Since 2006, the Piemonte region has benefited from the start of the Slow Food movement and Terra Madre, events that highlighted the rich agricultural and viticultural value of the Po valley and northern Italy. The region is mostly mountains and hills and lies on the north-western border of Italy with France and Switzerland. It is surrounded by some of the highest mountains in Europe, such as the Gran Paradiso and Monte Rosa, and crossed by the largest river in Italy, the Po, and its many tributaries.
Most of the population lives in the plains, especially in the wide metropolitan area of Turin, Novara and Vercelli where a many mechanical and car industries are located. Thanks to the abundance of water, agriculture is very important to the region where rice, wine, maize, potatoes and the precious white truffle are produced. Tourism is also especially lively in the winter resorts in the Alps. However, in spite of the advanced industrialization and modernity of the cities, the Piemontese are very conservative traditions, and folk festivals are still widely attended.
First-class wines like Barolo, Barbaresco, and Barbera hail from hillside vineyards, accompanied by cuisine that is unabashedly rich and deliciously refined. Fresh pastas are stuffed with delicately spiced meats and showered with fragrant white truffles. Rice is paired with everything from frogs’ legs to Castelmagno cheese and prized cuts of meat are boiled to tender perfection and served during the cold winter months.
It has been said that Piemonte has the finest cuisine in Europe. It is certainly true that Piemontese cuisine utilizes basic, raw ingredients in such a way as to maximize and enhance their natural characteristics, and preserve their longevity. For instance, butter is used extensively in Piemonte where olive oil is used to a far lesser degree than in many other Italian regions. Agnolotti plin, the classic Piemontese ravioli that get their name from the Piemontese word for “pinch,” are often served with melted butter flavored with whole sage leaves.
It’s said that Vitello Tonnato, veal with tuna sauce, was formed out of an alliance between Liguria and Piemonte in the 19th century. The famous Piemontese Noce di Vitello, shoulder round of veal, is browned and then simmered in a broth of onions, carrots and celery until it is a light pink in the middle. It’s then sliced paper thin and served with a sauce of tuna that has been creamed with homemade mayonnaise and capers.