The Piedmont region of Italy
Piemonte, or Piedmont in English, is the second largest Italian region by extension, with over 9,700 mi² (25.300 kmq) of land and a population in excess of 4,300,000 inhabitants.
It borders France in the west and Switzerland in the north, while the southern side is naturally defined by the Apennines mountains which divide the region from the Mediterranean coast located just a short drive away.
Its vicinity to Milan, Monaco, the French riviera, the tunnel of the Mont Blanc and other famous touristic spots such as Portofino and lake Como, make Piemonte easily connected and accessible from all directions.
The geographical configuration of the region is quite unique having flat plains (32%) and a central nucleus of hills (20%) surrounded by mountains (48%); therefore, we can identify four main areas based on type of landscape:
- the Alps;
- the lake district;
- the plain of the Po river valley , where rice is cultivated;
- the hills: Langhe–Roero and Monferrato are the names of three different hills districts where wine-making is predominant: Barolo, Barbaresco, Asti, Barbera, are just some of the wines. This area became the 50th UNESCO World Heritage site of Italy for the beauty and the historical value of the landscape described as a large patchwork.
As a consequence, the array of activities and attractions available for travelers is considerable and it combines some of the finest gastronomy and wines – being Slow Food founded here – with sports available all year-round, well being and thermal spas, intricate history and art.
Torino, or Turin in English, is the capital of the region with almost one million people living there. In 1861 it turned to be the first Capital of Italy and in 2016 it was mentioned by The New York Times on their list of “52 places to go”.
As a matter of facts, the old picture of Turin as a grey and polluted car-factory city, left room, today, to a cosmopolitan and vibrant modern metropolitan centre with elegant high streets and top museums, international events and fun activities.
The added value of visiting Piemonte is the opportunity to engage with the locals, meeting people who preserve traditions and wisdom, generation after generation. The considerable standing of this personal approach is due to the lack of mass-tourism within the region.
The name, Piemonte, refers to the geographical conformation: pie stands for feet and monte for mountain. So at the feet of the mountain perfectly describes how the region lies below the Alps which constitute a natural semicircle surrounding on three sides plains and hills.
The name was probably used for the first time in the XII century but back then it did not correspond to any administrative nor political territory.
The geological origins
In origin, these mountains drew the edges of a huge bay which thirty millions of years ago was completely flooded by an ancient sea, called Tetide.
The line standing nowadays at the feet of the Alps, separating them from the flat plain can be imagined as the previous beach line; the remaining central parts of the region where slowly filled with sediments brought down by rivers and later eroded.
The sharp transition from the high elevations of the Alps to the flat plain is peculiar to Piemonte: in other Italian regions the passage is smoother because of a mid-range of alpine foothills standing in between the Alps and the lower valleys.
The fact that these range of foothills do not exists in the western section might be due to the collapse of the bottom of the ancient sea which took place about fifteen millions of years ago.