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TREKKING DI UN GIORNO
Con merenda sinoira in cantina
VISITE DI CITTA' E CASTELLI
Con guide turistiche professionali
LA RICERCA DEL TARTUFO
Segui un vero "trifolao" ed il suo cane
TOUR GASTRONOMICI
Botteghe tradizionali, mercati e produttori
TOUR GUIDATI DEL VINO
Storie del territorio, cantine, degustazioni
QUAD, E-BIKES E VESPE
Immersi nei paesaggi collinari UNESCO
TOUR DEL PALIO DI ASTI
Visita esclusiva dietro le quinte di un Rione
LEZIONI DI CUCINA
Impara a fare la pasta e altre ricette tipiche
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 Being one of the largest Italian regions, Piemonte offers enough to do and see for more than a week. The choice is among one of the four main areas available across the region or maybe visiting them all together on the same itinerary: the hustle and bustle of our capital city, Turin; lake Maggiore and lake Orta; the wine districts around Alba and Asti or perhaps the Alps.

Said that, we know how many first-time visitors may be skeptical about spending an entire vacation just in this region: they might not know exactly what to expect and so they rather come here before or after having stopped somewhere else in a more "famous" and popular destination.

Piemonte's great geographical position, ideally surrounded by several not-to-be-missed places, make it easy to plan an extension of your vacation.  With today's fast and efficient transportation services linking our region to the other Italian and European cities, it only takes a comfortable high-speed train ride or a few hours drive to move around.

 

#1 - Lake Como

Lake Como

Driving distance from Piemonte: from Alba and Asti takes about 2.5 hours, from Turin 2 hours.

Lake Como is some 30 miles (47 kms) long north to south and it is Europe's deepest lake, almost 1,350 feet (410 meters). Surrounded by tall and steep mountains, this lake is probably the most picturesque out of the other big ones all located in Northern Italy, such as Garda and Maggiore.

The consummate pairing of natural and man-made beauty is probably what made Lake Como an international getaway where, over the last 150 years or so, dozens of wealthy businessman, artists and influential personalities bought a property here. Elegant villas, rose-laden belvederes, hanging wisteria and bougainvillea, lanterns casting a glow over lakeshore restaurants, majestic Alpine vistas still attract high numbers of tourists. How not to mention the "must-stop" that everyone ask for, when cruising the lake on a private boat: the villa of the actor who contributed significantly to the popularity of the entire area, George Clooney's.

What to do on the lake?

Como itself is a leading textile center famous for its silk; the medieval town center and the pretty lakefront are worthing to spend a day, do some shopping, visit the impressive Cathedral, depart for a lake cruise as most of the villas are located on Como's lake branch.

Car ferries and vaporetti (water buses) traverse the lake in season, making it easy to get to the other main towns, Cernobbio, Tremezzo, and Varenna. Bellagio and the so called "center lake" area is another must, ideal for hikers or to enter two astonishing private villas: the gardens of Villa Melzi and Villa Balbianello, background of several movies including "Casino Royal".

Directions and day-trips

  • Milan Malpensa airport (MXP) it is about an hour away from Como making the lake an ideal spot to begin your vacation: after a long-haul flight it is perfect to come here recovering from jet-lag.
  • Como is on the international railway line Milan-Lugano-Zurich.
  • The vicinity to the Swiss border makes the lake the departing point for Alpine excursions including the most memorable experience that anyone can enjoy: the Bernina Express, a UNESCO railroad considered one of the most scenic train rides in the world! Departing from Tirano (a good two-hour drive from Como), the train climbs above the tree-line where snow is spotted all year round and ends the two and a half ride in Sankt Moritz.
  • Valtellina and Valchiavenna are worth a day of exploration and food tastings: cheese, cured beef meat (bresaola), wine produced at the foot of the mountain are just some of the delicacies to be savored.

 

#2 - Portofino and Cinque Terre

First of all, let's clarify Portofino and Cinque Terre are not next to each other, it actually takes a good hour on a train to go from one place to another (if you get the right one that doesn't stop at every station).

Portofino

Cinque Terre is not the name of a single town but it literally means, in Italian, "five lands": they are five different small fisherman villages hidden on the rocky coastline next to the city of La Spezia and only connected by local train, by boat (in summer only) or by hiking trails (but you need to be trained and well equipped). If Cinque Terre is all about slow, low key travel (but yet touristy!) Portofino is definitely its glamorous, posh and expensive sister, where the rich and famous dock with their own private yachts and just sitting there for a gelato it might cost you at least twice than in Cinque Terre. The closest train station to Portofino is the one of Santa Margherita Ligure; from there you should get on a ferry boat or taking the local bus (super small and often crowded). More dedicated walkers can take the longer inland walk, well indicated by tiled signs leading off the coast road (1 hour walk).

Directions and tips about Liguria

Santa Margherita just like Rapallo, Sestri Levante, Levanto just to mention few towns along the coast, are the places where one could consider to actually stay, avoiding the crowded, touristy and overpriced Portofino and Cinque Terre. Then, trains or ferry boats can help moving around.

 

Liguria region with its food, colors and atmosphere can be a contrast yet perfect combination to extend the vacation in Piemonte.

 

The entire Liguria region is crossed by the international railroad line Marseille-Nice-Monaco-Genoa-Pisa-Rome which is not a high-speed service but it has some long-haul train making few stops.

Genoa airport (GOA) is a small international airport linked to the major European hubs.

Driving distance from Piemonte

  • From Portofino: approximately 2 hour-drive to Alba, 2.5 to Turin.
  • From Monterosso (Cinque Terre): 2 hours 45 min to Alba, 3 hour-drive to Turin.

