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At the Foot of the Alps
 

Turin - Surroundings of Turin - Aosta - Vercelli ,  Novara, - Lakes Orta, Lake Maggiore Como and Lake Como, Milan - Surroundings of Milan and Pavia - Alessandria,  Asti and Alba, Food and wine

Join us for an exciting new tour in Northern Italy: in the scenic Piedmont region, Valle d'Aosta, that is the smallest region of Italy and Lombardy including Lake Maggiore, Lake Como (towns of Como, Bellagio, Varenna, Mennagio) and the city of Milan.


Porte Palatine - Cesare Augusto statueTurin                 

Turin is a city in which past and present are equally at home in an atmosphere of graceful elegance. We can begin our visit in the square Piazza Castello which takes its name from the 13th century castle. Nearby is Piazza Reale with the Royal Palace (1658) and the Royal Armoury which contains one of the world's most valuable collections of ancient art, and the Cathedral (the Duomo), which, in addition to being a treasure house of masterpieces of art is also the shrine of the Holy Shroud (Sacra Sindone) in which the body of Christ was wrapped after His Crucifixion. Close by is the Palatine Gate, with its towers built under the Emperor Augustus. Walk along Via Milano to the 17th century City Hall and the Baroque Palazzo Carignano which is now the National 'Risorgimento' Museum.

A short distance away are Turin's two most famous museums in the former Accademia delle Scienze: the Egyptian Museum, one of the world's most important museums of its kind, and the Galleria Sabauda, with its superb collection of Flemish, Dutch and Italian masters. From Piazza San Carlo - Turin's most beautiful square - let us go to the Valentino Park on the banks of the Po, and on to the remarkable 'Borgo Medievale'. From here we can go up to Mount Cappuccini to enjoy the view of the city below us. On the way back to the city centre we can see the symbol of Turin towering high above the elegant orderly city: the Mole Antonelliana with its Unmistakable spire. Located inside the Mole is the National Museum of Cinema.


Royal hunting lodge at Stupinigi

Surroundings of Turin              

You might spend your second day exploring the the area surrounding Turin.
Firstly, there is F. Juvarra's masterpiece, the
Basilica of Superga (18th c.). Then there are the Royal Hunting Grounds: Venaria Reale and Stupinigi with the beautiful Villa Reale, the 12/13th century Abbey-Fortress of S. Michele (Sacra di S. Michele) that offers the most breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape around the mouth of the Susa Valley, and Susa itself.

We can drive from Turin to Ivrea with its line 14th century castle and ancient Cathedral, and then up the Dora Valley past its many bridges, Roman arches and inscribed tablets, and mediaeval castles, until we reach the foothills of the Alps.


We are now in the Valle d'Aosta region.

Fenis Castle

Aosta              

 

36 kms from Ivrea is Issogne, which has the Aosta Valley's most beautiful castle, with an elegant courtyard surrounded by loggias, 15th century frescoes and fine period furniture. Further up is the renowned resort of Saint Vincent and the 15th century Fenis Castle undoubtedly the region's most spectacular fortified stately home. Aosta, the chief city in the Valley, has some fine Roman remains: the Triumphal Arch of Augustus, the Praetorian Gate, the theatre and the amphitheatre.

You should not miss the mediaeval collegiate Church of S. Orso, the Renaissance Cathedral, the Cloisters of S. Orso (Priorato), and the leper's Tower (Torre del Lebbroso) standing on the Dora. It is a short, exhilarating ride from Aosta by cable car to the mountain resort of Courmayeur, gliding silently over the Mont Blanc glacier from where we have a bird's-eye view over the Alps.


We travel back to the Piedmont region.

Vercelli - Basilica of S. Andrea

 Vercelli, Novara and Lake Orta              

Returning down the Aosta Valley, we can stop off at Vercelli, which was powerful in the Middle Ages (Romanesque-Gothic Basilica of S. Andrea), Novara (Basilica of S. Gaudenzio, and the 15th century Palazzo del Broletto), and lastly Lake Orta, romantically nestling between the mountains. On the Island of San Giulio, in the center of the lake there is the ancient and attractive Basilica of San Giulio, with interesting 15th century frescoes.

