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ITALY

Population: 58.94 million (2022)

Surface area: 302,073 km

Specialities : pasta (spaghetti, tagliatelle, penne, macaroni, fusilli, fettuccine, farfalle, papardelle, linguine, gnocchi...), sauces (carbonara, al ragu, arrabiata, alle vongole, all'amatriciana, pesto), ravioli, lasagne, pizzas, risotto, bruschetta, focaccia, arancini, polenta, cheeses (ricotta, mascarpone, gorgonzola, parmesan, mozarella, pecorino, provolone), red wines (chiantis, barolo, montepulciano, valpolicella, bardolino), white wines, sparkling wines (prosecco), meats (carpaccio, Milanese cutlets, scaloppine al limon), Parma ham, fruit, olive oil. Desserts (tiramisu, panna cotta, canello, panettone). Soups (minestrone). Spirits (limoncello, Martini, Spritz, Campari). Chocolates (Toblerone, Nutella, Venchi, Caffarel...)

Sports clubs: National football team (Squadra Azzura, 4 world titles). National rugby team. Football clubs: Juventus, AC Milan, Inter Milan, AS Roma, SSC Napoli, Torino, Fiorentina, Sampdoria Genoa, Atalanta Bergamo, Bologna, Parma, Udinese, Lecce. 

Competitions : Summer Olympic Games in Rome (1960). Winter Olympics in Cortina d'Ampezzo (1956), Turin (2006) and Milan-Cortina d'Ampezzo (2026). Football World Cups 1934 and 1990. European Football Cups. Six Nations Tournament. F1 Grand Prix at Monza and Imola.

Cycling: Giro d'Italia. Milan-San Remo. Tour of Lombardy. Tirreno-Adriatico. Strade Bianche. Legendary men riders - Fausto Coppi, Gino Bartali, Felice Gimondi, Marco Pantani, Vincenzo Nibali, Alfredo Binda, Francesco Moser, Mario Cippolini, Claudio Chiapucci, Florenzo Magni, Learco Guerra, Costante Giradengo, Ottovio Bottecchia. Legendary women riders – Maria Canins, Elisa Longo-Borghini, Giorgia Bronzini, Elisa Balsamo.   

Festivals: Venice Carnival (February), Palio in Siena (August), Venice Mostra (cinema), Verona Lyric Festival (June-September), Taormina Arte, San Remo Music Festival, I-Days Festival (Monza), Ypisgrock in Castelbuono, Lucca Summer Festival, Perugia Jazz Festival.

Economy: the world's eighth-largest economy. Luxury goods and textiles (Gucci, Armani, Prada, Versace, Dolce & Gabbana, Benetton, Ray-Ban, Bulgari, Calzedonia, Max Mara, Fendi, Cerruti, Geox, Tod's, Ferragamo, Sergio Tacchini, Ellesse, Lotto, Kappa, Diesel, Kiton, Alcantara). 40 pc of the world's luxury goods are made in Italy. Food (Ferrero, Parmalat, Perfetti Van Melle, Bolton Group, Buitoni, Barilla, Giovanni Rana, Campari, Galbani, Martini, Lavazza, Kimbo, Carapelli, De Cecco, Zanetti Segafredo). Automotive (Fiat, Lancia, Alfa Romeo, Lamborghini, Ferrari, Pagani, Maserati, Iveco; motorbikes Aprilia, Ducati, Cagiva and scooters Piaggio. Pirelli tyres). Industry: Leonardo (defence), Prysmian (cables), Italcementi and Buzzi Unicem (cement), steel industry (Tenaris, Riva, Marcegaglia, Lucchini RS and Groupe Beltrame), Beretta, Simmel Difesa, MBDA (weapons), Fincantieri and Ferretti (shipbuilding), Mapei Group (insulation), Candy, Indesit, De'Longhi, Smeg and Zanussi (domestic appliances), Olivetti (technology), Bormioli Rocco (glass), Marazzi Group (tiles), BTP Webuild, Gavio Group and TreviGroup (construction). Tourism (cruise operators). Pharmaceuticals, banking, media. Agriculture (8 pc of GDP).

Websites: www.italia.it, www.visititaly.com

PROVINCE OF PIACENZA

Province of Italy in Emilia-Romagna.

Capital: Piacenza

Population: 285,000

Surface area: 2,585 km2

Main towns: Piacenza (103,000 h.), Fiorenzuola d'Arda (15,000 h.), Castel San Giovanni (14,000 h.)

Specialities: anolini (pasta), pancetta, coppa, bortellina (pancakes), pisarei e faso (pasta with beans), mostarda di frutte (fruit with mustard), turtei (pasta filled with spinach and ricotta). Colli Piacentini wines. Gutturnio and Bonarda (red wines), Ortrugo and Mavasia (white wines).

Famous names: Giorgio Armani (fashion designer), Marco Bellocchio (film director), Filippo and Simone Inzaghi (football), Giorgia Bronzini (cycling).

Tourism: Municipal Theatre, Museum of Modern Art. Piacenza Jazz Fest. Fotografia Europea Festival. Art and Chocolate (March). Festa dei Rebeldes (June). Fiera della piancetta e di Primavera (May).

Economy: Logistics (Amazon, Ikea, Unieuro), manufacturing industry, universities.  Agriculture, viticulture. Robotics, industrial automation.

