by Maria E. Bellini
Where is Piedmont?
Sprawled over the north-western part of Italy, sharing some of its mountains with France and Switzerland – Italy’s second largest region: Piedmont or Piemonte, as it’s called in Italian, also shares its borders with the Italian regions of Valle D’Aosta, Liguria and Lombardy, and for a tiny part with Emilia-Romagna. If you want to read more about how Italy’s regions are divided up, read our short guide here.
What Makes Piedmont Special?
Where do we start?!
- The serene beauty of Lakes Maggiore and Orta
- The picture postcard Alpine scenery
- The diversity of the mountain ranges
- The gastro-heaven that is the Langhe area
- The magical city of Turin
- Some of the best skiing to be had in Italy
- Italy’s major river – The Po, has it’s headwaters on the slopes of Monviso, in Pian Del Re
The Mountains – Alps and Apennines
This is the region that inspired the Alpinist Quintino Sella in 1863, whilst on the first all-Italian ascent of Monviso to form Italy’s first Mountaineering Association: C.A.I. Club Alpino Italiano – we re-trace events in our article here.
In fact the region’s name: Piemonte, literally means “at the foot of the mountains” (pied-foot – monte-mountain).
If you consider that roughly three-quarters of Piedmont is either mountainous or hilly, it’s not surprising that this is a popular destination for mountain lovers, both in summer and in winter.
Gentle Climbs or More Bite to Your Hike
If you’re after some really romantic, kinder slopes head to hills in Monferrato, Langhe, Biella, Ivrea and around Turin, and complement your walks with culture, history, and an abundance of good food and wine.
If you want more climbs, head north west to the upper Susa Valley, or to the west and the Cuneo area with the spectacular rocky Monviso. Northbound will bring you to Valsesia and Val d’Ossola with Monte Rosa and the lakes. Or to the remote wilderness of the Lanzo and Canavese valleys with the spectacular Gran Paradiso.
Head south in Piedmont and you cross the spectacular Maritime Alps and will finally reach the Mediterranean Sea.
Apennines, Forests, Foliage and Mushrooms
To complete the hilly and mountainous family in Piedmont, is also a large chunk of Apennines. Off the beaten track, plenty of forests and woods – also location to one of Italy’s oldest Trail Running races – The Porte di Pietra.
Lake Maggiore and Orta
Bordering on Switzerland with a background of stunning Alps, to appease even the most tormented soul lie the famous Lakes Maggiore (also bordering with Lombardy) with it’s picturesque Stresa and the smaller, Lake Orta.
Langhe & Monferrato – Food Glorious Food
Piemonte is the region that gave rise to the world famous Slow Food Movement. Boasting a mature and rich culinary tradition of its own, the area’s wines and gastronomy are celebrated with the UNESCO seal of approval granted to the Vineyard Landscape of Piedmont – Langhe-Roero and Monferrato
Piedmont produces some of the best red wines in the world: Barolo, and Barbaresco to name just two.
Some best known Foods are:
- White Truffles of Alba
- Castelmagno cheese
- Gianduiotti chocolates
- Piedmont’s big red wines, such as Barolo, Barbaresco, Nebbiolo and Dolcetto
You can learn more about the flavours of Piemonte HERE
A Royal Heritage – The Savoy Family
Until Garibaldi unified Italy in 1861, Italy was composed of plenty of smaller minority states and kingdoms, ruled and governed by numerous noble families, (and Papal nobility too!). A lot revolved around power, wealth and titles. Intermarriage was rampant along with corruption and nepotism.
One of these noble dynasties was the House of Savoy – Casa Savoia, which came to rule Italy from the Unification in 1861 until 1946 when it ceased with the outcome of the Constitutional Referendum, and Italy’s move to become a Republic. Today Piedmont bears many a testimony to a royal past, for example The Residences of the Royal House of Savoy in Turin which is today a World Heritage Site.
Tradition and Language
Occitan culture and language is still alive today in many valleys of Piedmont and in many parts of parts of Southern Europe.
The Walser culture is also present in Piedmont – of Germanic descent, concentrated around the foothills of Mount Rosa.
Art & Culture in Stylish Cities
Don’t miss Piedmont’s principal city – Turin, famous for Fiat, the Royal palaces, stylish streets and Juventus Stadium, and a busy aperitif culture.
Alessandria, Asti, Biella, Cuneo, Novara, Moncalieri, Vercelli, are some of the main cities.
