Italy Luxury Vacation in Piedmont
There are eight top spots near Piedmont which make this region an ideal base for a luxury vacation in Northern Italy.
The Piedmont region on the Northwest of Italy benefits of a strategic position. In facts, it is possible to blend in one luxury vacation the territory framed between the Swiss Alps and the Italian Riviera, with a break in the wine region of Barolo.
Luxury vacation packages in Northern Italy can easily include comfortable drives or train rides getting from off-the-beaten-track food and wine purveyors to popular tourist destinations such as St. Moritz, Monaco or Portofino.
1 – Luxury travel to Milan
Milan is certainly the preferred choice when it comes to international luxury travel to Italy because its main airport, Milan Malpensa (MXP), is the most important one in Northern Italy. Milan is linked by long-haul direct flights to the US, to main cities in Asia, Africa and South America.
For a long time, Milan was known only for being a polluted business city but in the last two decades a major urban revamp has taken place. The city is now a cosmopolitan, world-class place to be, with top hotel brands, the finest shopping and culinary experiences.
The newly extended pedestrian city center gave new birth to astonishing architectures which surprise visitors for their contrasts. Taking a pleasant walk from the fashion district though the urban-chic streets of Brera, one can admire the Gothic lines of the Cathedral blended with contemporary high-rise of acclaimed architects.
Moreover, La Scala theater and popular attractions like Leonardo’s Last Supper, live up to the expectations of the most discerning travelers.
Milan is definitely the best departing place for a luxury vacation in some of the eight top spots near Piedmont, in Northern Italy.
How to get from Milan to Barolo
Milan Malpensa airport is about 1 hour 45 minutes from Alba and 1 hour 35 minutes from Turin , traffic permitting.
Milan city center is connected to Turin by high speed train with regular departures every hour. The ride takes only 60 minutes.
2 – Italy luxury vacation on lake Como
Lake Como is about 30 miles (47 km) long and it is Europe’s deepest lake, almost 1,350 feet (410 m).
Surrounded by tall and steep mountains, this lake is probably the most picturesque among the Italian lake district. Its unique shape (an upside down letter Y) divides the body of water in three different branches, each with its distinct flavor and atmosphere.
The consummate pairing of natural and man-made beauty is probably what made lake Como an international getaway. In facts, over the last 150 years or so, dozens of wealthy businessman and artists decided to call “home” the lake.
Elegant villas, rose-laden belvedere, hanging wisteria and bougainvillea, lanterns casting a glow over lake-shore restaurants and majestic Alpine vistas still attract high numbers of tourists.
Meet Piemonte can arrange a private boat to admire from the water what it seems to be the main reason to travel here: to see George Clooney’s villas, which, as matter of fact, contributed significantly to the popularity of the lake.
How to get from Milan to lake Como?
Lake Como from Milan is an easy drive. The Western branch of the lake is where most luxury hotels and villas are located. After a 45 minutes highway ride from Milan, the road becomes narrow and it follows the lake shore.
By train, the city of Como is conveniently located on the international railway line Milan-Lugano-Zurich. From Como, then, a scenic public boat transit will take you to Bellagio or Tremezzo, the most popular towns on the lake, schedule and crowds permitting.
Meet Piemonte arranges private boats for those guests who prefer the intimacy of a premium service, avoiding to stand in line and deal with the cons of a public service.
The Eastern branch of the lake, is also connected by regional trains up to the city of Lecco and to charming Varenna. From there, you are a short ferry-ride away from Bellagio.
Getting from lake Como to Piedmont, takes about 2.5 to 3 hours to the wine region of Alba, Barolo and Asti, depending from which side of the lake one is leaving.
Milan to lake Como day trip?
Lake Como is arguably one of the eight top spots near Piedmont where one can spend a good portion of a luxury vacation in Northern Italy.
Meet Piemonte recommends at least two to three nights but a longer stay on the lake can be necessary to fully enjoy a number of fun day trips.
The city of Como itself is a leading textile center famous for its silk. The medieval town center and the charming lakefront are worth to spend a day of shopping, maybe with a tour of the impressive Cathedral.
From Como, jump on a high-speed hydrofoil to Bellagio and a private tour guide can ride with you, pointing out some of the elegant, dream-of-a-lifetime villas.
Cernobbio, Tremezzo, and Varenna are popular and picturesque lakeside towns where one can visit gardens or relax with an aperitif by the water, taking in the Italian lifestyle.
Bellagio and the so called “center lake” area is another must, ideal for hikers. Meet Piemonte advises that the town center can be touristy but it is easy enough to escape the crowds and visit one of the villa-museums available around such as Villa Melzi, Villa Carlotta and Villa Balbianello.