Website: www.provincia.piacenza.it

Km 5.1

ROTTOFRENO (POP: 11,700)

According to legend, the town's name (meaning "broken bit") derives from an event that occurred during the Carthaginian invasion of Italy (218-201 BC), when Hannibal broke his horse's bit. This event is also recalled in the town's coat of arms. The name actually comes from the Lombard roth ("glory") and fridu ("friendship", "security"). On 12 August 1746, during the War of the Austrian Succession, a battle took place here between a Franco-Spanish army and an Austrian force. This event is known as the Battle of Rottofredo. The French, led by Marshal Maillebois, repelled the Austrian assault, but had to withdraw after the battle. It is the birthplace of Giairo Ermeti, Italian amateur champion in 2004, who took part in the Giro four times between 2008 and 2013

Km 13

CASTEL SAN GIOVANNI (POP: 13,300)

The castle that gave the town its name has now disappeared. The town became part of the Duchy of Parma and Piacenza in 1485.  Born in Castel San Giovanni, Luca Solari won the Grand Prix Pino Cerami in 2007 and took part in the Vuelta in 2005.  

Collegiate church of San Giovanni

Built in the 13th and 14th centuries.

Styles: Gothic and Baroque.

History and characteristics: the church dedicated to the patron saint of Castel San Giovanni is in the Gothic-Lombardic style. The Gothic façade is tripartite, with large lancet arches and a large rose window, reminiscent of the great churches of Piacenza; the three portals, on the other hand, are clearly Baroque. The interior is divided into three naves by solid columns decorated with statues and surmounted by lancet and ribbed vaults.

Special features: the most interesting works of art preserved inside are the following: the Crucifix by Giacomo and Giovan Angelo del Maino (1496), the Baptismal Font (Bernardo and Battista Casella, 1550), the six wooden statues that make up the Crucifixion, the carved polyptych dating from 1448, attributed to Bongiovanni and Giovanni Basssiano de Lupis and the altarpiece depicting the sermon of St John the Baptist, by Pietro Melchiorre Ferrari.

LOMBARDIA

Italian region

Capital: Milan

Population: 10 million.

Provinces: Milan, Bergamo, Brescia, Como, Lecco, Cremona, Lodi, Mantua, Monza and Brianza, Pavia, Sondrio, Varese.

Main cities: Milan (1.4 million), Brescia (200,000), Monza (124,000), Bergamo (121,000), Como (86,000).

Celebrities: Silvio Berlusconi, Gianni Versace (entrepreneurs), Bettino Craxi (statesman), Marco Ferreri, Gianmaria Volonte, Dino Risi, Luchino Visconti (cinema), Giuseppe Verdi (composer), Adriano Celentano (singer), Giuseppe Meazza, Paolo Maldini (football), Felice Gimondi, Paolo Salvodelli (cycling).

Specialities: polenta, minestrone, risotto, osso bucco, escalope milanaise. Cheeses (gorgonzola, Grana Pandano, mascarpone). Panettone. Wines (Nebbiolo, Bonarda). 

Sports: AC Milan, Inter Milan, Atalanta Bergamo (football). Olimpia Milano, Pallacanestro Brescia, Pallacanestro Varese, Guerino Vanoli Basket (basketball). 2026 Winter Olympics. Giro d'Italia, Milan-San Remo (cycling).

Tourism: city of Milan, Lake Garda, Lake Como, Lake Maggiore. Brera art gallery, Sirmione archaeological museum, Catullus caves. Ten UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Economy: Italy's leading regional economic power, Lombardy alone produces over 22% of Italy's GDP, and is home to many of the country's industrial, financial and commercial centres. Lombardy's economy is characterised by the wide variety of sectors in which it has developed, from traditional sectors such as agriculture and livestock farming, through heavy and light industry, to the service sector, which has evolved considerably in recent decades.

Websites: www.regione.lombardia.it

PROVINCE OF PAVIA

Italian province of Lombardy.

Capital: Pavia

Population: 538,000 

Surface area: 2,968 km2

Main towns: Pavia (pop. 72,600), Vigevano (pop. 63,500), Voghera (pop. 39,400).

Specialities: Carthusian risotto, Pavese soup, rago alla pavese, cassoeula, eel, trout with white wine. Oltrepo Pavese wines.

Celebrities: Petrarch, Valentino (fashion designer), the Maserati brothers (automobile), Giovanni Lombardi (cyclist).

Tourism: mausoleum of Saint Augustine in Pavia, cathedral, basilicas and Carthusian monastery of Pavia. Visconti Castle.

Economy: agriculture (wine-growing, rice-growing, cereal-growing). The industrial sector is much more limited.

Website: www.provincia.pv.it

Km 24.8

STRADELLA (POP: 11,000)

The site of a battle between Napoleon's troops and Austria in 1800, Stradella was one of the world's leading centres for accordion production. One of the first accordions was produced by Mariano Dallapè in 1876. Between the wars, 1,200 of Stradella's 10,000 inhabitants worked in the sector. After the war, the decline of the accordion was the result of companies' inability to adapt to market conditions. The history of the accordion in Stradella is told in a museum in the Palazzo Garibaldi. Stradella has twice hosted the Giro d'Italia, most recently in 2021, when Alberto Bettiol won the stage.  

Stradella Tower

Construction: 14th and 19th centuries.

History: clashes between Piacenza and Pavia prompted Guido Langosco, Bishop of Pavia, to build brick walls in 1300, within which Gian Galeazzo Visconti, Lord of the Duchy of Milan, erected the lower fortress in 1390. Stradella Castle was bought by the town council in 1823 and demolished in 1845 to be replaced by the market square, leaving only the tower that served as the base for the new bell tower.

Characteristics: the tower is built of brick, the plan has a square base and at the top there is an ornament that was probably added in the 15th century; the addition with the bell tower was built after the bell tower of the nearby parish church of Saints Nabore and Felice collapsed in 1834.

Km 29.4

BRONI (POP: 9,680)

Barbacarlo is a red wine produced exclusively in the hills around Broni. Broni's women's basketball team has played in Italy's top division.

