A tour of Cuneo, in Italy
A tour of the town of Cuneo in Italy is the surprising discovery of a hidden gem. Underrated and forgotten by the most popular tourist itineraries, Cuneo is a charming and compact city.
Cuneo in Italian means “wedge” and that refers to the shape of the plateau eroded in the millennia by the rivers Stura di Demonte and Gesso that delimit it.
The historic town center stands is the terminal part of this cliff, shaped like a wedge, located in proximity of the Alps, in the southwest corner of Piedmont.
A tour of Cuneo in Italy is the best way to understand the evolution of this strategic urban settlement which developed in the Middle Ages.
Cuneo, in a tour of Piedmont
Cuneo is a great stop in a tour of Piedmont, following over two thousand years of history.
The city was not founded by the Romans who actually arrived in the nearby alpine valley called Val Vermenagna, settling in Pedona, Roccavione and Robilante.
The natural wedge of rock protected by the two rivers where today lies Cuneo, started to be populated only later and in 1198 it became a free Commune.
Cuneo was a crossroads of conquerors that besieged it seven times over time, starting from 1220. In facts, Cuneo always controlled several Alpine passes connecting Italy to France, holding political and economic power.
It became Diocese only in 1817 and capital of the province in 1859.
Things to do in Cuneo: Piazza Galimberti and via Roma
Many things to do and see in Cuneo: the heart of the city is the central via Roma that links the point of the wedge to the large Piazza Galimberti.
Things to do in Cuneo include walking around the 1800s porticoes that frame on all sides the large square, dedicated to the National Hero of the Italian Resistance.
In the middle of Piazza Galimberti stands the monument of Giuseppe Barbaroux, author of the Constitution granted to the inhabitants of Piedmont by King Carlo Alberto in 1848.
Cuneo, like other towns in a tour of Piedmont, used to host the market in the middle of the main street. That’s why via Roma is quite large and side porticoes came as a cover in case of bad weather.
A tour of Cuneo: churches and museums
Next to the Bishop’s Palace along via Roma lies the church of S. Ambrogio on which doorway one can see the symbol of the bishop’s hat.
Ambrogio is the protector of Milan and the reason why a church is dedicated to him in Cuneo, is because in 1230 the Milanese rebuilt the city after one of the many besieges. Cuneo wanted to thank Milan by building a church, located, originally, at the point of the wedge. It was then rebuilt in the XVI century and moved to the actual location where it can be seen in a tour of Cuneo.
Things to do in Cuneo include a pleasant walk through the backstreets of the town center, up to Santa Croce and to the Franciscan monastery. The so-called Complesso di San Francesco today is home of the Civic Museum and it is located next to the covered market whose pillars show liberty style elements.
In the courtyard of the City Hall, then, stands a reproduction in cupper of a car prototype, named Ceirano 1903. Ceirano, in fact, was the family name of two brothers from Cuneo who started several car factories in Turin at the end of the XIX century.
The Tower Palace and the Civic Tower built in 1317, are the most recognizable buildings along via Roma, first seat of the city hall.
Things to do in Cuneo: the Cathedral
A tour of Cuneo in Italy includes the interior of the Cathedral erected on the site of a humble countryside chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary. It became, then, a parish church when in 1583 it already hosted fourteen private altars belonging to prominent families and artisans guilds.
In terms of architecture, though, the church started to get the size that we see today in a tour of Cuneo, in 1620 with the project of local architect G. Boetto. The dome was added in the 1800s and so the frescoes decoration on the inside.
The church of Jesuits in Cuneo
Santa Maria della Pieve is known as the church of Jesuits built by architect Boetto, who started the planning in 1655.
The high altar painting represents the Circumcision of Jesus made by local painter B. Caravoglia and the subject is a reminder of the original dedication of the church to the Jesuit order.
A tour of Cuneo: Contrada Mondovì
The most picturesque part of Cuneo is Contrada Mondovì, formerly called the Judean street. Along this street, in fact, there is the Synagogue and the entire neighborhood up to the Gesso river was occupied by the Jewish ghetto.
Via Mondovì was the first one in Cuneo to be lit at night and recent restorations turned it into a cozy social gathering point of the city. During Christmas time the street is decorated with artistic light installations and in summer is crowded with outdoor seating of local restaurants.
Cuneo, the former Army recruit center of Italy
To many Italians Cuneo evokes memories of the decades when military service was mandatory for the male population. Thousands of recruits had to spend the first part of their training in the city. Old former barracks are still visible within a short walk from via Roma.
The square Antonio De Curtis, named in honor of Totò, the famous Neapolitan actor, reminds of 1950s movies in which he mentioned Cuneo. The city and the military service were cited with his unique and sarcastic sense of humor who survived to our days.
Piazzetta De Curtis is located next to the Toselli theatre.
The province of Cuneo in a tour of Piedmont
The city of Cuneo is a great departure point for a number of day trips toward alpine valleys that lead to the French border.
Val Grana and its Sanctuary of Castelmagno is a favorite excursion in a valley that retains its wild appearance and it is a great destination for hikers.
Check-out our weekend program in Val Maira.
Castelmagno cheese is made out of cow milk and it is produced in only three villages where cozy dairy farms can be visited. Meet Piemonte arranges cheese tastings for private groups who sign up for a tour of Piedmont.
In the province of Cuneo is worth a visit the Certosa di Pesio situated between Cuneo and Mondovì.
Valle Stura, besides its summer and winter sports, it is also historically relevant with the Roman settlement of Pedona, in the modern town of Borgo San Dalmazzo.
Nonetheless, a few miles from Cuneo, a tour of Piedmont can include the village of Boves known for the countryside chapel Madonna dei Boschi. The interior of this church is completely covered in frescoes from the XV century.
Alpine valleys in the province of Cuneo
The province of Cuneo is rich in Romanesque chapels, natural beauty and a wide array of things to do, spread in several alpine valleys.
Meet Piemonte arranges tours for hikers with day trips from the city of Cuneo or Alba. A popular tour of Piedmont goes through the alpine pass Colle di Tenda all the way to Nice, Monaco and the French Riviera.
On top of summer trekking and hiking, winter is a favorite season in these alpine valleys. Snow shoes and cross-country ski lovers find miles of trails in a pristine nature.
Among many ski resorts in Piedmont, equipped with ski lifts, Limone Piemonte offers about 80 km (50 mi) of slopes open in winter.