What are the five best things to see and do in Piedmont?

Sigrid Lupieri

Piedmont offers a unique blend of peaceful countryside and bustling city life. Among the many things to see and do in the Italian region, our Forbes Travel Guide editors recommend visiting the city of Turin and sampling some local wine. Here are the five best things to see and do in Piedmont:
 
1. Monuments. As the largest city in the region, Turin is filled with must-see landmarks and monuments. You can’t miss the Mole Antonelliana, a four-faced dome that tapers into an elaborate pinnacle and towers over the skyline. Be sure to venture into the busy downtown streets, where you’ll see historic monuments, palaces and elegant piazza (town squares).
 
2. Churches. Part of Turin’s appeal is its ornate and graceful architecture, which dates as far back as the 15th century. For believers and skeptics alike, one of the city’s main attractions is the Chapel of the Holy Shroud, built next to the stately San Giovanni Cathedral. The chapel contains the famed Turin Shroud, which many believe was wrapped around Christ’s body after his crucifixion.
 
3. Shopping. Exclusive boutiques line the streets near Turin’s main train station. Continue along the elegant marble-arched Via Roma for more luxury shopping. Alternatively, Via Garibaldi is one of Europe’s largest pedestrian roads and offers an abundance of shopping venues and cafes in the heart of the city.
 
4. Museums. For the museum aficionado, Turin offers one of the largest automobile museums in the world, some of the most important art collections in the country and the largest Egyptian Museum outside of Cairo.
 
5. Countryside. Not far from the crowded city, you can hike along the Langhe hills. From there, you can enjoy the magnificent view of sloping vineyards and castles that overlook the medieval towns. Small, family-run restaurants serve sophisticated local dishes, and many wineries offer tours of their vineyards paired with samplings of their famous wines.

  • On July 5, 2012
    Sigrid Lupieri answered the question: Sigrid Lupieri

    Where is the best shopping in Piedmont?

    You can’t leave Italy without at least one pair of new shoes, and Turin’s city center is a great place for shopping in Piedmont. Via Roma, with its cool and shady porticoes, offers a plethora of exclusive boutiques that sell clothing and leather goods from the most prestigious fashion houses, along with elegant furniture, jewelry and antiques. While you’re in the area, our Forbes Travel Guide editors eating at one of the many historic cafes — decorated with sleek marble countertops and gilded furnishings — for a cappuccino and a chocolate pastry.
     
    Via Garibaldi, the longest pedestrian street in Europe, is popular among locals and offers a wide selection of stores at all price ranges. But if you’re looking for a colorful, cultural experience, stroll along the historic Balon Flea Market, which is held every Saturday in the city center. Since the mid 1800s, the Balon has been a treasure trove for antiques, memorabilia and dusty curiosities among the vibrant stalls of the open-air market.
     
    If food is your passion, don’t miss Eataly, the Slow Food Movement’s official market. Originally a factory, the store now sells cheeses, meats, pasta and chocolate for the environmentally conscious (or for those who simply enjoy high-quality local cuisine). Also inside is a series of restaurants that offer more than 100 different traditional dishes, from organic pizza baked in a wood-burning oven to smoked trout and fresh steamed mussels.
  • On July 5, 2012
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    What are the five best wineries in Piedmont?

    You can’t visit Piedmont’s Langhe — the hilly heart of the region famous for its vineyards — without taking a tour of its renowned wineries. From the slightly smoky and earthy barbaresco and the ruby-colored barolo, you can sample the highest quality wines at these five wineries:
     
    1. Pio Cesare winery. Founded in 1881, the winery has been in the Pio Cesare family for five generations and produces traditional Piedmontese wines such as barolo, barbera and barbaresco. Its wine cellars, located in Alba, date as far back as the Roman Empire.
     
    2. La Spinetta. Relatively modern, this winery is situated at the top of a hill in the town of Castagnole Lanze. In addition to producing red wines such as barolo and barbera, this family-owned company specializes in the translucent, delicately sweet moscato.
     
    3. Massolino Winery. Owned by the Massolino family since the late 19th century, the winery is located in Serralunga d’Alba, the heart of Piedmont’s wine region. The company is most famous for its spicy, aromatic barolo, though its four different vineyards produce other high-end boutique wines aged between 25 and 45 years.
     