Km 44.1

MONTEBELLO DELLA BATTAGLIA (POP: 1,570)

The town owes its name to two battles: the Battle of Montebello in 1800, when Marshal Lannes' French army defeated the Austrian army. Another battle in 1859 pitted the French and Savoyard armies against Austria.  

Castello Beccaria

Construction: 12th century.

History: in the 13th century, the feud came under the aegis of the Visconti family of the Duchy of Milan, who in 1469 conferred on the Beccaria family the title of Counts of Montebello and thus obtained all the possessions, including the remains of the castle, rebuilt in 1472. In the first decades of the sixteenth century, the castle belonged to the Bellocchio family of Pavia, who maintained it for 300 years. In 1851, Giuseppe Bellocchio sold the upper part of the palace to the lawyer Ernesto Ghislanzoni, while the lower part was purchased by the municipality for use as the town hall. In 1923, the Ghislanzoni family bought the municipal part and undertook some haphazard restoration work. The castle became a hotel in 2010.

Characteristics: the brick building has a rectangular floor plan, buttresses and a high tower at the end. The structure has been extensively altered over time, taking on the characteristics of a large dwelling house, especially after the 17th-century restoration. A large park is attached to the palace.

Km 50.7

VOGHERA (POP: 39,000)

A former Roman colony under the name of Iria, Voghera flourished in the Middle Ages as a stopover for pilgrims on their way to Rome. With the French occupation (1796), Voghera, as a district capital, belonged first to the department of Marengo and then to that of Genoa. The city walls were demolished in the 19th century and the town was badly hit by Allied bombing during the Second World War. On 31 May 1962, the town's station was the scene of a serious rail accident in which 63 people lost their lives. Voghera boasts a curious historical museum, including the Autobianchi A112 in which General Carlo Alberto dalla Chiesa died in an assassination attempt, and the Beretta M34 pistol that killed Benito Mussolini. Famous Voghera residents include fencer Cesar Pavesi, four-time Olympic epee champion between 1952 and 1960, fashion designer Valentino and the Maserati brothers, founders of the car company of the same name. The eldest sibling, Carlo, was a racing cyclist.  The Giro d'Italia has visited Voghera four times, most recently for a start in 1989, when Laurent Fignon won in La Spezia. The town's most famous rider was Luigi Lucotti, who won three stages of the Tour de France in 1919 and 1921, finishing 4th overall in the latter year. He also took 3rd place in the Giro in 1914. Voghera is twinned with Manosque.  

Visconti Castle

Construction: 10th and 14th centuries.

History: in the 11th and 12th centuries, Voghera was one of the most powerful castles in the Oltrepo region. Strengthened and enlarged over the years, in 1372 it became the residence of Galeazzo Visconti, who completely restored it. The castle was then entrusted by the Viscontis to the Beccarias, the Dal Vermes and the Sforzas, before being tossed about in the wars between the French and the Austrians. When the territory passed to Charles Emmanuel III of Savoy, the building was used as a tax office, the seat of the magistracy and the intendancy. During the 19th century, it was gradually transformed into a palace dedicated to art and culture. The castle is undergoing ongoing conservation work, in particular to restore frescoes discovered in 1997 and attributed to Bramantino.

Current destination: in addition to exhibitions, the Voghera Fotografia photography festival is held every year in the halls of the Visconti castle.

PIIEDMONT

Italy region

Capital: Turin

Population: 4.3 million.

Provinces: Turin, Cuneo, Alexandria, Biella, Asti, Novara, Verceil, Verbano Cusio Ossola.

Main cities: Turin (900,000 h.), Novara (102,500 h.), Alexandria (90,000 h.)

Celebrities: Savoy family, including Victor-Emmanuel II, first King of Italy. Cavour (Italian statesman), Antonio Gramsci, Joseph de Maistre, Cesare Pavese, Primo Levi, Mario Soldati, Italo Calvino, Umberto Eco (thinkers and writers), Camillo Olivetti, Gianni and Giovanni Agnelli (industrialists), Giuseppe Farina (F1), Umberto Tozzi and Carla Bruni (singers).

Specialities: agnolotti (stuffed ravioli), tajarin (truffle pasta), Barolo risotto, polenta carbonara, chicken chasseur, stuffed artichokes, gianduiotto (chocolate), Bicerin, vermouth. Gressins. Sabayon.

Sports: Juventus Turin, Torino (football). 2006 Winter Olympics. Skiing World Cup in Sestriere.

Tourism: Residences of the Dukes of Savoy. Turin, city of art and history. Ski resorts of Oulx, Bardonecchia and Sestriere. Ivrea. Lake Maggiore. Turin Film Festival. Lovers Film Festival. International Women's Film Festival. CioccolaTo (chocolate festival). Torino Jazz Festival. Artissima (modern art), Mito Settembre Musica (September). Turin International Book Fair.

Economy: agriculture: cereals (rice and maize), fruit and milk. Piedmont is one of Italy's largest wine-producing regions, with wines such as Barolo, Barbaresco and Moscato d'Asti. Automotive (Fiat), Iveco. IT (Olivetti). Textiles. Chocolate (Ferrero in Cuneo). Universities. Tourism.

Websites: www.regione.piemonte.it/

PROVINCE OF ALEXANDRIA

Province of Italy in the Piedmont region.

Capital: Alexandria

Population: 405,300

Surface area: 3,558 km2.

