If truffles, the best hazelnuts in the world, chocolate, and Barolo wine, set against a backdrop of alpine ranges or rolling hills covered in vineyards sounds like your idea of paradise, then you need to visit Piedmont. The region translates literally as ‘foot of the mountains’ and evokes just some of the beauty that awaits you on a trip to Piedmont.
Most well-known for the UNESCO Heritage Langhe-Roero area which includes Barolo, or perhaps as the keepers of the Shroud of Turin, there is so much more to discover when you travel to Piedmont. Expect unique cuisine, some of the most beautiful towns in Italy, royal castles, an elegant capital city, striking mountains, blissful lakes, and so much more. Keep reading to uncover our full travel guide to Piedmont.
Where is Piedmont
Located in the very north-west of Italy, Piedmont borders Liguria, France, Valle d’Aosta, Switzerland, Lombardy, and a tiny section of Emilia Romagna. The region is located to the West of Milan, and the capital Turin is a short hour train ride away by high-speed train.
Whilst both in the North, Piedmont is to the extreme West compared to Venice which lies on the East coast of the country. North of both Florence and Rome, the capital is reachable via train within three and a half hours from the former or just under 5 hours from the Eternal City.
Map of Piedmont
Main cities and towns in Piedmont
Piedmont is the second largest of the twenty regions of Italy in terms of area and has many picturesque towns and villages to explore
- Turin / Torino: The capital of Piedmont and first capital of Italy is sophisticated Turin. It was home to the Royal Savoy family for a century and their influence is still felt in the stunning architecture they sponsored and built. Be sure to visit the Royal Palace, Palazzo Madama, the Ancient Roman neighborhood in the Quadrilatero, the Porta Palazzo market, and climb the landmark Mole Antonelliana.
- Alba: The capital of the Langhe wine region, a visit to Alba is a must when traveling in Piedmont. Wander its medieval streets, explore underground Alba, or indulge at one of its many fantastic restaurants. A visit in the Fall coincides with its International White Truffle Fair where you can watch a unique donkey palio (race), medieval parades, and eat your weight in truffle products.
- La Morra: If you like picturesque viewpoints, you must add La Morra to your Piedmont travel list! One of the more well-known towns in Langhe, it has the most spectacular viewing point over all of the villages in the wine region. Explore the great enoteccas in town, indulge in the local cuisine, and don’t miss a visit to the Barolo Chapel a short drive out of town.
- Orta San Giulio: Piedmont’s beautiful Lake Orta is another destination worth discovering. Orta San Giulio is the pretty village on the lake that begs attention. Wander its gorgeous streets, visit local craft shops, take a boat out to the silent Isola San Giulio, or hike up to the great viewpoint at Sacro Monte of Orta.
- Bra: The birthplace of the Slow Food movement, this thriving town is for serious foodies. In fact, you’re likely to run into a few students or alumni from the University of Gastronomic Sciences in nearby Pollenzo here. Every two years they host the delicious Cheese festival in September so be sure to time your visit to coincide with it.
- Barolo: Bearing the same name as its famous wine, Barolo is a tiny town in the Langhe wine region. Visit a winery in town where you can sip on Italy’s most prized red wine in its very birthplace.
- Asti: Another charming city in Piedmont is undoubtedly Asti, also known as the city of towers. Be sure to visit the towers still standing, the 14th century cathedral, the crypt of Saint Anastasio, and wander its medieval streets. Try to time your visit to coincide with the Palio in September.
- Cuneo: This mountain city is like a mini Turin with the same air of elegance as the capital but a small-town feel. Walk through the prettiest street in town Contrada Mondovì, which was once home to the Jewish Ghetto, and marvel at the spectacular view of the alps from Piazza Galimberti. Watch out for the city’s famous chocolates filled with rum too!
Top things to do in Piedmont
There is no shortage of fabulous things to do in Piedmont. Whilst it’s a foodies paradise, those with an interest in history or nature will also strike gold here. Our favorite activities in the region include:
Take part in a truffle hunt
Piedmont is famed for its white truffles in particular – they can’t be farmed and are unique to the land here. Join a truffle hunt to try your luck finding truffles with the help of a tartufai (truffle hunter or forager) and their trusty team of dogs. You’ll be amazed at the collaboration between man and beast in the hunt for some of the world’s most sought after delicacies.
