Often overlooked for headliners like Tuscany and Rome, Italy’s Piemonte (Piedmont) region offers families fantastic scenery, delicious regional food and wine, and an unbeatable locale with easy access and proximity to France and Switzerland. While it’s not on the well-worn Italian tourist path, its landscape is just as enticing with rolling hills, quaint towns that aren’t overrun with tourists, and grapes as far as the eye can see.
The Piemonte is super-easy to access, either by flying into the capital city of Torino or into Milan, which is only an hour’s drive away. Our bet? You’ll be wowed by everything the region has to offer and appreciate the rustic feel with luxe amenities — all at a wallet-friendly price point.
Torino, or Turin, was the first capital of a unified Italy. Its royal lineage is on display with arcaded shopping streets, interesting café culture (adults should try a bicerin, made with espresso, chocolate and whipped cream) and grand squares. Torino offers plenty to keep families busy with its Egyptian Museum, second only to the one in Cairo, and historic and religious relics, including the Shroud of Turin and a self-portrait of Da Vinci. There’s also the Olympic Park from the 2006 games and the world-famous soccer club Juventus.
If all that isn’t enough, Torino is also known as the birthplace of the aperitif. Gaspare Campari was an apprentice drink-maker here in the 1800s and created his namesake liquor, giving birth to an entire new category of libations.
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The Piemonte offers a huge variety of interesting day trips. An absolute favorite is Lake Orta, which offers the allure of Lakes Como and Maggiore on a pint-size scale. Enjoy wandering through the town of Orta, which still feels a bit like you’ve discovered it, and the stunning waterfront.
Next up, La Venaria is the Piemonte’s answer to Versailles. Located just outside Torino, La Venaria was built for Savoy King Charles Emanuel II. The palace and gardens are some of the largest in the world and were only opened in 2007 after an extensive restoration. Perched over Torino is the Sacra di San Michele monastery, which legend claims was built by angels in the 11th century. Known as the symbolic monument of the region, it is a stunning step back in time.
For further exploration, there are hill towns galore, each with its own charms: Alba, Barolo, La Morra and the walled enclave of Castellinaldo, just to name a few.
The Langhe wine region here is synonymous with some of the most popular grapes in Italy — Barolo, Barbaresco, Barbera and Nebbiolo all hail from here. Sweet wine lovers will also enjoy the popular local sparkling wine Moscato d’Asti. Try a tasting experience at one of the many wine hill-town wine shops, where you can sample from a few different producers while the kids enjoy gelato or the local playground. Or, taste the bounty produced right where you are staying at a family-friendly property like Castello Razzano.
The Piemonte is famous for its chocolate. Gianduja, the hazelnut-chocolate pairing similar to Nutella, was invented here. Look for bite-size biscuits with gianduja sandwiched in between, called baci di dama (lady kisses). On the savory side, seek out local specialty pasta tajarin. These long, thin, bright yellow ribbons owe their color to the abundance of farmhouse eggs used in their preparation. Favorite sauces include tomato and beef ragu as well as the classic Piemontese butter and sage version, or try some with shavings of the area’s famed white Alba truffles.
Other popular dishes are meats cooked in red wine, like beef cheek ravioli or brasato (veal) braised in Nebbiolo. Piemontese beef is well-known for its quality and flavor, so adventurous eaters should definitely seek out carne crudo, a local take on steak tartare.
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