The wines, wine roads, wineries and vineyards of Piemonte
Piemonte - a passionate landscape
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Like other Italian Regions, Piemonte (or Piedmont) offers the traveler a variety of wonderful landscapes, from the snow-topped mountains in the Alps that border with France and Switzerland, to the rolling foothills that flow out of the mountains, to a wide and fertile plain. The Italian Region of Lombardia (Lombardy) lies to the west, and Liguria to the south. The north west corner borders on the Region of Valle D'Aosta.

The capital, Turin, the home of Fiat auto manufacturing, is a large, sprawling, sometimes ugly metropolis that can be off-putting as you drive, bus or train into its old, central district, the "centro". Once there, however, it is rich in architectural, artistic, and culinary treasures.

All of Italy (and some of France) can be found in Piemonte. Architecturally, styles range from Romanesque, to Gothic, to Renaissance and now, to the ultra modern, which includes the most oppressively mundane to the odd building in Turin and elsewhere that thrills. Visitors can enjoy the countryside as guests at any one of hundreds of Agriturismi, or can ski, hike, climb, and kayak in the Italian Alps.

As to its history - well, as with all parts of Italy, it is long, complicated and interesting.

Archaeologists have unearthed prehistoric stone engravings, and bronze age settlements in Piedmont, indicating the original tribal inhabitants of the Region were mostly Ligurian and Celtic.

During the 2nd Punic War, in about 218 BC, the Romans moved north in an unsuccessfully attempt prevent Hannibal from invading Italy, by way of the Alps through the Monceniso pass 80 kilometers west of Turin. It seems to have been the first contact the Romans had with local tribes. In 150 BC, the Romans, now more secure in their role as a great empire, settled and subjugated Piemonte (as well as as what is now Liguria and Lombardia).

After Roman rule collapsed in the 4th century AD, control over the area fell first to the Goths, then to the Byzantine Empire, then to the Longobards, during which time a hierarchical feudal system took hold that lasted well into the 19th century. The Piemonte area evolved into an independent kingdom from about 888 to 963, during which time Holy Roman Emperors made many unsuccessful efforts to annex Piemonte.

Finally, at least in a nominal sense, Piemonte (with parts of modern Lombardia and Liguria), became part of the Holy Roman Empire with the founding of the House of Savoy, a dynasty that lasted until, and continued long after, the unification of Italy in 1861.

In 1798, Napoleon invaded, and King Vittorio Emanuele I went into exile. The Congress of Vienna in 1815 restored his throne. Sometime after, social, cultural, economic and political events engendered the period that has come to be known as the Risorgimento, in which the House of Savoy, played such an important role, leading the war efforts against the Austrians in 1848 and 1860. Unification of most of the modern country of Italy was achieved in 1861, as the Kingdom of Italy, with Vittorio Emanuele II as its monarch, and Turin as the country's first capital.

All did not remain peaceful. The Nazis invaded and occupied northern Italy, which roused the people to such an extent that Piemonte was a hot bed of the Italian resistance - the Resistenza.

After the restoration of the House of Savoy in 1815, Piemonte began a long modernization in almost every aspect of life, interrupted of course, by the two great wars, but never really ceasing.

Today, Piemonte's economy, one of the most vibrant in Italy, is supported on a mix of industries, from car manufacturing in Turin (Fiat) to farming (dairy farming wheat, grapes, maize, rice) and associated agricultural production (wine, dairy products), to tourism. Over 700 square kilometers (170,000 acres) are devoted to viniculture, and many of the wines produced, such as Barbera, Barolo and Barbaresco, and Dolcetto are sought after by wine connoisseurs around the world. The white wine, Asti Spumonte, produced from grapes grown in the Asti region is denegrated by many as a poor man's champagne, but increasingly it is being seen for what it is: a superior, sparkling white.

Come through the Frejus tunnel from southern France, or over the Swiss Alps. Come east from Milan, or north from Genoa or Lucca or Pisa in Tuscany. But come!