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Piemonte - Things to Do - Tourism

One of the symbols of Piedmont is the Po River and it rightly deserves first mention: its source at Piano del Re is the starting point for climbs on Monviso. On the plain, at the mouth of the Po Valley, stand elegant Saluzzo (crafts and furniture exhibition in September) and the majestic Staffarda Abbey.

Nearby Val Pellice recalls the tormented history of the Waldensians, the largest Protestant community in Italy (Museum of Waldensian history at Torre Pellice).

A little farther on is Pinerolo (Museo Nazionale dell'Arma di Cavalleria-National Cavalry Museum), at the mouth of Val Chisone (the Fenestrelle fort, herb liqueurs and honey at Pragelato) leading to Sestriere, the first `second generation' European ski resort, the heart of a network of ski runs that cross into French territory.

In Val di Susa on the other side, axis of Roman penetration, stands Novalesa Abbey at the foot of Rocciamelone; almost facing it is the gloomy Exilles fort.

Farther down the valley lies Susa, a Roman and medieval town, with its splendid Arch of Augustus; then the Avigliana lakes (the first public clock in Piedmont is in the medieval village of Avigliana) and the majestic Sacra di San Michele.

Lastly Turin, noble and austere (see chapter on Turin for its attractions).

Let us proceed northwards. At the foot of Gran Paradiso winds the valley of Locana, with alpine Ceresole Reale bordering the Valle d'Aosta. In the range of foothills lie two gems: Ivrea (Duomo, castle, lively carnival with `battle of the oranges') and Biella (villages of Piazzo and Piano), the latter below the Oropa sanctuary.

From the sanctuaries to the Holy Mounts: at Varallo Sesia, the main town in Valsesia, the Sacro Monte is indeed magnificent.

At Alagna the Walser Museum records the history of this mysterious alpine people; high above, the Margherita Mountain Hut (4,559 m.) is the highest in Europe.

Macugnaga is another Walser-settlement, at the foot of Monte Rosa, one of the highest mountains in the Alps, and the pearl of Ossola, itself dotted with tourist attractions: Val Formazza (Cascata del Toce-the Toce Falls), uncontaminated Alpe Veglia, Val Bognanco, Val Vigezzo with its picturesque miniature train, one of the few remaining in Italy, and wild Valgrande.

A short distance away lies Lake Maggiore, the major tourist lake in Piedmont (Arona with `Sancarlone'-, Stresa with its old-established prestigious hotels, the Borromeo Islands, Pallanza and Villa Taranto, the Cannero castles).

More modest, though only in size, is Lake Orta (Orta's piazza-meeting pla ce, the Isle of San Giulio, Sacro Monte, the Madonna del Sasso sanctuary). Between the two lakes lie panoramic Mottarone and Gignese with its original Umbrella Museum.

A visit to the hills round Novara (to taste the controlled origin - DOC - wines and two red wines such as Fogarin and Mt Ziflon), then southwards to beautiful Casale to round off the itinerary.

We now enter gentle, luminous Monferrato, where the Abbey of Vezzolano stands out amid tidy rows of vines; gastronomy, tambourines and a game of bocce (bowls) are all firmly traditional here. Still very much alive at Asti are the traditions of the Palio and the Douja d'Or wine festival, in September.

In the far south of Piedmont lie the Acqui Terme thermal spa, beautiful Mondov with its wealth of art (nearby: Vicoforte sanctuary, Bossea grottoes) and another wine region par excellence, the Langhe (at medieval Alba the Truffle Fair and the Palio degli Asini-donkey race, in October; regional wine centres at Grinzane Cavour).

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