    4. Fontanafredda. Not far from the town of Alba, you can’t miss Fontanafredda — its main building has yellow and orange stripes. The company has recently taken a more environmentally conscious approach to making some of the finest wines in the region. Our Forbes Travel Guide editors recommend taking a walk along the paths skirting its impressive vineyards to the top of the hill, where you can overlook the Langhe.
     
    5. Rocche Costamagna. Situated near the picturesque medieval town of La Morra, this winery has a small museum, where you can learn its history and take a guided tour (available in English) of the 200-year-old cellars. The winery also offers daily wine tastings — they’re paired with aged cheese and cured ham — on a terrace overlooking the countryside.
  • On July 5, 2012
    Sigrid Lupieri answered the question: Sigrid Lupieri

    What is the best thing to bring home from Piedmont?

    Piedmont is known for its specialty foods (most notably wine, cheese and chocolate), and you’ll want to bring home a few items to remember your trip by. While customs officials frown down on hauling an aroma-packed aged round of goat cheese through the airport, food is without a doubt one of the best things to bring home from a trip to Piedmont. To avoid airport predicaments, you can buy packaged food, such as Piedmont’s delicately rich chocolates or a bottle or two of local wine.
     
    If you’re looking for presents, we suggest visiting a local food shop or café for an elegant package of Gianduiotti, boat-shaped hazelnut chocolates with gold-colored wrappings. Or, if you have been captivated by the unforgettable aroma of truffles, you can bring home honey or oil with truffles and truffle spreads. Weekend markets in the villages and in the capital of Turin are great places to find antiques, hand-crafted jewelry and Italian glass.
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  • On July 5, 2012
    Sigrid Lupieri answered the question: Sigrid Lupieri

    What are the five best Piedmont food experiences?

    Home to the Italian Slow Food Movement, which combines the pleasure of eating with a greater awareness for the environment, Piedmont is a gourmand’s paradise. Here are five must-do food experiences in the Italian region:
     
    1. Chocolate. Since the early 1800s, the family-owned cafes and pastry shops in the Piedmontese towns have served a chocolate and hazelnut paste called Gianduja. Nutella, produced by the Italian company Ferrero, is a more modern take on the original spread.
     
    2. Cheese. Since the Middle Ages, Piedmont has produced a creamy, tangy cheese called Toma. While most supermarkets sell Toma, our Forbes Travel Guide editors recommend buying the flavorful cheese from local specialty stores along the streets of Piedmont’s towns and villages.
     
    3. Pasta. You can buy freshly made pasta, which usually comes with a meat or ricotta and spinach filling, in most local stores. If you step into the tiny, packed shops, you can often observe the owners deftly pinching together fresh filling and dough into perfectly shaped gems of pasta.
     
    4. Mushrooms. In the fall, when Piedmont’s hills turn crimson and gold, farmers and truffle hunters venture out into the crisp air searching for the prized white and black truffles, which are buried like diamonds beneath the soil. A gentle dusting of truffles over a plate of handmade pasta adds a musky, earthy aroma.
     
    5. Bagna cauda. One of Piedmont’s most famous dishes, bagna cauda is not for the calorie-conscious. Best described as a flavorful, fragrant vegetable fondue, it is served hot with plenty of garlic, oil, butter and anchovies.
  • On July 5, 2012
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    Where is the best nightlife in Piedmont?

    Before you pack your formal evening gown or tux, remember that nightlife in Piedmont can vary widely, depending on what area you are staying in. As dusk settles over the quiet towns in rural Piedmont, villagers while away the long evening hours by sitting in the central piazza, talking to their neighbors or playing cards at the bar. During summer festivities, however, villages spring to life. From weathered grandmothers to excited children, everyone is out and about enjoying a plate of grilled meat or pasta or trying their luck at the local raffle.
     
    You will find a more sophisticated ambience in cosmopolitan Turin. There, our Forbes Travel Guide editors recommend that you join locals for the 7 o’clock aperitivo (or pre-dinner drinks with hors d’oeuvres) in any of the bars that dot the busy banks of the Po River. After a leisurely dinner, you will find throngs of revelers descending into the city center well after 10 p.m. Though the Murazzi embankment and Docks Dora nightlife area are at the heart of the party scene, you will find unique bars and cafes in the Quadrilatero neighborhood, offering beer or a glass of the famous Piedmontese wines.
  • On July 5, 2012
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    What is the best way to see Piedmont in one day?