These villas are set on different shores of the lake, therefore, once again, a private boat can be a smart choice.
Bernina Express from lake Como
Lastly, the vicinity to the Swiss border makes the lake the departing point for many Alpine excursions. The favorite Bernina Express, a UNESCO World Heritage railroad, is considered one of the most scenic train rides in the world and, frankly, it never gets old!
The Bernina Express departs from the Italian town of Tirano, reachable with a good two-hour drive from Como or Milan. Soon after Tirano, the train climbs the steep slopes all the way above the tree-line, where snow can be spotted all year round. The two and a half ride ends in the international alpine resort Sankt Moritz where Meet Piemonte typically sets up a traditional Swiss lunch or a mid-afternoon chocolate and cake indulgence.
3 – Portofino and the Italian Riviera
Liguria is the coastal region below Piedmont that stretches from the French Riviera to the Tuscany region.
The long but narrow Liguria region is a combination of small fisherman seaside towns and glamorous retreats like Portofino.
While Portofino is on the Eastern side of Liguria, not too far from the centrally-located regional capital city of Genoa, the Western side of Liguria is less posh. Despite that, the Italian Riviera is a sequence of inlets, memorable views, pebble beaches and olive gardens.
Since Arabic invasions back to the XI century, the coast has been fortified with watching towers and walled hamlets, whose ruins add character to the region.
Where is the Italian Riviera ?
We call “Italian Riviera”, in general, all the Ligurian coast, so, yes, Portofino is part of it. However, the coast on which Portofino is located, is rockier than the Western part of Liguria. Each side of the region has its own flavor and atmosphere.
The Italian Riviera is one of the eight top spots near Piedmont that Meet Piemonte often squeezes in, even just as a day trip from the Barolo wine region.
In facts, it takes around 1.5 to 2 hours driving from Alba and Barolo to the closest beaches. Getting to Portofino is a bit longer, between 2 to 2.5 hours on the highway.
Imagine a wine holiday to Piedmont with a day on the Italian Riviera: a visit to an olive oil mill, a fresh pesto sauce pasta and seafood lunch served on the beach, perhaps a guided tour of one of the medieval hamlets.
Portofino became the rendez-vous of international jet-set with its fancy villas, fashion boutiques and high-end restaurants and bistrot.
However, Portofino is also in the middle of beautiful hikes and trails for those who are looking to fully take in the natural beauty. The small size of Portofino and the limited number of accommodations available, makes it even more exclusive.
Only a few miles away, Santa Margherita and Rapallo offer a wider selection of hotels including luxury five-star retreats. Moreover, Sestri Levante, Levanto and many other villages along the coast are dotted with hotels and resorts that get crowded in July and August with Italians.
While mass tourism often combines Portofino and the Cinque Terre in a day trip, Meet Piemonte suggests to dedicate a full day to Cinque Terre only (see below).
4 – Cinque Terre in Italy
Cinque Terre in Italian literally means, “five lands”: in fact, Cinque Terre is the name of five small fisherman villages set on the rocky coastline next to the city of La Spezia.
Coming from Portofino (from the West) the towns are, in order: Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, Rio Maggiore.
These five villages merged together in one National Park that includes both the land and the underwater part. Men have adapted to leave in a steep and rocky environment, developing vine and olive trees cultivation on man-made terraces. Perched villages and isolated churches make the coastline dramatically beautiful.
Lake Como to Cinque Terre by train
Located a few miles from the Tuscany region, Cinque Terre are about 3 hours by Intercity train from Milan. There are a few direct trains, otherwise a connection in Genoa would be required.
The independent traveler who wishes to get from lake Como to Cinque Terre by train, should consider the extra time needed to change train in Milan, at the Central station.
It takes a good hour by train to go from Portofino to the first village of the Cinque Terre but only if one catches a train that does not stop in every station.
The train schedule can be challenging to be figured out and so are the different types of combo tickets available. While the train is the preferred way of transportation (cars are only allowed up to Monterosso), individual travelers needs to be familiar with the local schedule, getting on the right platform, squeezing in crowded trains, be aware of pickpockets and much else.
Luxury vacation to Cinque Terre
While most tourists go to Cinque Terre to take the same old pictures and barely scratch the surface of this mass-tourism destination, there are ways to improve the experience and make a day to Cinque Terre a memorable one.
On a luxury vacation in Northern Italy, a tour of Cinque Terre may still require the use of the train but it certainly becomes less stressful to do it with a private tour guide that, while providing commentary, takes care of all the logistics.
Weather permitting, private boats are clearly the best way to explore from the water this stretch of coast and maybe continue to the next village, Portovenere, a gem that deserves a stop even if, officially, is not part of Cinque Terre.
