at the end of the day.
Our tip: Do not miss the chance to taste the flavourful chocolate and rum pralines called Cuneesi (which were also highly appreciated by Ernest Hemingway, as he came to Cuneo in 1954), Cuneo salami, all the P.D.O (protected designation of origin), piedmontese cheeses, chestnut creams, marron glacé, chestnut Cuneo cakes and smoked trouts.
Racconigi > Torino
Take the morning train from Racconigi to Torino (28 min trip), Italy’s first capital. It is known as one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, with its marvelous Royal Residences - a UNESCO World Heritage site, its museums rich in art and history, and its backdrop of snowy alpine picks.
Have a guided walking tour of the city starting from the beautiful Piazza Castello - the heart of Torino, where you will admire Palazzo Reale with the famous Galleria Sabauda, Palazzo Madama, the Royal Library and Armoury, the Teatro Regio and the Church of San Lorenzo. Passing along the porticoes of Via Po you will reach the Mole Antonelliana, the symbol of the city, hosting the National Cinema Museum, considered among the most important museums in the world for its rich heritage.
As Torino is the capital of chocolate and the place where the food of the gods was first made in solid form, a chocolate tasting is mandatory. Passing through elegant streets and squares like the Piazza San Carlo, you will reach some of Italy’s most elegant baroque buildings such as Palazzo Carignano and Accademia delle Scienze.If you want to see one of the largest royal palaces in the world, take the bus to Venaria Reale and visit the beautiful Reggia di Venaria Reale including the complex of the Royal Palace and its spectacular gardens, faithfully restored to their past splendor.
On the second day take the guided walking tour starting from the Roman area to the picturesque and colourful Porta Palazzo, the biggest open air market in Europe. A few steps away reach the Piazza della Consolata with its Basilica of La Consolata and the smallest historical café in the world. Continue to Al Bicerin, for a tasting of the typical local drink, the Bicerin. On the way back to Piazza Castello you won’t miss the Cathedral of Saint Giovanni Battista, hosting the Holy Shroud. Have a visit to the Egyptian Museum, one of the two museums in the world entirely devoted to the Egyptian art and culture.Visit the Parco del Valentino, the beautiful public park, with the Medieval Village and the Castello del Valentino. Near the Parco del Valentino, board one of the boats, Valentino II or Valentina II, dedicated to the cruises on the River Po to reach the National Automobile Museum, which boasts one of the rarest and most interesting collections of its kind, with nearly 200 original models of 80 different constructors, from the 1769 to the most recent prototypes.
Head to the Lingotto area where you will find the first FIAT factory which which houses a shop-gallery, multiplex cinema and the Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli art gallery. Finally, visit Eataly, the megastore dedicated to enogastronomy and the Museo Carpano, to discover the formula of the Vermouth, the spiced white wine invented in Turin by Benedetto Carpano.
Our tip: Buy the Torino+Piemonte Card to have free entrance in more than 180 museums of the Piedmont region. Take the hop-on, hop-off City Sightseeing tour to enjoy the major attractions.
Torino > Vercelli > Novara
After a 46 min trip from Torino by train, get off at Vercelli. Rich in history, art and culture, Vercelli offers a surprising and fascinating experience.
The historical centre is characterised by an incredible concentration of extraordinary masterpieces. Its three museums are remarkable: the Borgogna, the second picture gallery in Piedmont; the Leone, with its important historical and archaeological finds; and the Duomo’s Treasury Museum that guards precious and sacred objects.
Its churches are also precious and ancient, among which the Sant’ Andrea’s Basilica, a rare example of a fusion of Romanesque and Gothic styles; the Duomo, with the majestic silver and gold plated wooden crucifix. Of particular artistic relief is the San Cristoforo Church, with internal valuable frescoes by Gaudenzio Ferrari. And after your visit, have a nice lunch in a typical restaurant, where you can taste traditional dishes such as panissa, the most typical risotto of Vercelli. The rice from which the risotto is made of, comes from region’s rice fields.
After lunch get to Novara (12 min trip), to admire the Basilica of San Gaudenzio with its Dome, the Cathedral and the ancient Baptistery, the medieval courtyard of Broletto with the Modern Art Gallery Giannoni. Don’t forget to taste the typical biscuits of the town at the Pastry Camporelli.
Novara > Lake Maggiore (Stresa)
On the last day, take the train to Stresa (1h13 trip). It is a town of about 5,000 inhabitants on the shores of the Lake Maggiore in northern Italy. Like other locations on Lake Maggiore, it benefits from spectacular views as well as areas of historical and architectural interest.
The territory of Stresa is divided into four parts: the coastal side, the Borromeo Islands, the hilly part and the mountains which includes the popular ski resort of Mottarone, the pastures below the east side of the mountain and the Botanical Garden Alpinia.
Spend the day exploring the beautiful islands in the heart of Lake Maggiore. The connections between Stresa and the islands are guaranteed by a private and a public boat service.
Isola Bella hosts a monumental Baroque palace and majestic scenic gardens, which have made the island famous and which to this day bear witness to the splendours of an era. Isola Madre, the largest of the Borromeo Islands, leaves the visitor with a feeling of extreme elegance, thanks to the care and attention paid to the gardens and to the interiors of the palace. As for Isola Pescatori, it offers a beautiful interlacing of picturesque lanes lined with the typical white houses and takes its name from the century-long traditional occupation of its inhabitants.
Our tip: If you have time for a walk we recommend a visit to the park of Villa Pallavicino and a cable car ride to discover of the Botanical Garden Alpinia (intermediate stop) or until the top of Mottarone from which you can admire the spectacular panorama of 7 lakes, the Po Valley and the summit of Monte Rosa.