Try Barolo, Piedmont’s famous wine
When in Piedmont, drink like the Piemontese! Don’t miss a visit to a winery where you can try the wine of Kings, Barolo. Visit Massolino or Vietti to sample some traditional expressions of this variety made exclusively with Nebbiolo grapes.
Hike in the Gran Paradiso National Park
There are many beautiful hiking trails in Piedmont, but the Gran Paradiso National Park is perhaps the most beautiful to discover. Located near the border with the Valle d’Aosta, the park is comprised of glaciers, lakes, and an enormous range of flora and fauna.
Take to the slopes
Home to the Alps, there are plenty of options to go to the snow, snowboard and ski in Piedmont. Choose from Via Lattea and Bardonecchia, located nearby to Turin; Riserva Bianca and Limone Piemonte near Cuneo; the Valsesia Monterosa; the Neveazzurra region; or the Alps around Biella
Visit the Venaria Reale
Piedmont boasts many palaces and hunting lodges and choosing which ones to visit can be overwhelming. However, Venaria Reale is noted as one of the most spectacular and is a UNESCO heritage listed site. It’s often compared to the Palace of Versailles, but you’ll to have to visit for yourself to see which is more impressive.
Admire the view at the top of the Mole Antonelliana
The icon of Turin, the Mole Antonelliana was originally built as a synagogue before the city bought the property and added the tall spire reaching 550ft. Zoom all the way to the top in the glass elevator and explore the fantastic Cinema Museum housed below afterwards.
Visit the Egyptian Museum
It might sound odd to include a museum of African antiquities on this list, but Turin is home to the biggest collection of Ancient Egyptian artifacts outside of Cairo. For anyone with a passing interest in Ancient Egyptian history and culture, this is a must-visit.
What to eat and drink in Piedmont
Piedmont is a world renowned food lovers destination. The region has a rich cuisine and makes good use of butter, garlic, anchovies, and top quality Fassona beef in its dishes. Whilst Piedmont does make white wines, including well-known Moscato d’Asti, the red wines shine supreme here – people come from far and wide to try local varieties Barolo, Barbera and Barberesco.
Some of the best food and drinks to try when you travel in Piedmont include:
- Vitello tonatto: Medium-rare slices of veal are topped with a creamy tuna mayonnaise-like sauce and caperberries. This dish is best enjoyed with Piedmont’s typical grissini breadsticks.
- Tajarin: One of Piedmont’s typical pasta shapes are the long, thin tajarin noodles. Made with 00 flour and extra eggs, this is a rich pasta best served with ragu or truffles grated over the top.
- Agnolotti al plin: The other typical pasta of the region, agnolotti are filled pasta traditionally stuffed with roast meat and herbs. Similar to a ravioli shape, they are pinched into a little parcel which gives them their name. Try it paired with brodo or hot broth in the winter, or roast beef sauce.
- Bagna cauda: Literally translating as ‘hot bath’, this is a typical wintertime dish. Bagna Cauda is made with anchovies, garlic, and extra virgin olive oil. It’s served in a terracotta pot and traditionally used as a dipping sauce for cut up raw and cooked vegetables like carrot, celery, capsicum, cooked broccoli and potatoes.
- Gianduiotti: Typical hazelnut chocolate treats from Turin are the smooth and delicious gianduiotti. They come wrapped in the shape of an ingot or little bar of gold. Try them at Baratti e Milano.
- Nebbiolo: The most typical grape of Piedmont is of course Nebbiolo from which Barolo is made (provided it follows a long list of regulations). It’s a full-bodied, tannin rich wine with notes of dark red fruits, truffles, and herbs.
- Bicerin: This chocolate coffee flavour bomb is made with a shot of espresso, mixed with gianduja chocolate, and topped with sweet cream. The best place to try it is at the historic Al Bicerin bar.