    The best way to see Piedmont in one day is by starting off on foot. Our Forbes Travel Guide editors recommend spending the morning strolling through Turin’s center, taking in the bustling city’s sights and sounds. You can’t miss the iconic Mole Antonelliana, the tallest building in the city, and a handful of stately piazza. Visit the elegant Piazza San Carlo — it’s lined with chic historic cafes — and make your way to the heart of the city center, the vast and majestic Piazza Castello. This plaza has a long and storied history; it was once the official residence of the Italian monarchy, and today, it is filled with museums and palaces that are open for exploring. Wander through the Royal Palace, with its lush gardens and Roman amphitheater. Then head down Via Garibaldi to visit the Museum of the Holy Shroud, which traces the history of the mysterious cloth, which some say enveloped Christ’s body after crucifixion. Next, retrace your steps to Via Po, leading toward the Po River, for a quick lunch break at the historic Caffe Fiorio — it dates back to the mid-1700s and has been a favorite haunt of politicians and intellectuals, such as Count Camillo Benso and German poet Friedrich Nietzsche.
     
    After lunch, hit the countryside. Our Forbes Travel Guide editors suggest taking a scenic drive to the small town of Alba. It’s in the heart of the Langhe, Piedmont’s verdant hills that are covered in vineyards and peppered with medieval castles. Stroll along Via Maestra, where tiny boutiques spill onto the cobblestone street, filling the air with the floury aroma of freshly made pasta and the earthy fragrance of truffles. On some days, if you’re lucky, you can even catch a whiff of toasted hazelnuts and chocolate from the nearby Nutella factory.
     
    Finally, wind down your day in Piedmont by visiting a local winery. You can take a guided tour of the Fontanafredda winery (it’s about 20 minutes from Alba), while sipping the region’s famous ruby-colored barolo. Cap it all off with luxurious dinner and a picturesque view at Relais Villa D’Amelia in Benevello, only minutes away from Alba.
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    What are the five best things to do with kids in Piedmont?

    There are many things for kids to do in Piedmont — from walks along country lanes to interactive museums. Here are five top activities recommended by our Forbes Travel Guide editors:
     
    1. The Egyptian Museum. A perfect escape from the scorching summer heat, the renowned museum in Turin (the largest outside of Cairo) features awe-inspiring Egyptian statues and curiously macabre mummies along its vast and somber hallways.
     
    2. Valentino Park. Turin’s romantic Valentino Park is the largest park in the city and contains magnificent botanical gardens, as well as a reconstructed medieval castle and village. Bring children of all ages here to play along the banks of the Po River.
     
    3. National Cinema Museum. Situated within the iconic Mole Antonelliana in Turin, the museum offers an interactive exhibit on the history of movies. A glass elevator smoothly takes you to the peak of the dome for a breathtaking view of Turin’s rooftops.
     
    4. Boat tour. Take the kids for a cruise and admire Turin’s sights from the Po River. The new air-conditioned boats offer audio tours in various languages.
     
    5. Chocolate tour. Explore the narrow alleys of Turin and the off-the-beaten-path piazza to savor the city’s famously rich chocolate pralines. You can buy the family a two-day ChocoPass, which lets you enjoy nine tastings at a series of unique and historic cafes.
  • On July 5, 2012
    Sigrid Lupieri answered the question: Sigrid Lupieri

    What are the five best things to see and do in Piedmont?

    Piedmont offers a unique blend of peaceful countryside and bustling city life. Among the many things to see and do in the Italian region, our Forbes Travel Guide editors recommend visiting the city of Turin and sampling some local wine. Here are the five best things to see and do in Piedmont:
     
    1. Monuments. As the largest city in the region, Turin is filled with must-see landmarks and monuments. You can’t miss the Mole Antonelliana, a four-faced dome that tapers into an elaborate pinnacle and towers over the skyline. Be sure to venture into the busy downtown streets, where you’ll see historic monuments, palaces and elegant piazza (town squares).
     
    2. Churches. Part of Turin’s appeal is its ornate and graceful architecture, which dates as far back as the 15th century. For believers and skeptics alike, one of the city’s main attractions is the Chapel of the Holy Shroud, built next to the stately San Giovanni Cathedral. The chapel contains the famed Turin Shroud, which many believe was wrapped around Christ’s body after his crucifixion.
     
    3. Shopping. Exclusive boutiques line the streets near Turin’s main train station. Continue along the elegant marble-arched Via Roma for more luxury shopping. Alternatively, Via Garibaldi is one of Europe’s largest pedestrian roads and offers an abundance of shopping venues and cafes in the heart of the city.
     