 

#3 - Monaco, Nice, French Riviera and Provence

Montecarlo

One million reasons to go to the French Riviera and another million to go back a second or third time exploring each time something new. We are talking about an extended geographical area that spreads from the Mediterranean coast to the hills and Alps of Provence.

 

For centuries Piemonte has been culturally and politically strictly connected to what today are the bordering French territories and some French flavor is certainly left nowadays in our dialect, cuisine and history!

 

Driving distance from Piemonte

Not many know how easy is traveling from Piemonte to Southern France.

If you want to go straight from point A to point B the highway can take you from Alba to Monaco in 2 hours and 45 minutes. But it's the area right next to the border that deserves more exploration and to exit from the highway. There is a secondary road and a railway going under an Alpine tunnel, the Tende, taking you down to Ventimiglia and Nice from Cuneo, an often (but wrongly) forgotten city in the Southern Western corner of Italy. With a recently restored old city located on a triangular elevated cliff surrounded by two rivers, Cuneo is an hidden Italian jewel with few hotels, many charming restaurants and breathtaking Alpine views that would deserve more, in terms of tourism, of what it gets today.

Another spectacular train ride

The Nice-Breil-Tende-Cuneo railway line follows the Roya valley to cross the Alps into Italy. There are many viaducts and even more tunnels, with wild mountain-and-valley scenery. There are a lot of lovely villages along the line with great places for hiking. During the winter, this train is a great solution to trips to the mountains, for skiing or just visiting, without the problems of driving on icy roads. In the upper Roya Valley near Tende, the train actually makes a couple of full 360-degree loops while in tunnels: a masterpiece of engineering! Even with so many tunnels, enough spectacular sights remain to make the trip a memorable event. The full trip between Nice and Cuneo takes about three hours.

tende roya train

 

#4- Zermatt and the Matterhorn

Another international tourist destination, a worldwide famous ski resort worth a visit in winter or summer for a plethora of sports and activities and where skiing is an option available all year round. Yet another place easily combinable with Piemonte due to the geographical vicinity.

The Matterhorn with its 4,478 meters (14,692 ft) above sea level, is actually one of the highest Alpine peaks bordering Italy and Switzerland. Zermatt is the town located at the foot of the pyramidal-shape mountain, on the Swiss side. Not many consider to access the Matterhorn from the Italian side through the beautiful Valle d'Aosta region (next to Piemonte), up to the town of Breuil-Cervinia (being "Cervino" the Italian name of the Matterhorn).

Driving distance from Piemonte

  • From Turin to Breuil-Cervinia: 1 hour 45 minutes.
  • From Alba to Breuil-Cervinia: 2 hours and 45 minutes.
  • From Turin or Alba to Zermatt: approximately 3 hours and 40 minutes (via Simplon Pass).
  • From Lake Maggiore (Stresa) to Zermatt: 2 hours 15 minutes.

Zermatt

Ascending the Simplon Pass

Since Roman times, the corridor linking lake Maggiore and the Ossola valley through the Alpine pass called Simplon (Sempione in Italian) has been an important way of communication between Italy and Northern Europe, playing a strategic role for the local economy. On the gentle slopes of the Simplon Pass, Napoleon built a solid road that nowadays is mostly used by tourists attracted by breathtaking views and by the fascinating idea to travel from one country to another in the old-fashion way. In 1906 was inaugurated the railroad tunnel cutting though the mountain and reducing the journey from Italy to Switzerland to 20 minutes. This tunnel was the longest ever built (until the mid 1900s) and that's where the famous Orient Express train used to travel on its way from London and Paris to Venice and Istanbul. For people in a hurry there is the possibility to load your own car on a train avoiding the climbing over the Simplon Pass which can be occasionally closed due to snow in winter time.

 

#5- Cruise vacation in the Mediterranean

cruise itinerary in the Mediterranean

Savona and Genoa are two big cruise terminals both located along the coast of the Liguria region, about one hour-drive from each other. Savona is home-port of Costa Cruises, while Genoa is used by MSC Cruises and occasionally by Carnival, Royal Caribbean and other cruise lines. The variety of itineraries offered by cruise ships out of Savona and Genoa is huge: from the classic Western Mediterranean loops to repositioning longer cruises toward the Caribbean, South America, Dubai, Baltic Sea, world cruises.

 

Savona and Genoa are about 1.5 hours from Alba, two hours from Turin, making it an ideal getaway for a pre or post-cruise package.

 

Genoa cruise terminal

 

#6- Paris

Paris is linked by TGV (the French high-speed train) to Turin and Milan. The ride from Paris to Turin takes about 5.5 hours.

 

#7- Milan

The city-centre of Milan has been revamped in 2015 in occasion of the EXPO. It is a cosmopolitan city, pleasant and worth a visit, with world-class hotels and shopping. From La Scala theater to Leonardo Da Vinci's Last Supper to many important art and design exhibitions, one can spend here days with enough to do and see.

If Piemonte is served by Turin (TRN) and Genoa (GOA) airports, both linked to the major European hubs, is actually Milan Malpensa (MXP) the largest international airport where one can catch long-haul direct flights from/to the US, Asia, Africa and South America.

Driving distance from Piemonte

Milan Malpensa airport is about 1 hour 45 minutes from Alba and 1 hour 35 minutes from Turin , traffic permitting. By high speed train it takes 1 hour only to get ot Turin.

 

#8- Italian cities by high speed train

Turin is connected by high speed railway to Milan (1 hour), Florence (2.5 hours), Rome (4 hours) and Venice (4 hours). From Turin Porta Nuova station, it is possible to reach most of the other towns in Piedmont, like Asti, Alba, Bra and Cuneo, through the regional train service.

Written by Marco Scaglione.
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