Where is Piedmont? Piedmont is the second largest of the Italian regions with Sicily being the largest. It has an area of 25,399 square kilometres and a population of about 4.3 million. The capital of Piedmont is Turin (Torino). It is surrounded on three sides by the alps, and shares borders with France and Switzerland as well as the Italian regions of Lombardy, Liguria, Aosta Valley and Emilia-Romagna. The provinces are Alessandria, Asti, Biella, Cuneo, Novara, Torino,Verbano-Cusio-Ossola and Vercelli.
Piedmont is the historical home of the Savoy family, previous rulers of Italy, who have left behind a fabulous legacy of opulent, baroque palaces. Visitors searching for history and culture can also enjoy many other medieval fortresses and castles as well as more than 40 museums. However, Piedmont’s magical, flowing landscapes remain one of the region’s greatest attractions. Piedmont is also famous for its cuisine. Highlights include their sought-after White Truffles, great wines such as Barolo and Barbaresco, and various sweets and deserts, Vermouth and the hazelnut-chocolate confection we know as Nutella.
Turin, situated on the banks of the river Po, was once a major European political centre, and was Italy’s first capital city in 1861. It is a major industrial centre, ranked third after Rome and Milan and is the 78th richest city in the world. The city is also famous for being the home of the Shroud of Turin and of Italian football team Juventus. Turin is the headquarters of Fiat, Lancia and Alfa Romeo. In 2006 Turin hosted the Winter Olympics and continues to provide excellent facilities for a wide range of winter sports.
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Culture and history of Piedmont
The most ancient inhabitants of the region were the Celts and Liguri, who were then occupied by the Romans. The barbarian invasions of the 5th century completely destroyed the region, and only under the Lombards civilized life was re-established. Important Lombard dukedoms rose in Novara, Ivrea, Asti, Tortona and Torino.
After the Frankish invasion of the late 8th century AD the feudal system was introduced and many monasteries established. Then in the 11th century, as in the rest of Italy, the rise of free Communes began, among them Asti, Chieri, Ivrea, Novara, Torino, Tortona, Cuneo, Mondovì, Vercelli, Alba, Savigliano, which often fought against the powerful Marquises of Monferrato. In the latter half of the 13th century the Communes sided with Charles of Anjou, and the Angevin rule lasted throughout the following century.
History: from the Renaissance
During the Renaissance the mighty Visconti family ruled over Alba, Alessandria, Asti, Bra, Novara, Tortona, Vercelli, while the Savoy family (the dynasty at the head of united Italy in 1860) from Southern France started to spread in the region. In 1559, after a war between France and Spain, the Cateau-Cambrésis Treaty gave part of Piemonte to the Savoy Duke Emanuele Filiberto and to the Marquis of Monferrato, leaving to France the cities of Saluzzo, Torino, Chieri, Pinerolo, Chivasso, Asti and to Spain the city of Vercelli.
Then in the 18th century, while the European monarchies were all involved in the Succession Wars, the Savoy were able to unify the region. Then in the early 19th century the Italian Risorgimento found fertile ground and the support of the monarchs and of some enlightened ministers, like Camillo Benso Count of Cavour, who was finally able to weave the network of alliances necessary to allow the rise of the Italian State.