Penned in by the Alps and the Mediterranean on one end and spilling into the Po River plain on the other, Italy’s northwestern corner is one of its most diverse. It boasts cobalt-blue seas and snowy peaks, birch and chestnut forests, and misty rolling vineyards, plus a wide swath of foggy rice paddies (Italy is Europe’s number-one producer of rice), where locals stir their famous risotto with frogs’ legs.
If this is starting to sound a bit like France, it should. Not only do Piedmont and Liguria fit snugly against the border, but much of modern-day Alpes Maritimes and the Haute Savoie once flew the Italian flag as well”or at least the flag of Piedmont’s kings, who once controlled Genoa and Sardinia as well. Turin was the capital of this spacious kingdom, and later of all Italy, when Garibaldi and his men unified the country under the Savoys.
The Turinese were then, and continue to be, among the wealthiest and most progressive of their compatriots. The bespectacled liberals were the ones who came up with the idea of a united Italy in the first place, with the blessing of the king. And after their royal family was exiled, another Piedmont clan soon took their place: the Agnelli family, founders of the Fiat dynasty. Heavy industry drove the local economy throughout the 20th century, though telecommunications and other high-tech industries in and around Turin are changing that now. With high technology, a progressive reputation, and a bounty of sea and snow, Piedmont has a lot in common with Northern California. One big difference is that outsiders haven’t flooded in. Why they haven’t done so is anyone’s guess.
The Ligurian coast has a more international reputation, thanks to its wealthy resort towns. Glitzy San Remo, opulent Portofino, and the newly famous fishing villages of the Cinque Terre are responsible for attracting homeowner hopefuls. Parts of Liguria are expensive, and others are downright elitist, resembling the poshest enclaves of the C´te d’Azur. Much of Liguria, though, is approachable and friendly, especially the family-oriented towns around San Remo and the tuckedaway villages on the mountainous inland. There is not much land, but Liguria still manages to offer something for everyone who’s seeking a little slice of the Italian Riviera.
Map of Piedmont Gallery Photos
Map of Piedmont