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Piedmont / Piemonte
This region was once the home of the Ligurian peoples and later the Gauls before being absorbed by the expanding Roman republic. After the fall of the Empire, the area was divided up by warring feudal lords before the slow consolidation of the region by the House of Savoy starting in the 11th century. This region faced the wrath of Frederick Barbarossa as a member of the Lombard League in their face off against the Holy Roman Emperor. By the 16th century the Savoy family had barely managed to escape extinction by wars and intrigue, only to emerge as the rulers of Piedmonte. Their holdings were to include Sicily and later Sardinia on their way toward the Risorgimento and the creation of the Kingdom of Italy. In many ways, the history of the Piemonte is the history of modern nation of Italy.
Local cuisine has been influenced by the close proximity of France and heavily relies on butter (as opposed to olive oil) for its recipes. However there are some exceptions to this rule such as the manufacture of white truffle oil. The Bagna Cauda is served like an oil fondue and is another exception to the oil/butter rule. Cardi alla Bagna Cauda is a dish of locally grown chard served with hot sauce, anchovies, garlic and white truffles. Fonduta is a regional fondue dish made with melted cheese, milk, eggs and of course white truffles. Piedmonte is also the home to grissino, a thin and crispy breadstick that has become popular throughout the country.
The Golden Fleece of gastronomy, the white truffle is a mainstay of Piemontese cooking and is often found sliced thin on top of salads and pastas. White truffle oil is a sinfully delicious and treated with great care since it is very expensive. Other regional dishes include local game such as rabbit and boiled meat dishes of veal and ox tail. Local desserts include Zabaglione, a decadent concoction of egg yolks, sugar and wine.
Piedmont & Barolo - a gourmet´s paradise
Piemonte produces some well-known wines in the chalk hills of Monferrato. This region produces the Asti white wines that include Moscato and sparkling Asti Spumante. The region is also home to full-bodied reds that include Barbera, Barolo and Barberesco. The famous Italian vermouths such as Martini and Cinzano are also produced here and distributed worldwide and drunk locally as an aperitivo. Festivals are held throughout the region celebrating both its past and its many culinary delights, including several white truffle festivals in the fall.
This region is not only an agricultural center but an industrial one as well. Piedmonte and it's capital of Turin is an industrial powerhouse that has young men from other regions of Italy flocking to work in its manufacturing and chemical plants. The city of Turin is also the capital of Italian engineering and its southern suburbs the home to automobile manufacturers Fiat and Lancia.
Modern Turin is proud of its past but not obsessed with it like some places that rely on tourism. However the city of Turin does have a rich past as home to the House of Savoy. Turin is still home to the noble house's greatest treasure, the Shroud of Turin. Car enthusiasts should visit the impressive automobile museum.
Turin is a great place to visit since it has a little bit of everything: Shopping, cars, history, religion and pleasant open spaces. All of this accentuated by delicious regional foods, mountain views and an unexcelled wine industry. The city can be seen a day-trip or as a base for a larger tour of the Piedmonte region.
Alba is a charming medieval city with old houses and stone towers known for its excellent wine. The city is in the heart of white truffle country and each fall truffle lovers the world over converge on the town for its annual truffle fair. Alba is also home to wine favorites such as Barolo and Barbesco. To the south of the town are the chalk and clay hills of the Langhe, covered in vines and Oaks. A view from this area explains the culinary gifts that nature has bestowed upon Alba.
Asti is another town that has retained its medieval appearance of red bricks and yellow limestone. Despite local industry, Asti is still mainly an agricultural center and today is best known for the sparkling white wine of the same name as well as many other culinary specialties. Asti Spumante, the regional sparkling white wine is complemented by a locally made red that is equally deserving of praise. Barbera d'Asti is the finest of this regional wine which is made across the Piemonte. A local goat cheese called robiola is served with a unique mustard sauce, often with truffle stuffed Salami.
Alba - Truffle festival in October
Asti - Carnivale in February
Festivals of Festivals in September
Palio Horse Race (it predates the race in Siena) takes place every September.
White truffle festival in November
Ivrea- An Historic carnival and the "Battle of the Oranges".
Maranzana - Festa dello Spumante (Sparkling wine festival) in August.
For further information:
Official regional homepage: http://www.regione.piemonte.it/
By Justin Demetri