Where to stay in Piedmont
There are a great range of diverse accommodation options available for your trip to Piedmont. Choose from beautiful relais, luxurious castles (like Castello di Gabiano), agriturismi (farm stays), apartments or traditional hotels. Turin makes for the best overall base given its close proximity to Milan and the Langhe (both are reachable in just one hour).
For a trip focused in the wine region, consider staying in well connected Alba for the most extensive accommodation and dining options or La Morra for a smaller town vibe. If you’re planning to hit the slopes, the Val di Susa is one of the most popular areas. Try Sestriere or Bardonecchia for the best ski resort options there.
Those interested in visiting Lake Orta are best placed to stay at Orta San Giulio itself as it’s a slightly long drive to and from Turin (just under two hours by car) but much closer to Milan.
When to go to Piedmont
Piedmont is at its absolute best during the shoulder seasons. In Fall, the harvest season is in full swing, and later in the season the little nuggets of gold (white truffles) are waiting to be found.
September is a great month to visit for good weather, the chance to watch the Palio in Asti, and visit the Cheese festival in Bra.
October to December are best for for enjoying white truffles and the magical ambience as thick fog is likely to cover the region. Unlike much of Italy’s other regions, Fall is actually high season in Piedmont so remember that accommodation and activities should be booked well in advance or you could join our small group tour of Piedmont and avoid all the fuss.
Spring is another excellent time to visit Piedmont as the region bursts into life after the long winter. Watch out for the Vinum wine festival in Alba, the asparagus festival in Santena, and the agnolotti festival in Passerano. In the summertime, the region gets very hot with temperatures frequently at 86°F (30°C). There are many food festivals held during this period including strawberries at Peveragno, cherries in Pecetto, peppers in Carmagnola, and lasagne in Bosio.
We also enjoy taking small groups to Piedmont in Spring to enjoy this festive atmosphere and the fields bursting with life.
Winter is the best time to visit if you’re planning a trip to the Alps snowboarding or skiing. If not, it’s probably best avoided as temperatures go down to at least 31°F (3°C) in Turin) and much lower in smaller towns. Christmas is a great time to visit as many markets are set up in Turin and smaller towns in the area, however the region is very quiet afterwards until around April.
How to get to Piedmont
Turin is home to the main international airport in the region, where it’s possible to fly into from many other main Italian and European cities. If you’re traveling to the region from the United States, Australia or outside of Europe, the easiest way to arrive is by flying directly into Milan Malpensa and then taking a fast speed train to Turin Porta Nuova Station.
The high speed Freccia and Italo train services run throughout the country to Turin – an hour from Milan, three and a half hours from Florence, and just under five hours from Rome. You can research timetables and book tickets quickly and easily using Omio – an online transport booking platform.
If you’re traveling by car, you can reach the capital from Milan in two hours on the A4. From Florence, the drive is just under five hours along the E70 and A1/E35, or from Rome, the drive is about seven hours along the A1. We recommend using Auto Europe or Rentalcars.com to browse the best car rental options. You’ll find the best deals at Turin and Malpensa airports.
How to get around Piedmont
Turin is well serviced by public transport with buses, trams and the metro, so a car isn’t strictly necessary for a visit to the capital.
Whilst it is possible to take the train to Alba and Asti from Turin, there aren’t great public transport options to the smaller towns in the Langhe region and certainly not to the wineries in the area.
For this reason, a car or driver are definitely recommended for a trip to the wine region as well as to the mountains. The best place to collect your hire car is from Turin’s airport or the Porta Susa Railway Station. Consider booking a private driver if you’re planning to visit wineries.
Let’s go to Piedmont!
Inspired to visit incredible Piedmont? If you liked this Piedmont travel guide and are looking for more ideas about traveling in the region, have a listen to our podcast on Piedmont, Palaces and Castles of Piedmont, and dishes to try in Piedmont. Or, read our article on things to do in Turin.
Want to discover Piedmont with us? For a deeper local connection, why not join one of our Piedmont small group tours. You can see what our guests think about our Untold Italy tours in Piedmont by watching the video below.