Italy's second-largest region is arguably its most elegant: a purveyor of Slow Food and fine wine, regal palazzi (palaces) and an atmosphere that is superficially more français than italiano. But dig deeper and you'll discover that Piedmont has 'Made in Italy' stamped all over it. Emerging from the chaos of the Austrian wars, the unification movement first exploded here in the 1850s, when the noble House of Savoy provided the nascent nation with its first prime minister and its dynastic royal family.
Most Piedmont journeys start in grandiose Turin, famous for football and Fiats. But beyond the car factories, Piedmont is also notable for its food – everything from Arborio rice to white truffles – and pastoral landscapes not unlike nearby Tuscany.
The region's smaller towns were once feuding fiefdoms that bickered over trade and religion. Today the biggest skirmishes are more likely to be over cheese recipes and wine vintages. Traditionally, Asti and Alba stand tallest in the culinary stakes, while understated Cuneo uses its long-standing chocolate obsession to help fuel outdoor adventures in the nearby Maritime Alps.