Insider's Guide: Piemonte


Arabella Smith, Programme Head, Europe, for Expressions Holidays (expressionsholidays.co.uk), which specialises in tailor-made luxury holidays in Italy and other destinations, is our guide this week to the Italian region of Piemonte.

1 Turin is renowned for its chocolate, in particular the gianduiotto, originally served only as a drink for privileged aristocrats. To sample some of Turin's finest chocolate, go to Peyrano (peyrano.com), on Corso Moncalieri, a family-run chocolatier where they make more than 80 types of the mouthwatering treat.

2 Sample a glass of glorious Barolo wine. Made from the nebbiolo grape, grown not only in Barolo but all over the hills surrounding the tiny village south-west of Alba. Try the Vincafé at via Emanuele 12 in Alba, a favourite with locals (open noon to midnight).

3 Visit Turin's L'Armeria Reale, at Piazza Castello 191, one of the most extensive collections of arms and armour in the world. Once the property of the House of Savoy, it opened to the public in 1837.

4 Arguably one of Italy's most spectacularly situated religious buildings, the Sacra di San Michele (sacradi sanmichele.com) perches above the town of Avigliana and hangs over a 3,280ft bluff. The Abbey was built on Monte Pirchiriano in the 11th century and once controlled 176 churches in Italy, France and Spain.

5 If you want to see the ultimate in regal and opulent living, the Palazzina di Caccia is a fine example of how the House of Savoy lived and entertained. You'll find it in Stupinigi, just 8km (5 miles) from Turin. This hunting lodge, set in fine gardens, was built in 1729 by the Baroque architect Filippo Juvarra.

6 Some of the most famous wine producers have only just begun to open their doors to the public. Ceretto, Marchesi di Barolo, and Oddero have opened walk-in tasting rooms and offer tours by reservation. Take your camera and snap the most perfect shot of Piemonte from the terrace at Marchesi di Barolo, the town's imposing casle, set against a backdrop of the Langhe's rolling vineyard-carpeted hillsides, is wine country in all its splendour.

7 The sophisticated town of Alba is famous for the elusive but exquisite white truffle, one of the world's most expensive foods. In honour of the start of truffle season, Alba hosts the annual Truffle Fair (fieradeltartufo .org), from 8 October to 13 November. The winner of the Truffle of the Year award is announced and there is a white truffle auction, too.

8 Take a boat from San Giulio to the island of San Giulio on Lake Orta to enjoy one of the region's most beautiful views. You'll also find the Basilica of San Giulio with its ancient frescoes, named after the fourth-century saint.

9 Limber up for the Lake Maggiore Marathon (lagomaggiormarathon.it) on 16 October, renowned as one of the most beautiful marathons in the world. Thousands will run from Avona to Verbania, going along the lakeside through the gorgeous town of Stresa, in the shadow of a stupendous mountainous backdrop.

10 Take a private boat transfer from Stresa to the Borromee island of Isola dei Pescatori and enjoy dinner at the Hotel and Restaurant Verbano (hotelverbano.it). Its unrivalled position looking out over Lake Maggiore and excellent reputation for local cuisine provides a perfect setting for dinner. There are even 12 stylish rooms for those wishing to stay to check the view over breakfast.

For more information, visit the website of Abtoi (Association of British Travel Organisers to Italy) at loveitaly.co.uk

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