I visited Piemonte when my dearest friend Carlotta and her unusually large North Italian family invited me in spring a couple of years ago. Carlotta and I met at university in Florence. Back in those days I assumed she came to study in Tuscany for the beauty and to get away from grey Turin but my opinion changed during my time in Piedmont.
When first approaching this northwestern region all I knew about it was its history. Piedmont was the native region of the House of Savoy, rulers of the Kingdom of Italy and before that the Reign of Sardinia (where I’m from), which included current Piedmont and Sardinia, making it the largest state before the official creation of a unified Italian state in March 1861.
Walking around the capital of this region, Turin, I noticed the Savoy emblem can still be seen on many facades. The elegant checkerboard of arcades, parallel and perpendicular streets adorned by wonderfully refined buildings, like La Fleur in the Liberty districts, gives a rather soothing feeling. Carlotta tells me that this Savoyard city’s refinement is almost unmatched across Italy.
Going against popular opinion, I can now totally debunk the idea that Turin is a grey city. Appearing as a large metropolitan garden, the first capital of Italy is full of trees that make it in fact one of the greenest cities in the world.
Carlotta’s family was celebrating the 101st birthday of their grandfather, nonno Giulio, and for the occasion, being true pasta lovers, they hosted a lovely lunch with all the family (and me) at Pastificio Defilippis. This historic restaurant has been here since 1872. As the name suggests, the house specialty is undoubtedly pasta (agnolotti del plin, ravioli, tajarin). I had the most flavoursome tajarin (very thin tagliolini typical of Piedmont) with duck and orange ragù. It was a lovely celebration that brought everyone together making nonno Giulio very happy.
On the Sunday Carlotta took me to Venaria Reale, a town near Turin, to visit the Royal Palace of Venaria (Reggia di Venaria Reale). Here I could really immerse myself in the monarchy's heritage. The palace is one of the many royal residences, complete with extensive gardens, that belonged to the House of Savoy. It was designed and built from 1675 and is a masterpiece of Baroque architecture, filled with opulent decoration and an impressive collection of artwork. We also spent several hours in the gardens, basking in the sunshine.
This historic grandeur still lives in Piedmont today, just in a different form. Turin is home to companies such as FIAT, Olivetti and Ferrero that contributed to the Italian industrial wave in the wake of the war leading the country into a new economic era.
In a blink of an eye it was time to leave. I enjoyed my time here rediscovering Piemonte under a different light.
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