    4. Museums. For the museum aficionado, Turin offers one of the largest automobile museums in the world, some of the most important art collections in the country and the largest Egyptian Museum outside of Cairo.
     
    5. Countryside. Not far from the crowded city, you can hike along the Langhe hills. From there, you can enjoy the magnificent view of sloping vineyards and castles that overlook the medieval towns. Small, family-run restaurants serve sophisticated local dishes, and many wineries offer tours of their vineyards paired with samplings of their famous wines.
  • On July 3, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are the five best places to eat in Piedmont?

    From delicate truffles and homemade pasta to the area’s prized wines, our Forbes Travel Guide editors say that Piedmont is a food lover’s paradise. Here are the five best restaurants to savor the local cuisine:
     
    1. Villa D’Amelia Relais. Not far from the town of Alba, this award-winning restaurant boasts a stunning view of the rugged Alps and the softly rolling Piedmontese hills (called Langhe in Italian). Chef Damiano Nigro has a unique and creative approach to his traditional cuisine, from his delicate, freshly made pasta to the hazelnut tiramisu.
     
    2. Piazza Duomo. If you’re looking for a sumptuous meal with an exotic twist, Piazza Duomo, located in the central square of the quiet town of Alba, should hit the spot. The restaurant’s acclaimed chef surprises his guests with traditional dishes that are infused with the light and piquant flavors of Japanese cuisine.
     
    3. C’era Una Volta. For a more rustic feel — complete with terracotta tiles and a fireplace — visit this small, historic gem near Turin’s train station. Whimsically named “Once Upon a Time,” the traditional restaurant offers a hearty six-course tasting menu, which should tide over even the most enthusiastic gourmand.
     
    4. Sotto la Mole. Only steps away from the iconic Mole Antonelliana in Turin, Sotto la Mole is a representative of the Slow Food Movement. The restaurant focuses on seasonal products and pays particular attention to your individual needs — so don’t hesitate to mention any dietary restrictions or food allergies to the English- and French-speaking staff.
     
    5. Castello di Pavone Hotel and Restaurant. For a romantic candlelit dinner for two, treat yourself to a royal experience by dining in a medieval castle that’s just a short drive from Turin. Enjoy traditional Italian cuisine seated beneath vast frescoed archways or next to a small waterfall in the relaxing courtyard surrounded by the fortress walls and turrets.
  • On July 3, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are the five best places to stay in Piedmont?

    Whether you prefer the vibrant city of Turin or the quiet countryside, there are many places to stay in Piedmont. Here are five of the finest luxury hotels recommended by Forbes Travel Guide editors:
     
    1. Grand Hotel Des Iles Borromees (Stresa). Overlooking the crystalline waters of Lake Maggiore, this lavish Art Nouveau-style villa — complete with antique artwork and magnificent chandeliers — is more than 150 years old. Among many illustrious guests, American writer Ernest Hemingway frequently stayed at the villa.
     
    2. Hotel Castello di Sinio (Sinio). If you crave the peaceful beauty of Piedmont’s world-famous wine region with a historical twist, why not spend a night in a castle? Nestled among flourishing hilly vineyards, this medieval palace offers all the modern amenities, as well as activities like cooking classes, truffle hunts and gastronomic adventures.
     
    3. The Golden Palace (Turin). Situated in the heart of the historic city center, this luxury hotel combines the comfort of technology (high-speed internet and plasma televisions) with the elegance of modern art and architecture. Paintings and sculptures by prominent Italian artists adorn the walls, while the bar and restaurant display gleaming marble surfaces, gold finishings and shiny glass walls.
     
    4. Principi di Piemonte Hotel (Turin). This luxury hotel offers all the comforts of the city — plus a dramatic panorama of Turin’s rooftops with the snow-capped Alps serving as the backdrop. And since it faces the stylish shopping district on Via Roma, Principi di Piemonte Hotel is ideal for exploring the city.
     
    5. Relais San Maurizio, Santo Stefano Belbo. Once a 17th-century monastery, this luxury hotel and spa resort is complete with ancient colorful frescoes, a centenary shady park and the excellent Guido da Costigliole — don’t miss the agnolotti, a regional specialty done just right here. Book in advance to choose one of its 30 cheerful and airy rooms and suites. During the summer months, the outdoor swimming pool offers a stunning view of the surrounding hills.