Main towns: Alexandria (91,000), Casale Monferrato (36,000), Nove Ligure (28,230)

Specialities: focaccia, farinata, pansotti, corzetti, ravioli al tocco. Desserts: biscotti della salute d'Ovada (biscuits), chickpea soup, garlic tagliatelle (with walnut sauce), panada farsö (typical fritters for the feast of St Joseph), baci di dama (lady's kisses), hazelnut and chocolate sweets, Barolo risotto, rabaton (large gnocchi), chicken Marengo, Agnolotti. Wines: Cortese di Gavi, Dolcetto and Barbera.

Celebrities: Umberto Eco (writer), Gianni Rivera (footballer and politician), Giuseppe Borsalino (milliner), Costante Girardengo (cyclist).

Tourism: The Monferrato Casalese region, rich in monuments and castles, also offers a rich gastronomy. Religious buildings: Trinità da Lungi in Castellazzo Bormida, Santa Croce in Bosco Marengo, Santa Giustina Abbey in Sezzadio, Sacro Monte di Crea UNESCO World Heritage Site. Picturesque villages: Gavi, Cremolino, Carpeneto, Tagliolo Monferrato, Gavazzana, Bosio and Rocca Grimalda with its early medieval layout and the ancient carnival of Lacher.

Economy: agriculture. Michelin factory in Alexandria.

Website: www.comune.alessandria.it/

Km 68.8

TORTONA (POP: 27,600)

Tortona is best known for its links with Fausto Coppi, one of the greatest cyclists in history, who was born in Castellania Coppi, a village in the Tortona area, and used to train on the hills around the town. The town is also on the route of Milan-San Remo and another historic race, Milan-Tortona. The first stage finish of the Giro d'Italia in the Piedmontese town took place in 1989, with Jesper Skibby winning stage 18. In 2017, Tortona was the finishing town for stage 13, won by Fernando Gaviria. Under the Romans, Tortona was a flourishing colony under the name of Dertona, and one of the most important towns in Liguria. Burnt down by Frederick Barbarossa, it was rebuilt as a republic with the help of the Milanese, who had a strong influence on the city. In 1535, it was given as a dowry to Christine of Denmark on her marriage to François II Sforza, the last Duke of Milan. She died there in 1590. For two centuries, from war to conflict, Tortona passed through the hands of the French and the Dukes of Savoy, who finally inherited it in 1814 and allowed it to prosper.  

Fausto Coppi

In the twenty years between 1940 and his death in 1960, Fausto Coppi brought cycling into the modern age. The son of a Piedmontese farmer and a former butcher's assistant, the Italian quickly carved out his heron-like silhouette at the head of the pelotons, pushing back the limits of his sport through meticulous attention to diet, training and care. Although he won the Tour de France 'only' twice, in 1949 and 1952, his five victories in the Giro between 1940 and 1953, his world title in the latter year and his successes in the major classics (Milan-San Remo 1946, 1948 and 1949, Paris Roubaix 1950, Tour of Lombardy 1946, 1947, 1948, 1949 and 1954) earned him the title of campionissimo, a title further enhanced by his rivalry with compatriot Gino Bartali. It was alongside Bartali that he made his name in his first Giro d'Italia in 1940. Hired by the Legnano team to support Gino the Pious, he found himself propelled to the forefront when his leader crashed and lost all chance of victory. Coppi went on to win his first Grand Tour at the age of twenty, while Bartali had to be content with the title of best climber. An extraordinary rivalry was born, but the war interrupted it for a while. Nevertheless, in 1942 Coppi demonstrated his qualities as a rouleur by setting the one-hour record. With peace restored, Fausto Coppi struck his first major blow by winning Milan-San Remo in 1946 after a 140km breakaway. In the Giro, however, he fell victim to Bartali after a merciless battle. He got his revenge the following year, although the two men cancelled each other out in 1948, leaving Fiorenzo Magni to win. It was in 1949 that Coppi, who had let his rival contest and win the Tour in 1948, finally took on the Grande Boucle. As with the Giro, he won the race on his first appearance, and for once he had Bartali's support. The Piedmontese rider became the first man to complete the Tour-Giro double in the same year, having again won the Giro d'Italia thanks to a long breakaway between Cuneo and Pinerolo. 1950, when he still won Paris-Roubaix, and 1951 were dark years for Coppi, who fractured his pelvis before losing his brother Serse, who died following a crash in the Giro del Piemonte. It wasn't until 1952 that he was back on top. Dominant in the Giro, he was even more impressive in the Tour de France, where he became the first winner at l'Alpe d'Huez before crushing the competition at Sestriere and then in the Pyrenees. He left his closest rival, Belgian rider Stan Ockers, almost half an hour behind. In 1953, he did not defend his title in favour of the world championship, which he won in Lugano. He was never to be seen again in the Tour. His decline continued until his untimely death. In 1959, he took part in a criterium in Haute-Volta (Burkina-Faso) with his close friend Raphaël Geminiani, Jacques Anquetil and Henri Anglade. They all returned to Europe weakened. They suffered from malaria, but the Italian was diagnosed too late and died at the age of forty, leaving behind the memory of one of the most elegant, efficient and innovative riders in the history of his sport.

Km 82.2

ALESSANDRIA (POP. 91,000)

The largest town in the Monferrato region, Alessandria is the capital of a rich industrial area. It was founded in 1168 during the historic struggle between the Emperor and the Papacy. It was named Alessandria by the supporters of Pope Alexander III against Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, who nicknamed it "Alexandria of straw". An important military stronghold from the eighteenth century onwards under the reign of the Savoy family, the construction of a defensive citadel is the most telling evidence of this. The pedestrianised streets in the centre and the Piazza Libertà are home to some fine old palaces. Among the city's celebrities is the writer Umberto Eco (The Name of the Rose), who told the story of the founding of his hometown with great humour in one of his novels, Baudolino (2001). There was also the footballer Gianni Rivera, winner of the Ballon d'Or in 1969, two European Champion Clubs' Cups and a Euro, who later became a member of parliament. And Giuseppe Borsalino, inventor of the hat that bears his name. Alessandria hosted the Giro eight times between 1929 and 2006. Local riders include Giorgio Zancanaro, winner of three stages in the Giro between 1963 and 1967 and holder of the pink jersey that year, and Ugo Massocco, who took part in the Giro eight times between 1952 and 1961. Zancanaro took part in the Tour in 1962.   