 

 


Cannobio

Lake Maggiore              

After driving along the mountain roads with superb views of the Alps and their lakes, we reach Stresa, considered the gem of Lake Maggiore, with its famous summer music festival 'Settimane Musicali'. Take a boat to the Borromean islands: Isola Bella, Isola dei Pescatori and Isola Madre. Along the shores of the lake there are so many delightful sights for the visitor to see: Baveno, Pallanza (visit Villa Taranto and its splendid gardens), Intra, Ghiffa, Cannero, Cannobio.

 


We are now in the Lombardy region.

Como - Broletto and Cathedral

Como and Lake Como              

A little further north we enter the Swiss zone of the lake, but turning southward again, with the small Italian enclave of Campione on our left, we reach Como, with its beautiful monuments, such as the 'Torre del Comune', the 'Broletto' (the 13th century former city hall) and the Gothic-Renaissance Cathedral. In this unforgettable natural setting you must go and visit the following famous places around Lake Como: Cernobbio, Moltrasio, Tremezzo with its superb Villa Carlotta (famed for its park and art collection), Cadenabbia, Menaggio, and Gravedona. Along the eastern shore visit the Romanesque Abbey at Piona, Bellano, Varenna, the charming town of Bellagio and Lecco. Further south is the ancient Lombard town of Monza where the Iron Crown of Lombardy (the 'Corona Ferrea'), with which Charles V and Napoleon were crowned, is preserved in the Cathedral (1396).

 

 


Sforzesco Castle

 Milan              

On to Milan a major industrial city, but also one with a great historical past and a lively cultural life. The imposing Castello Sforzesco, which saw the splendors of the Sforza Court in the 16th century, is of great architectural and artistic interest. Do not miss the Museum and Art Galleries with their valuable collections of mediaeval and Renaissance sculptures, furniture, a fine collection of paintings, ceramics, musical instruments, and tapestries. In the nearby Church of S. Maria delle Grazie there is Bramante's sanctuary and balcony, while in the ancient refectory of the adjacent Convent We can see one of the marvels of all time: Leonardo da Vinci's 'Last Supper'. Not far away are the Basilica of S. Ambrogio, one of the finest examples of Romanesque Lombard architecture, and the Church of S. Eustorgio with its patrician chapels: worthy of special mention is the

Portinari Chapel, attributed to Michelozzo (1466), with the splendid Gothic arch of St Peter the Martyr and frescoes by Foppa. At the far end of Corso di Galleria Vittorio Emanuele IIPorta Romana stands the 'Ospedale Maggiore' hospital, with its 17th c. courtyard, and after Piazza Fontana is the Palazzo Reale where major exhibitions are staged. A few minutes' walk and we are at the white marble Cathedral ('Duomo') with its forest of pinnacles, Italy's largest Gothic church. Let us visit the Church of San Satiro, rebuilt by Bramante, and the Romanesque Church of the San Sepolcro which adjoins the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana gallery, with works by Leonardo and paintings of the Lombard, Venetian and Flemish schools.

After crossing the bustling Piazza Cordusio, here we are in Piazza Mercanti - the heart of old Milan - with its magnificent buildings on all sides: the Romanesque Palazzo della Ragione, the 17th c. Palazzo dei Giureconsulti, the 17th c. Scuole Palatine, and the 15th c. Loggia degli Osii. Passing through the 19th c. arcade Galleria, the traditional meeting-place of the Milanese, we reach Piazza della Scala with one of the world's most famous Opera Houses - La Scala. We could spend our second day visiting the museums: there is the Pinacoteca di Brera, with one of Italy's major collections of paintings, particularly of works of the Lombard and Venetian schools from the 15th to the 18th centuries. The nearby Poldi-Pezzoli Museum is also well worth a visit: items in gold, enamel, glass, porcelain and bronze, and fabrics, weapons and paintings. The afternoon can be spent wandering through the delightful streets of "romantic" Milan, so dear the heart of Stendhal: the elegant Via Montenapoleone, Via Manzoni, Via della Spiga.


