2006 Winter Olympics Makes Italy's Piedmont Region a Must-See European Destination


November 9, 2005

Turin, Region of Piedmont, Italy - (Press Release) - With just three months until the 20th Winter Olympics Games begin in Torino, the world's attention soon will be on Italy's Piedmont Region, where skiers, skaters, snowboarders and more than one million spectators from around the globe will gather for the quadrennial celebration of winter sport.

American travelers — for whom Torino and northwestern Italy is an unknown corner of Europe, often overlooked in favor of Paris, London and Rome — are in for a pleasant surprise. The Piedmont Region offers several world-class attractions: from outstanding ski slopes to the first-rate cuisine to the many opulent castles and mansions of the Savoy royal family. Following is a brief introduction to the region.

With magnificent ski resorts mixed in with traditional mountain villages, all surrounded by unspoiled woods and forests, the Piedmont Alps is set to captivate the world as the setting for the 2006 Olympic Games. The region offers winter sports enthusiasts more than 1,200 miles of ski runs, spanning from the Maritime Alps to the Monviso and the Susa Valley to Monte Rosa. The Olympic Mountain's renowned ski resorts all are located within 60 miles of Torino, including Sestriere, Sauze d'Oulx, Claviere, Cesana Sansicario, Bardonecchia, Prali and Pragelato. Nestled in the snow-drenched area nicknamed "the Milky Way, these resorts offer varied options including dynamic downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, snowboarding, heli-skiing, nighttime skiing, ice-skating, ice climbing and dog sledding with Siberian Huskies.

To experience the Piedmont Region is to experience culinary delights that can be found nowhere else in the world. With meals made of impeccably fresh ingredients, dug from just over the next hill, or picked from the field just outside the kitchen window, it's no exaggeration to say the people of the Piedmont region live to eat and drink: as the saying goes, in Piedmont baby's comforters are dipped in wine!

Piedmont is home to the Slow Food Movement, a global organization founded in the small town of Bra. Heralded as the "cure for a distressingly fast-food world, slow food promotes the sanctity of taste, taste education and food preservation with fairs, events and educational programs and also produces food and wine guides.

Piedmont also is home to tuber magnatum pico, commonly known as the white truffle, a fungus coveted by gourmands around the world. Piedmont now is in the height of white truffle season (late October through early December), and a pound of the tubers can go for more than $2,000.

The region boasts cheeses subtle and sharp, creamy and dense, crafted in equal parts by favorable natural conditions and human ingenuity. Stars include the Toma of Piedmont, among eight Castelmagno regional DOP cheeses whose quality is recognized and protected by the government.

Piedmont's divine Tonda Gentile, hazelnut, a uniquely sweet variety so special that it has been award European Union Protected Geographic Indication status — a sort of food patent that separates it from inferior imposters. It is the centerpiece of Nutella, the hazelnut and chocolate spread that has become a worldwide favorite, as well as the central ingredient in the regional hazelnut torte — not to mention ice creams and other confections.

Piedmont also nurtures the grapes that make the region one of the world's best wine producers. Of Italy's 20 regions, Piedmont leads the pack in number of wines that meet the exacting standards to be awarded DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) status, including bold red Barolos and Barbarescos and complex, dry, Gattinaras and Ghemmes and sweet, lighthearted white Astis.

Piedmont's Lake District provides breathtaking vistas and rejuvenating waters. The great Lake Maggiore, the smaller Lake Orta, both just 90 minutes from Torino, shimmmer like the most exquisite precious stones. The lush loveliness of gardens, trees and scenery are fitting backdrops to the splendor of the lakes, while perfectly preserved villas, luxurious modern resorts and charming fishing villages that have changed little over the centuries.

Piedmont's stunning parks and mountains, and the region's wide, untouched valleys, lakes and rivers, offer world-class hiking, mountain climbing, kayaking, rowing, cycling, paragliding, horseback riding and five of the top ten golf resorts in Italy. The Alpine valleys close to Torino — Lanzo, Susa, Chisone, Germanasca and Pellice — are ideal for both day hikes and lengthy treks, taking visitors as far as the Gran Paradiso, Italy's oldest national park (http://www.parks.it/regione.piemonte/Eindex.html#Torino).

The Olympic Mountain Range is a lush paradise for sports enthusiasts and amblers, with tough rock faces for climbers. Other outdoor activities include canoeing, rafting, hiking scenic wooded trails, lush valleys and pristine lakes. Piedmont's dramatic wilderness also stretches far beyond the greater Torino area, with parks such as Alpe Devero (http://www.parks.it/parco.alpe.veglia.devero/Eindex.html) inviting visitors to hike through pastures and grasslands to the Devero Lake, nestled in a mountain basin shaped by glaciers in the northern part of Piedmont, near Switzerland.

The Piedmont Region is the intersection of many critical moments in Western civilization and offers several museums and attractions that serve as windows to the past. Following are just a few of the cultural landmarks in the region, with their web site addresses. For a complete listing of cultural and historic landmarks in the Piedmont Region, visit www.PiemonteFeel.It.

Egyptian Museum in Turin

Chapel of the Holy Shroud in Torino

The Royal Palace of Venaria

Museum of Contemporary Art in the Castle of Rivoli, Torino

National Cinema Museum in Turin

The Piedmont Region is served by two airports: Torino International Airport (TIA, http://www.aeroportoditorino.it/EN/voli/default.php) in Caselle and Malpensa 2000 Airport in Milan (http://www.sea-aeroportimilano.it/). TIA is one of the most modern and functional airports in Europe located 16 miles from downtown Torino. Easily accessible and congestion free, it can handle over 3 million passengers annually. Seventeen airlines operate over 450 weekly scheduled departures linking Torino to 25 destinations, 15 of which are international. Intercontinental links are provided through Malpensa 2000, one of Europe's largest hubs with easy connections from Paris, London and the United States. Malpensa is a popular arrival point for U.S. passengers, with direct service from most major airlines.

All of the major car rental firms have counters at both airports. If you plan to travel outside the downtown area, a rental car is highly recommended. Six different motorways connect Torino to major European cities: Milan in 60 minutes, Genoa in 90, Nice and Geneva in two and a half hours, Lyon in three hours and Zurich in four.

Five railway stations, two of them international, make access easy from all of Italy and bordering countries: four pairs of high-speed trains travel between Torino and Paris in little more than five hours. http://www.trenitalia.com/home/en/index.html

The Region Piedmont in northwest Italy today launched a comprehensive new web site, PiemonteFeel.It, which provides a wealth of timely information on what to see, what to do and where to go in the Piedmont Region.