Citadel of Alessandria

Built: 1732

Style: Baroque.

History: from 1713, when Alessandria was taken over by Duke Victor-Amadeus II of Savoy, the priority of all the lords of Piedmont was to turn the town into a bastion to protect their state border. The old medieval quarter of Bergoglio was demolished to build a vast citadel on its ruins, adapted to the new needs of warfare. Engineer Ignazio Giuseppe Bertola was put in charge of the design and construction. The foundation stone was laid on 4 September 1732. By 1745, all the main components of the fortress were complete, and it was immediately put to the test under fire in 1745 and 1746, when it withstood the Franco-Spanish army for seven months during the War of the Austrian Succession.

Characteristics: the fortress is built on a hexagonal plan and covers an area of 74 hectares. It contains an arsenal, several barracks, powder magazines, a hospital and a well. Access is via two gates: the main gate or Royal Gate (towards the city) and the emergency gate or Asti Gate (towards the countryside). The fortress is arranged in quadrilaterals around a vast central square.

Listed as: Italian cultural property. World Heritage Tentative List. 

PROVINCE OF ASTI

Province of Italy in the Piedmont region.

Capital: Asti

Population: 207,500

Surface area: 1,504 km2

Main towns: Asti (73,400), Canelli (10,000), Nizza Monferrato (10,000).

Specialities: robiola di Roccaverano and Muletta (thick salami made from bacon, fillet, thigh, boned shoulder with fat removed). Cardoon, used in the preparation of the typical dish, bagna cauda (or caôda), peppers and grape mustard. White truffles and Piedmont hazelnuts. Risottos and tajerìn. Asti, Barbera, Moscato and Grignolino wines.

Famous characters: Paolo Conte (singer), Don Bosco (religious).

Tourism: Asti (fortifications, medieval palaces, towers, cathedral). 

Economy: Asti is a predominantly agricultural province, with a particular focus on vineyards (Monferrato, Asti). Industry, mainly developed in the capital and neighbouring municipalities, does not play a fundamental role in the economy, although the province is home to many activities in the secondary sector.

Website: www.provincia.asti.it

Km 123

NIZZA MONFERRATO (POP: 10,100)

Situated between the towns of Alba, Asti and Alessandria, it is an important agricultural and commercial centre in the heart of the Montferrat region, one of Italy's best-known wine-growing areas in the world, particularly for red and sparkling wines. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2014 for its landscapes and Barbera wine, it is, after the capital, the most important centre in the province and in the Belbo Valley, along with Canelli. As well as wine, Nizza Monferrato is famous for growing cardoon, a type of artichoke that was once eaten grated throughout the Kingdom of Savoy and is now gaining recognition. The town had a tumultuous past, with sieges by French and Spanish armies, but eventually prospered when it came under the control of the Duchy of Savoy in 1703.  In 1944, Nizza Monferrato was the capital of a short-lived partisan republic created to fight fascism.  

Nizza wine

Nizza (also known as Barbera d'Asti Superiore Nizza before 2014) is a DOCG red wine made from the Barbera grape variety. The production area is limited to the municipalities in the province of Asti around Nizza Monferrato. The climatic conditions here are particularly favourable for the ripening of the Barbera grape. Nizza was promoted to DOCG status in 2014 after having been a sub-zone of Barbera d'Asti DOCG. The vines of Nizza are demanding in terms of sunlight and normally occupy the best exposed slopes, facing south-east to west, excluding the valleys. The production area lies at the heart of what is known as the Tertiary Piedmont Basin, a hilly region created by the uplift of the seabed at the end of the Tertiary era; the soils are calcareous, of medium depth and characterised by stratified sandy-clay marl and sandstone.  

Town hall and belfry

Built in 1353.

History: the Palazzo Comunale (Town Hall) is an imposing building with a natural brick façade dating back to the 14th and 15th centuries: from the outset it served as the seat of local government for Nizza Monferrato.

Characteristics: the building has two upper storeys, each with four windows and a cornice decorated with an arched lunette. On the ground floor, there is a wide interior arcade flanked by four arches, each supported by a large pillar. The town's coat of arms appears above the wrought iron balcony that connects the two central windows on the first floor. The most important feature, however, is the ancient bell tower of the Town Hall, known to the people of Nizza Monferrato as Il Campanone.

Km 140.3

COSTIGLIOLE D'ASTI (POP: 5,700)

Located 13 km from Asti, Costigliole d'Asti is one of Piedmont's wine-growing strongholds, with the largest vineyard area in the region (11.7 km2). The main grape varieties grown here are barbera, dolcetto, grignolino, freisa and brachetto. Red wines include Barbera d'Asti, Barbera di Montferrat, Piemonte Barbera, Monferrato Dolcetto, Freisa d'Asti, Grignolino d'Asti and Piemonte Brachetto. Costigliole produces white muscats from Asti and Piedmont, in particular Asti Spumante, and Chardonnays.  

Costigliole d'Asti Castle

Construction: 14th, 15th and 19th centuries.