 

Certosa of Pavia

Surroundings of Milan and Pavia              

Just outside Milan is Chiaravalle Abbey, a masterpiece of Cistercian architecture, founded by St Bernard of Chiaravalle in 1135. 27 kms from Milan stands one of the most famous of all of Italy's national monuments - the Certosa Monastery of Pavia, founded by Gian Galeazzo Visconti in 1396. Which brings us to Pavia itself; which has managed to preserve intact its majestic character as the capital of the Kingdom of the Lombards and the Carolingians. Its most outstanding monuments include the Romanesque Church of S. Pietro in Ciel

d'Oro, the Visconti Castle and its museums, the University - one of the oldest in Italy - the Pinacoteca, the Renaissance cathedral (Duomo) and the Romanesque Church of S. Michele.


We travel back again to the Piedmont region.

Monferrato Landscape

Alessandria, Asti and Alba              

We will now drive through Casteggio and Voghera into Piedmont, visiting Tortona (historical buildings of all ages, Municipal Museum with Roman antiquities), and Alessandria, an industrial and agricultural town with a number of fine buildings and churches. From Alessandria, drive through the Tanaro Valley to Monferrato, an area dotted with mediaeval hamlets and castles, and famous for its wines.

Asti, the noble city with its many towers, lies at the heart of this region, the birthplace of the poet and dramatist Vittorio Alfieri. Visit Palazzo Alfieri, the Gothic Collegiate Church of S. Secondo, the cathedral, the Baptistery of S. Pietro and the Picture Gallery.

On to
Alba, a holiday resort in the
Langhe area, famous for its renowned cuisine, wines and its white truffles, and after driving another 60 kms through vine-clad hills, we reach Moncalieri (visit the Castello Reale) before returning to Turin.


Food and Wine              

Agnolotti

• Piedmont
Classic antipasti (openers) are fonduta (cheese fondue), insalata di carne cruda (marinated raw beef), finanziera (a bizarre meat stew), vitello tonnato (veal with tuna sauce) and bagna ca˘da (hot sauce for raw vegetables). Pastas are dominated by slender, hand-cut noodles called tajarin and ravioli-like envelopes called agnolotti, which take to different forms, fillings and sauces.

Vercelli and Novara are Europe's leading suppliers of rice, notably the prized Carnaroli for risotto cooked with beans and pork as panissa or paniscia or with frogs, vegetable or meat sauces or simply with butter and shaved truffles. Polenta and potato gnocchi are also favored in places. Piedmont boasts great number of classified wines: Nebbiolo, Barolo, Barbaresco, Gattinara, Ghemme and Carema. Popular reds are Barbera and Dolcetto. Notable whites are the dry Gavi and Arneis and the sweet, bubbly Asti Spumante and its relative Moscato d'Asti. Turin is the world capital of vermouth, fortified wine flavored with herbs and spices.

• Valle d'Aosta
Italy's smallest region is tucked into the loftiest corner of the Alps with borders on France and Switzerland, neighbors who influence the cooking of the French-speaking population. Pasta and olive oil are novelties in a robust cuisine based on cheese and meat, rye bread, potatoes, polenta, gnocchi, risotto and soups. Cows grazed on Alpine meadows provide fine butter and cheese called toma,
Robiola and above all Fontina DOP, which figures in many a dish, including fondua, made with milk as in Piedmont's fonduta.

• Lombardy
The art of cooking is celebrated in all the towns and villages with typical dishes like:
tortelli di zucca squash-filled tortelli and marubini which is a kind of ravioli or tortellini. Risotto and polenta still surpass pasta in popularity. Lombardy's popular cheeses are firm Grana Padano, blue-veined Gorgonzola, soft, ripe Taleggio, soft, mild Quartirolo Lombardo and tangy Provolone Valpadano, all covered by DOP, as well as creamy Robiola and Stracchino. Desserts include Pavia's Colomba pasquale, the Torrone from Cremona and Torta sbrisolana from Mantua. Panettone, a fluffy fruit cake, is a national Christmas institution. The Lombardy of wines is certainly in the Oltrep˛ area, with the great reds, whites and sparkling wines in the Banina hill, but also in the Mantova area with the Morenic wines and the sparkling Lambrusco.

For more information:
Piedmont Region Valle d'Aosta Region  Lombardy Region
www.piemonteitalia.eu www.regione.vda.it/turismo www.turismo.regione.lombardia.it  
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