UNESCO World Heritage sites in Piedmont
- Sacri Monti of Piedmont and Lombardy
- The vineyard landscapes of Langhe, Roero and Monferrato
- Residences of the Royal House of Savoy
- Prehistoric Pile Dwellings around the Alps
So why go to Piedmont for Walking, Hiking or Running?
Although Italy has so many magical locations, Piedmont strikes a chord – with two national parks to explore: the Gran Paradiso and the Val Grande, there are plenty of trails to be enjoyed, either on your own or as part of one of the many guided tours available.
- Gran Paradiso National Park– named after the Gran Paradiso mountain – located between Piedmont and the Aosta Valley.
- Val Grande National Park – A remote and wild area, if you’re in search of wilderness this is the park for you.
Regional and Other Parks:
We’ve listed just a few below, you can see the full list of over 20 regional parks: HERE
- Parco naturale del Marguareis – Liguria and Piedmont meld together in the Marguareis Park, infusing the surroundings with lush Mediterranean influences, plus the largest Karst area in all of Piedmont, with over 150km of caves.
- Parco naturale Alpi Marittime – The Maritime Alps – Clear Alpine lakes, military roads and glaciers.
- OASI ZEGNA – created by fashion guru Ermenegildo Zegna.
- Alta Valsesia Nature Park – the highest park in Europe, the area includes part of Monte Rosa with its Punta Gnifetti (4,559 meters)
- Parco naturale del Monviso Enjoy the rocky, almost Dolomitic scenery.
Want something more?
Grande Traversata delle Alpi (GTA)
- If you’re up for a challenge see the GTA – It’s just over 1000km long, and runs western Alps from from the Pennine Alps through the Graian and Cottian Alps to the Maritime and Ligurian Alps. For more details – see the the wikipedia entry:
La Via del Sale – The Salt Road
- For more details see HERE.
Langhe Roero Trails
- Hiking tracks for all tastes in the Wine and Food country of the Langhe
For more details see HERE.
- The Pilgrim’s route – Via Francigena, that goes from Canterbury to Rome, also crosses Piedmont.
For more details see HERE.
Books and Maps
Rother Walking Guide:
- “GTA – Grande Traversata Delle Alpi: Through the Piedmont to the Mediterranean. 65 Stages. With GPS – Tracks” by by Kurschner Iris, Haas Dieter
- “Walk and Treks The Maritime Alps” by Gillian Price
- “Gran Paradiso: Alta Via 2 trek and day walks” by Gillian Price
- “Through the Italian Alps The GTA – The Grande Traversata delle Alpi” by Gillian Price
- Multigraphic offer Maps of the area: See online HERE
What Trail Race Events can I enter in Piedmont?
We’ve listed a small selection of the many Trail Races in Piedmont.
Bear in mind that nearly all of the below listed races have shorter distances available too.
YSANGARDA NIGHT TRAIL – January
TRAIL DEL MOTTY – May
LE PORTE DI PIETRA – May
TRAIL DEL MONTE SOGLIO -May
TROFEO MONTE CHABERTON – June
MOSCATO NIGHT TRAIL A COPPIE July
CRO TRAIL – July
BETTELMATT ULTRA TRAIL – July
ROYAL ULTRA SKY MARATHON – July
TRE RIFUGI VAL PELLICE – August
TOUR MONVISO TRAIL – August
LA VIA DI ANNIBALE – 3September
TRAIL DEL PARCO DELLE ALPI MARITTIME – September (no race in 2017)
TRAIL DEL MOSCATO – September
ECOMARATONA DEL BARBARESCO E DEL TARTUFO BIANCO – October
ULTRA TRAIL LAGO D’ORTA – October
When to go
All year round basically, although if you’re heading to the Alps for walking and running, between June to September is best.
A great time to go to the Langhe area will be autumn when harvesting and grape picking takes place.
You can easily fly to the nearest airports, either Turin, Genoa or Milan Malpensa.
- Gran Paradiso Mountain
- Lake Maggiore
- Mole Antonelliana – Film museum
- Wine tasting in the Langhe area
- The Sacra di San Michele
- Bramfam Fort
Maria Elisabetta Bellini is Italyontrail.com’s founder, born in the U.K, she came to running whilst living in Italy, where she still lives and trains. Never ceasing to marvel at what’s at the summit of a hill, or around the bend along the trail, she loves using trail running as a means to explore nature, contemplation and Italy.