History: surrounded by a large park, Costigliole Castle (Castello di Costigliole d'Asti) dominates the town. Built in the 14th and 15th centuries, it was only later restructured to take on its current Gothic form. Owned by the Marquis Filippo Asinari, a politician and wine connoisseur, the manor house was also the residence of the Countess of Castiglione, a politically astute and well-connected woman who was considered one of the most beautiful women of the 19th century.

Current destination: since 1994, the castle has been the headquarters of the Grinzane Cavour Prize Cultural Park, which, with the support of the Piedmont Region, seeks to promote all aspects of the territory, developing a dialogue between the visual arts and literature. The castle is also home to a national museum dedicated to promoting the literary, historical, architectural and anthropological heritage of southern Piedmont. Owned by the city, the castle is also home to an international cookery school and the annual 'Barbera Auction', which has become a not-to-be-missed event for wine lovers.

Km 145.4

CASTAGNOLE DELLE LANZE (POP: 3,700)

In 2012, the town hosted a stage of the Giro Rosa, won by Marianne Vos.

Km 149.9

NEIVE (POP: 3,400)

Its historic centre retains a medieval structure, with cobbled streets leading up to the clock tower and elegant terracotta buildings. It has been included in the association I Borghi più belli d'Italia (Italy's Most Beautiful Villages), created by the Tourism Council of the Association of Italian Municipalities (ANCI). It is the birthplace of one of Italy's greatest writers of peasant epics, Franco Piccinelli, author of over 40 books, including novels and poems, most of them set in the Langhe. From the top of the village, you can see the surrounding hills cultivated with vines: this is the production area for the great DOC and DOCG wines: Barbera d'Alba, Dolcetto d'Alba, Barbaresco and Muscat d'Asti. The first Barbaresco was produced under the Neive appellation: in Neive, between 1832 and 1849, Camillo Cavour, Count of Castelborgo, took on the French wine merchant and oenologist Louis Oudart, who set about planting and vinifying the Nebbiolo grape variety. His wine, presented under the name Neive, won a gold medal at the 1862 London Exhibition. Using the same techniques as Oudart for his Neive, the first Barbaresco was made at Castelborgo Castle in 1892.

PROVINCE OF CUNEO

Province of Italy in Piedmont

Capital: Cuneo

Population: 581,500

Main towns: Cuneo (56,000), Alba (31,200), Bra (30,000).

Specialities: Alba white truffle, Cuneesi al rum (cakes), raviolini al plin, chocolate (Ferrero), wines

Celebrities: Pietro and Michele Ferrero (chocolatiers),

Tourism: Civic Tower of Cuneo, Alba Cathedral, Alba Municipal Palace. Berardi Castle. 

Economy: agriculture: dairy products (Biraghi, Osella, Valgrana, Inalpi, Occelli and Fattorie Fiandino); confectionery (Ferrero, Maina, Balocco, Panealba and Accornero, Cuba-Venchi, Baratti&Milano, Campiello); preserves (Galfrè, Agrimontana); wines and liqueurs (Cinzano, Fontanafredda). Fine wines (Alba, Barolo). Among the main industries: Miroglio (textiles); Ferrero d'Alba (confectionery); Edizioni San Paolo d'Alba; Maina et Balocco de Fossano (bakery); Monge de Monasterolo di Savigliano (animal feed); Silvateam of San Michele Mondovì (tannin production); Mondo Spa of Alba (sports equipment); Arpa Industriale Spa of Bra (plastic laminates); Cartiere Burgo (paper); bicycles (Denver, Olagnero, Dino Bikes, Montana Bike).

Website: www.provincia.cuneo.it

Km 153.1

BARBARESCO (POP: 670)

Barbaresco is best known for its wine. Barbaresco is a DOCG red wine made from nebbiolo grapes, with a deep, intense colour and aromas of violets and fruit, followed by spices. It is tannic, concentrated and has good acidity. It was first made in 1892 at Castelborgo Castle (see Neive). Authorised vineyards are located in Barbaresco, Neive, Treiso and parts of San Rocco Seno d'Elvio and Alba. Ageing is compulsory: 2 years in oak or chestnut casks (4 years for Riserva). The tower and castle were built in the Middle Ages, giving rise to today's fortified village. The Piedmontese ricetto was a fortified area where the population could take refuge in case of danger. The territory of Barbaresco was disputed between the towns of Asti and Alba and between different lords during wars that brought these territories under different powers, until it was finally attached to Savoy. The Tower of Barbaresco remains the symbol of the town and its medieval past. It has been converted into a bistro and wine-tasting centre. In 2014, Barbaresco was the starting point for the Giro's wine time trial to Barolo, won by Rigoberto Uran.

Km 163.3

ALBA (POPULATION 31,210)

Surrounded by hillsides planted with vines, Alba is the Piedmontese capital of fine wine, in the immediate vicinity of villages world-famous for their appellations: Barolo, Barbaresco and La Morra. But Alba is also home to the Ferrero company, which produces one of the world's most exported Italian products: Nutella hazelnut chocolate cream. Alba is also famous for its white truffles, which go perfectly with local wines. Every year, the Alba truffle fair attracts thousands of tourists and gastronomy professionals. Like other towns in Piedmont, Alba has been the subject of constant conflict between France, Spain and Savoy. In 1796, the French, led by Napoleon Bonaparte, set up a Republic of Alba to plunder the town's resources and tax it beyond reasonable limits. In 1944, another Republic of Alba was founded by Italian resistance fighters against fascism. Alba is twinned with Beausoleil. Cyclists from Alba include Matteo Sobrero, Italian time trial champion in 2021 and winner of a Giro time trial in 2022. Alba is also home to the Rosa brothers, Diego and Massimo. Diego has taken part in the Tour de France twice, in 2016 and 2020. The Giro stopped off in Alba six times between 1968 and 2020 (one start was won by Tao Geoghegan Hart in Sestriere).   