5 – Monaco and the French Riviera
Not many people realizes how close are Monaco, Nice and even Provence to the Piedmont region of Italy.
Whether is a scenic drive over the Alps or a train ride from Genoa to France, along the Ligurian coast, there are multiple ways to travel from Italy to France.
Monaco and French Riviera are one of the eight top spots near Piedmont that have centuries of history behind. Piedmont was culturally and politically connected to the French territories located next to the Alps and a unique influence was left in the Piedmontese dialect, cuisine and art.
Nonetheless, the city of Nice, in France, has an important airport that is ideal to end there a luxury vacation in Northern Italy.
Monaco: one of the eight top spots near Piedmont
Driving from Alba to Monaco on the highway takes approximately 2 hours and 45 minutes. However, for the curious traveler who likes to go off the beaten track, it is advisable to take the secondary road connecting Italy and France through the Alpine tunnel of Tende.
A stop in the Italian city of Cuneo before climbing the Alps is the opportunity to discover a charming historical city center recently restored.
For the traveler passionate about trains, then, the scenic railroad Nice-Breil-Tende-Cuneo is a must. Built along the Roya valley, this railroad is a masterpiece of engineering with elliptical bridges and tunnels. Views are spectacular and the French side gets wilder dotted with quaint villages and hiking trails.
During the winter, this train is a convenient way of transportation to sky resorts, avoiding icy roads. The full trip between Nice and Cuneo takes about 3 hours.
For the most discerning guests who are looking for an exclusive experience and have limited time, Meet Piemonte arranges a luxury day trip by helicopter from Monaco to Barolo.
In partnership with MonacAir, the private helicopter flight takes only 40 minutes (25 minutes with a twin engine). Land directly on a Barolo winery, enjoy a Michelin-star lunch and take full advantage of a day trip where every detail is taken care of.
From complimentary pick-up and drop off to hotels in Monte-Carlo, to exclusive wine tastings with renowned single-vineyard bottles, this is the top food-and-wine day trip available from Monaco to Italy. Learn more here.
6 – Zermatt and the Matterhorn
The Matterhorn with its 4,478 meters (14,692 ft) above the sea level, is one of the highest peaks in Europe. It defines the border between Italy and Switzerland. Zermatt is the town located on the Swiss side, at the foot of the pyramidal-shaped mountain.
The international ski resort of Zermatt, in Switzerland, is worth a visit both in winter and summer because of the plethora of sports and activities suitable to everyone.
This is one of the few places in Europe where skiing is available all year round! Spectacular cable car rides and cog-wheel trains take even the less trained traveler over the glacier. From the top of the Matterhorn, eventually, one can come down to the Italian side.
The Matterhorn can be reached from Italy through the beautiful Aosta valley region, one of the eight top spots near Piedmont. The town of Breuil-Cervinia recalls of how the Matterhorn is called in Italian and French: Cervino.
Zermatt to Barolo by car
Turin to Breuil-Cervinia: 1 hour 45 minutes.
Alba to Breuil-Cervinia: 2 hours and 45 minutes.
Turin or Alba to Zermatt: approximately 3 hours and 40 minutes (via Simplon Pass).
Lake Maggiore (Stresa) to Zermatt: 2 hours 15 minutes.
7 – Cruises from Genoa and Savona
Savona and Genoa are two large cruise terminals, both located in the Liguria region of Italy.
Savona is the home-port of Costa Cruises, while Genoa is used by MSC Cruises and occasionally by Carnival, Royal Caribbean and other cruise lines.
Itineraries offered by cruise ships out of Savona and Genoa include the Western Mediterranean loop, as well as repositioning cruises toward the Caribbean, South America, Dubai, Baltic Sea and world cruises.
Savona and Genoa are about 1.5 hour from Alba and 2 hours from Turin, making Piedmont an ideal getaway for a pre or post luxury vacation in Northern Italy
Paris is closer to Piedmont than one can think! The French high-speed train TGV connects with a no-stop service Paris to Turin and Milan, twice a day.
The ride from Paris to Turin takes about 5.5 hours since the Alpine section of the railroad goes on older track. It has made the news in the last decades the construction of a new tunnel for high-speed trains. Going under the Alps, that will considerably cut the travel time.
Meet Piemonte is aware of how many international travelers come to Europe and like to take the best out of one long vacation. Paris is definitely one of the eight top spots near Piedmont that one can consider to add to a luxury vacation in Northern Italy. Getting from vineyards and less explored routes to the hussle and bussle of the French capital.
Whether is a first-time traveler to Europe or a romantic getaway, Paris has something for everyone and it can be a smart choice to escape the crowds of the busy city with a vacation to Piedmont.
While the train ride is certainly a recommended experience, Paris is very well connected to Turin with several daily flights that take about 1.5 hours.