Piedmont

 

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Piedmont is the second largest of the 20 regions of Italy and lies in the north west of the country, bordering the Liguria region to the south, the Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna regions to the east and the Aosta Valley region to the northwest; it also borders Switzerland to the northeast and France to the west. It has an area of 9,808 square miles (25,402 square km), comprising eight provinces - Alessandria, Asti, Biella, Cuneo, Novara, Turin, Verbano-Cusio-Ossola and Vercelli.

Piedmont is surrounded on three sides by the Alps and 43% of the region is mountainous in contrast to the flatness of the Padan Plain (Valley of the Po). The name of the region is derived from the Italian for "at the foot of the mountains".

In Roman times Piedmont was important because its passes connected Italy with the transalpine provinces of Gaul. After periods of Lombard and Frankish rule, the house of Savoy emerged as the most important feudatory of northwestern Italy. This dynasty first became powerful as successor to the marquesses of Ivrea and of Turin, but after 1400 Savoy’s control of both slopes of the Alps, ruling over what is now French Savoie and over Piedmont, gave it undisputed sovereignty over much of the region. After 1700 practically all of Piedmont passed under Savoyard domination, and the addition of Sardinia and its territories provided still wider interests. During the Risorgimento (movement for Italian independence), Piedmont led the attempts of 1848, 1859, and 1866 to unite all of Italy, and Victor Emmanuel II, originally king of Piedmont and Sardinia, became modern Italy’s first king in 1861.

The official language of the region is Italian and there are a number of local languages including Piedmontese, Insubric, Occitan, Franco-Provençal  and Walser .

The Alpine arc of Piedmont plays a vital part in the power production of the region and of northern Italy as a whole; the region’s hydroelectric plants supply energy for industry, transportation, and domestic use. The forests provide lumber, and the Alpine and sub-Alpine meadows afford excellent pasture for cattle as the base of a prosperous dairy industry. The lowlands produce wheat and rice, vegetables and fruit, and milk and cheese. The hills south of the Po River are noted for the production of some of Italy’s highest-quality wines, both of the sparkling (Asti) and still (Barbera) varieties.

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