White Truffle Fair

This international fair, created in 1928, takes place over more than a month (between October and November), with most of the festivities taking place at weekends. There is a huge market for white truffles harvested during the year, along with shows, music, tasting sessions, a wine fair, etc. A donkey race representing the various villages in the town is particularly popular. On the second Sunday in November, the Castle of Grinzane Cavour hosts the Asta Mondiale, an auction of the region's finest white truffles, with simultaneous connections to major foreign cities.

Km 170

GUARENE (POP: 3,570)

A wine-growing municipality, like all the others in the region, Guarene is also known for growing an increasingly popular variety of pear, the madernassa. In 2021, it was on the Guarene climb that Taco van der Hoorn broke away to win a stage of the Giro in Canale.  

Guarene Castle

Construction: 1726 to 1770.

Style: Baroque.

History: In the 18th century, Carlo Giacinto Roero, Lord of Guarene, built his own magnificent residence, surrounding it with gardens and decorating it. A good architect, albeit an amateur, a leading aristocrat and a wealthy landowner, he spared no expense and designed a veritable palace, which was visited by King Victor Emmanuel III of Sardinia in 1773. Now intact with all its works of art, it has become a first-class hotel and a landmark on the Piedmont Baroque route.

Characteristics: an imposing three-storey building almost 25-metres high, it is surrounded by spacious, elegant Italian gardens created in the first half of the 18th century. In the middle of the Roero, its balconies overlook more than 60 km of Unesco World Heritage Site territory: from here, you can see the Langhe de Asti through Barbaresco to the outskirts of the village of Barolo; you can also see Montferrat and a large part of the Alpine arc.

Km 189

CERESOLE ALBA (POP: 2,000)

The site of a deadly battle between French troops and those of the Spanish army and the Holy Roman Empire on 11 April 1544. Despite the victory of the French, commanded by François de Bourbon, they were unable to continue on to Milan, their objective. More than 8,000 people were killed or wounded in the battle, and almost 4,000 taken prisoner. A museum is dedicated to the battle. Ceresole Alba is twinned with Saint-Paul-de-Vence and shares the same artistic vocation, illustrated by the presence of the International Museum of Women Artists (MIDA).  

International Museum of Women Artists

Opened in 2023 and housed in the Madonna dei Prati church, the Museo Internazionale delle Donne Artiste (MIDA) is the first museum in Europe devoted exclusively to women artists. It exhibits works by leading female painters and sculptors such as Berthe Morisot, Suzanne Valadon, Louise Bourgeois, Yoko Ono and Sonia Delaunay.

METROPOLITAN CITY OF TURIN

Replaced the province of Turin in 2015

Capital: Turin

Population: 2.2 million

Surface area: 6,827 km2.

Main towns: Turin (850,000 inhabitants), Moncalieri (56,500 inhabitants), Collegno (49,200 inhabitants)

Specialities: agnolotti (stuffed ravioli), tajarin (truffle pasta), Barolo risotto, polenta carbonara, chicken chasseur, stuffed artichokes, gianduiotto (chocolate), Bicerin, vermouth. Gressins. Sabayon.

Tourism: Residences of the Dukes of Savoy. Turin, city of art and history. Ski resorts of Oulx, Bardonecchia and Sestrières. Ivrea. Lake Maggiore. Turin Film Festival. Lovers Film Festival. International Women's Film Festival. CioccolaTo (chocolate festival). Torino Jazz Festival. Artissima (modern art), Mito Settembre Musica (September). Turin International Book Fair.

Economy: the province of Turin's main exports are automobiles, machinery and metal products. Services are the most important economic sector, accounting for 66% of gross domestic product. The other two main sectors are industry (32%) and agriculture. To promote entrepreneurship, the province has launched the "Start Your Own Business" operation.

Km 198.1

CARMAGNOLA (POP: 30,000)

Carmagnola (Carmagnole in French) was the fiefdom of the Marquises of Saluces until the conquest of this territory and the capture of the town by the House of Savoy (1588). Hemp was the most important crop grown here, and such was the prosperity of this crop that for centuries the town was the most important market on the Italian peninsula for this commodity. When Duke Charles-Emmanuel I of Savoy took control of the town, many hemp spinners voluntarily fled to Marseille. In 1691, French troops took part in the siege and capture of Carmagnola during the war of the League of Augsburg, in which the Sault and Feuquières regiments also took part. The revolutionary song La Carmagnole is said to have been derived from the dress of the Piedmontese peasants exiled in France, which influenced the dress of the sans-culottes. Today, the town's main source of income is the FIAT factory. Among Carmagnole's celebrities is Gianluigi Lentini, who played for AC Milan, won 13 caps for Italy and won the Champions League in 1994.  

Abbey of Casanova

Construction: 12th and 17th centuries.

Style: Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque.

History: a monastery was founded in the mid-12th century following a donation to the Cistercians by the Marquis of Saluzzo. The abbey expanded its territory and wealth over the following centuries. In 1567, Emanuel Philibert, Duke of Savoy, restricted its privileges. A controversy arose over who should appoint the abbot, a position held by various personalities, including several cardinals and Prince Eugene of Savoy from 1688 to 1730. In 1642, the abbey was sacked by a Calvinist army. In 1693, a French army sacked it.

Characteristics: the current church was rebuilt in 1680 in the Baroque style. Some elements retain Gothic or Romanesque features. The church has three naves and a large transept, with an apse at the east end. There are four chapels along the side aisles. The bell tower was added in 1825.

