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Sunday, 17 March 2013 14:09

For Agents, Piedmont May Be the Next Tuscany

Written by  Maria Lisella
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Studded with UNESCO World Heritage sites, crenellated castles, royal residences, Roman aqueducts, deep lakes, bright countryside and stone villages, Piedmont (or Piemonte in Italian, meaning at the foot of the mountain) is home to the Slow Food Movement, a global organization that has been called the “cure” for a distressingly 
fast-food world.

Spectacular alpine landscapes form the backdrop for travel through Piedmont and the Valle d’Aosta. Art, culture, history, nature and foods and wines also characterize this northwestern corner of Italy.

Coveted by the Celts, Ligurian tribes, Burgundians and Goths to name a few, Piedmont never lost sight of its Roman roots, nor its tireless gastronomic traditions, as well as events such as the oldest Palio that takes place each year in front of Asti’s medieval palaces.

Of Italy’s 20 regions, Piedmont leads the pack in the number of wines it produces that meet the exacting standards that are awarded DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) status: bold, red Barolos and Barbarescos and complex, dry, Gattinaras and Ghemmes, Moscato and Erbaluce Bianca and sweet, light-hearted white Astis.

The Baci di Cherasco or “chocolate kisses,” are noteworthy as is Piedmont’s Tonda Gentile, the highest-quality hazelnut in the world that won the European Union’s Protected Geographical Indication status. Finally, the most precious mushroom of all --  the tartufo or white truffle - originated in Costigliole d’Asti .

Turin, Piedmont’s dynamic 2,000-year old capital, which was once a small, fortified town, rose to an international cultural center under the Duke of Savoy. Known today primarily as the modern powerhouse behind FIAT cars and Olivetti business machines, its pristine forests and challenging peaks enhanced its role as host of the Winter Olympics in 2006. Turin’s Egyptian Museum offers the largest collection after the museum in Cairo, as well as other distinctive museums such as the Cinema Museum.

Its city center boasts 12 miles of arcades, Baroque piazzas and palaces, a Renaissance Cathedral, the towering Mole Antonelliana, an old Roman Quarter and elegant cafes, for which it is famous. The Royal Palace of Turin, a UNESCO site, was the seat of the House of Savoy from 1646 until the unification of Italy.

 

Plan your route

Travel itineraries usually start from Turin and travel deeper into the heart of the region found in the charming villages of Alba, Costigliole d’Asti where travelers can often meet truffle experts, and stop in Cherasco for a taste of its world-famous baci. Wine-producing towns such as Barolo come with opportunities to sample wine at their wineries of origin and step back in time for a look at one of the Residences of the Royal House of Savoy, a UNESCO site in Venaria.

Many itineraries also include Lake Maggiore, which is one of the best-known resort areas in the region as well as traveling deeper into Biella, Novara, yet religious markets tend to track down the famous Shroud of Turin as well as going to Calvario.

A new element to the Piedmont itineraries currently on the American market is the addition of Sordevolo in the Province of Biella, about 35 miles northeast of Turin. It is a town known for its appeal to religious pilgrims.

Sordevolo’s play is similar to that of Oberammergau in Germany. Here, the entire town’s population of 1,200 is involved. Some folks make the costumes. Others design the stage and set, which are outdoors, in front of a 2,500-seat amphitheater. Roughly 200 residents get in to act.

Planning ahead, Central Holidays holds the exclusive agreement to sell packages within the entire American continent [North, Central and South] to promote and package this little known Passion Play that will take place in Sordevolo in 2015.

CEO Gianni Miradoli proudly shared that Central includes all entrance fees to attractions, as well as offering clients an opportunity to order their meals from menus and not from a set touristic menu at their hotels. “With the amount of wonderful restaurants in this region in particular, it would be a pity to limit people’s experiences to a pre-ordered meal - after all, you want people to remember and love their Italian meals,” he told an audience of travel agents recently.

While planning a trip to Piedmont, alert clients that this region’s wool makers are also famous as is the combination of wool and cashmere they use to produce fine garments. A visit to The Sordevolo Wool Factory is never a disappointment.

For more information about Italy, visit www.italia.it

 

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