Piedmont offers a little bit of everything: Skiing, wine, chocolate, artisanal cheese and other culinary delights, biking and outdoor activities galore, a bounty of natural beauty, art, architecture, culture, and of course history.
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Cascina Monsignore Farm
Scenically perched overlooking rolling fields dotted with farmhouses,villas, and copses of trees, the Cascina Monsignore Farm turns out 14,000 bottles of wine per year. Piedmont is known for its wines, which are distributed widely and available on menus throughout the world. A visit to the region is not complete without touring a vineyard and sampling its vintage, such as the Dolcetto delle Langhe Monregalesi produced by this former 15th-century residence of the Bishop of Casale's See.
Prato Nevoso is a ski-resort town 1,480 meter (4,856 feet) above sea level, but its challenging terrain also makes it a major destination for hardcore cyclers. Onlookers of the Tour de France take the sport very seriously, often tailgating for days to stake out a good spot along the route. On July 20, the town served as the 15th stage of the 2008 tour, and it's also been the endpoint of several legs of the Giro d'Italia, the world's second most popular bike race.
Finishing the Tour de France
The party nears a close for these onlookers and their faithful canine companions when the Tour de France participants roll over the finish line in Prato Nevoso.
This bustling café in the medieval town of Cuneo, whose name means cone- or V-shaped, is a popular stop for locals in need of their morning shot of espresso or cup of frothy cappucino. Save some cash by standing at the bar and eating your brioche rather than paying the cover fee to snag a table. While in town, be sure to try some of Cuneo's speciality, Cuneesi al rhum: these chocolates with a traditional rum-based filling can be found at shops such as Giraudo, Piazza Galimberti, tel. 12 0171/692620.
The residents of Cuneo celebrate their city's nomination to the role of host town for the 16th stage of the tour. A handmade banner just off the parade route shows local support for the race while bringing to light the increasing problem of drug use in sports.
Tour de France sponsors
Sponsors cue up for the parade that will kick off the 16th stage of the tour in the medieval district of Cuneo.
This charcuterie enjoys a central position in the heart of the the alpine village of Limone, which lies 100 km (62 miles) south of Turin and about 20 km (12.5 miles) south of Cuneo. In a valley at the base of the surrounding mountains, the laid-back resort town offers basic amenities to vacationers looking to relax, imbibe, ski, golf, hike, or just stroll the tiny cobblestone streets of the 19th-century Old Town.
This ages-old social ritual takes place at nightfall when Italians amble through the town's main streets and piazze together, socializing along the way with friends and neighbors. While girls linking arms or holding hands -- as demonstrated by this pair taking to the streets of Limone -- might raise eyebrows in more socially reserved cultures, it's a typical phenomenon among the warm and effusive Italians, many of whom still dress up for their promenade.
Grand Palais Excelsior
The Grand Palais Excelsior is a good place to stay as well as dine in medieval Limone, the Alps' southernmost ski resort. The hotel's well-priced Il San Pietro Ristorante serves guests and non-guests alike a classic menu that focuses on homemade pastas and local offerings, such as veal, brook trout, and ingredients handpicked in the wild. Elegant guest rooms have ample bedrooms and living spaces, which include small kitchens and killer views from the balconies.
Entracque bike path
Pastureland and groups of fairy-tale-like butterflies greet bikers on the initial leg of this paved bike route. Summertime can be quite hot here and the path becomes fairly steep, so bikers should prepare for the trip by drinking plenty of fluids and possibly carrying a snack. When you reach the summit, treat yourself to a regionally inspired meal at Locanda del Sorriso (www.locandadelsorriso.com): the gnocchi with creamy pumpkin sauce and nostrale (a local cheese) or the lamb Sambucano are both excellent choices.
On the left bank of the Po River, the city of Turin is often represented by an image of its namesake, the bull, of which you can spot numerous depictions around town. Legendary among chocolate lovers, Turin, or Torino as it's known in Italy, has been popularized by the delicacies turned out by internationally renowned chocolatier Ferrero (who makes Nutella, Mon Chéri, Ferrero Rocher, and Kinder chocolates). But to sample the wares of the oldest chocolate maker in town, stop by Stratta, Piazza San Carlo 191, for their splendid gianduiotti (a hazelnut-cream-filled chocolate), marrons glacés (candied chestnuts popular in northern Italy and sotuhern France), and the famous caramelle Baratti (a hard caramel candy). Balance out the sugar high by sitting down to a traditional meal at the historic Caffe dei Fratelli Fiorio (Via Po 8; tel. 8173225), allegedly the oldest restaurant in town. Their lunchtime buffet is a favorite among locals. Hint: True chocofiles should stop into a tourist office and buy a 24-hour ChocoPass, which for €10 gets you 10 tastes.
Many of the 2006 Winter Olympics structures -- such as this, the controversially modern Atrium Torino located behind the Fontana Angelica in the elegant 19th-century Piazza Solferino -- remain in and around Turin, which played host to the XX Olympic Winter Games. More than 2,500 athletes and 18,000 volunteers participated, and about 900,000 tickets were sold to Olympic events that made Turin a household name.
Around the corner from Palazza Reale, these well preserved Ancient Roman gates -- one of 4 such entrances to the old city -- herald back to when the "Cardus Maximus" was the second-most traveled path in the city. Walking down the wide pedestrian-only stone-block roadway today, you can suspend your disbelief to imagine the horses and carts clattering through Porte Palatine in antiquity.
On history-packed Piazza Castello, the Palazzo Madama (www.palazzomadamatorino.it) dates from the 1st century AD but since 1934 has housed the Museo Civico d'Arte Antica, which displays 3,800 works of art ranging from a 13th-century enamel casket to exquisite gem-encrusted jewelry from the 8th century. The palace got its name in 1675 when Maria Giovanna Battista of Savoy-Nemours, aka the second Madama Reale, moved in. After your tour, stop at one of the many neighboring cafes for a drink -- likely to be accompanied by a plate of complimentary cicchetti (tapas-like bar snacks) -- and a bit of sometimes show-stopping people watching.
Royal Palace guests
A group of school children lines up for a visit to the Royal Palace.
The 17th-century Palazzo Reale, or Royal Palace, was built to house the aristocrats of the Savoy family. The lavish palace is home to an array of impressive tapestries as well as the Royal Armory, which features a significant collection of 16th- and 17th-century weaponry. Part of the Residences of the Royal House of Savoy, the palace is now included on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Street scene with nun
As the rest of Italy, Turin can tout quite a number of religious affiliations. In fact, most non-Italians know Turin for its Shroud of Turin, which is a relic believed by many to have been the cloth that wrapped Jesus' body for his burial after the crucifixion. Modern-day visitors can see a replica of the shroud in the Cathedral of St John the Baptist at the Royal Palace; the real thing is trotted out only on uber-special occasions. Visit the Frommers.com destination guide for more information.
Note: This trip was sponsored by the Regione Piemonte and Azienda Turistica Locale del Cuneese.