Special features: between 1681 and 1695, more than a dozen canvases depicting the lives of the Virgin and Jesus were painted by Federico Cervelli, ten of which are in the main nave.  

Caramagnola Castle

Construction: 13th century.

Style: medieval. 

History: built in1203 by Marquis Manfredo II of Saluzzo, this imposing defensive structure was originally a simple fortification with wooden palisades and a moat, but over time it was enriched with towers, bastions and ramparts, becoming a military fort during the many wars that affected the region. In 1588, it was conquered by Charles-Emmanuel I of Savoy, who added a second ring of ramparts. Between 1686 and 1687, it housed around 1,400 men captured in the Waldensian valleys, of whom only 300 survived the harsh conditions. In 1701, the castle was sold to the Philippine fathers, who built the church of San Filippo using materials salvaged from the fortifications and converted part of the castle into a convent.

Characteristics: the castle still retains traces of its medieval past, including the upper battlements of the ramparts, the 15th-century watchtower, which was raised in the 18th century, and a magnificent courtyard with a pointed-arch portico.

Current use: since 1863, the château has housed the town hall, following a restoration funded by the municipal administration.

Km 205.9

CARIGNANO (POP: 9,000)

Around 1900, Carignano was one of Turin's largest suburbs, but it has suffered a long period of economic and demographic decline since the collapse of the Bona spinning mills, which provided the town with its livelihood. In 1888, Carignano was the venue for the Italian road race championships, won by English-born Gilberto Marley, who won the title three times in 1887, 1888 and 1889 before going on to become an important leader in Italian sport. It is also the birthplace of Bartolomeo Aimo, one of the finest riders of the 1920s, who finished on the podium twice in the Tour de France, in 1925 and 1926, and four times in the Giro between 1921 and 1928. He also won two stages in the Tour.

Km 214.1

VINOVO (POP: 15,120)

This suburb of Turin, once the stronghold of the Della Rovere family, prospered around its porcelain factory, which led to the industrialisation and demographic expansion of the town in the late 19th century. Vinovo is the birthplace of Giovanni Valetti, winner of the Giro d'Italia in 1938 and 1939. In 1938, he took advantage of Gino Bartali's absence to dominate the race, wearing the pink jersey for ten days. In 1939, he dominated Bartali in the Dolomites and won by three minutes over his rival. In five appearances, Valetti also won seven stages in the Giro d'Italia. He only took part in the Tour de France once, in 1937, contesting just one stage before retiring. The war put an end to his career and he became a worker at FIAT in Turin.

Km 220.1

NICHELINO (POP: 46,240)

A former stronghold of the d'Ussel family, it was a rural town until the opening of a railway station in 1854. A massive wave of immigration from southern Italy in the mid-twentieth century boosted its population from 15,000 in 1961 to over 45,000 ten years later. Nearby is the gigantic Stupinigi Hunting Lodge, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997 as one of the royal residences of the House of Savoy in Piedmont.  

Stupinigi hunting lodge

Built: 1731

Style: Baroque

Architect: Filippo Juvarra.

History: the property passed to the Savoys in 1418. In the 16th century, Duke Emmanuel Philibert entrusted the land to the Mauritian Order. Siccomo, its Grand Master, transformed the estate into a hunting reserve. Victor-Amadeus II decided to build a prestigious town house. In 1729, he entrusted the project to Filippo Juvarra. The hunting lodge was inaugurated on 5 November 1731. The building was extended during the reigns of Charles-Emmanuel III and Victor-Amadeus III. Benedetto Alfieri built two new wings around 1759. Napoleon I stayed here from 5 to 16 May 1805 before going to Milan to receive the Iron Crown. Around 1832, the palace once again became the property of the royal family and was used for balls, concerts and state visits until the early 20th century.

Characteristics: an imposing statue of a stag dominates the roof of the central building, making it a true hunting lodge flanked by farms, stables, warehouses and gardens. The park covers an area of 160,000 m2. The interior of the pavilion covers an area of 46,000 m2, including the Grand Salon, topped by a copper dome on which the bronze statue of the stag is enthroned, a chapel dedicated to Saint Humbert, the Chinese cabinets, the perspectives room, plus 137 rooms and 17 galleries.

Current purpose: now a venue for temporary exhibitions and home to the Museum of Art and Furnishings, it showcases original decorative objects created by Piedmont's leading artists and craftsmen.

Listed as: UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.

Plaisance

Sitting where the Po and Trebbia rivers meet, Plaisance, or Piacenza, is a charming city on the border of the northern Italian regions of Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna. Full of history, the city has a rich artistic heritage, which can be explored in sights like the 13th century Palazzo Gotico, renaissance-era Palazzo Farnese and the spectacular Duomo.

The vineyards around Piacenza produce some exceptional wines, and the region is also known for its exceptional cured meats and cheeses, including Grana Padano and pancetta. And you should really indulge your sweet tooth when in town, as among the traditional dishes associated with the city are Turtlìt and mostarda di frutti.

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Turin

Historic and elegant, a visit to Turin is an immersive experience of Italy's cultural legacy, being the country's first capital city in the 19th century. Wander through Turin's streets and you'll discover plenty of beautiful and inspirational sights.

At the heart of the city sits the Piazza Castillo, home to the grand Palazzo Madama and the Royal Palace, as well as theatres, bars and cafes. And no visit to Turin is complete without a stop at the Mole Antonelliana, where you can enjoy stunning views of the city from the observation tower.

The capital of the Piedmont region, Turin is a bustling modern city today, and is home to some of the most famous names in the Italian automotive industry. But there are also plenty of places to stop, relax and indulge your senses, from the fantastic markets at Quadrilatero Romano to the city's famous chocolatiers.

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