The Great Escape

The Paradise That Is Italy’s Piedmont

By Abigail Green -
Claudio Giovanni Colombo/ Shutterstock

Having just come out of an incredibly busy month at work, I hardly saw the four walls of my condo and I seriously neglected my cat Milly, who won’t talk to me anymore (mental note to self: I should never have children). It was under these dire circumstances that the doctor ordered that I book myself a holiday. Thus, when I woke up one morning and I couldn’t find my keys, my car wouldn’t start and I realised halfway through the day that I was wearing two different boots (in my defense they do look similar), I felt that it was one of those days that even my coffee, needed a coffee. At this point, I realised a holiday might actually be quite necessary and I finally took the necessary steps to book myself a much needed vacation. My destination was the highly relaxing and luxurious Piedmont region of Northern Italy, the time was now!


My boyfriend is quite conveniently a wonderful travelling partner who just somehow knows how to get the most out of an experience, finding the path less travelled and always managing to get those front row tickets. I’ve travelled with him a lot over the past 5 years and I still don’t know how he does it?! Anyway a few strokes of his in the right direction gave us access to the Aston Martin DB9 Volante, an exceptionally rare and prestigious vehicle by Aston Martin. Furthermore, the DB9 was delivered to us as we arrived at Turin’s International Airport in the dead of the night. An incredibly impressive car it is lightweight and beautifully constructed. A word of advice though, if you do decide to hire this car, make sure it’s a road trip that you’re taking alone as we were squabbling as to who’s turn it was to drive a lot of the time. The situation was only ever easily resolved when we attended a wine tour and one of us, usually me, succumbed to an award winning vintage temptation.


The next day we set out to explore Turin, the capital of the Piedmont region it offers a beautiful blend of architectural styles. As the city hosts a series of unusual monuments and sights, it ensures that any slow cruise is eye catching and very eclectic. We started our morning at the Piazza Castello, where even before we entered the square we were greeted with the rich and intoxicating smell of espresso coffee and the friendly bravado shouts of the local Italians who shared their morning greetings to each other between the wide expanse of the square.


Our day exploring the city included visits to the imposing grandeur of Palazzo Madama, the home of what was once the Italian Kingdom’s first senate. Other monuments that stole away our curiosity included those down Via Garibaldi, each positioned between one grand church after the next impressive castle. The Italians certainly do have a penchant for unabashed ostentation! After a delicious lunch of antipasto and ciabatta bread we were off to see the church of San Lorenzo and then the Royal Gardens, where we plonked ourselves down on the grass between stunning beds of colour.


As the Egyptian Museum of Turin came highly recommended, we made sure to take a look in, and we were not disappointed. Apparently hosting the most important collection of Egyptian antiquities outside of Cairo, the highlight  was seeing the oldest known copy of the Egyptian “Book of the Dead”. As the evening encroached, we drove away from the crowds in the inner city to enjoy a more traditional fare at a classic Italian trattoria, where the food was as delicious as the welcome was warm.


The next day we were made tracks, or rather should I say, I was making tracks in the splendid DB9 Volante, towards the Palace of Venaria in the Venaria Reale. A UNESCO World heritage site since 1997, it is one of the largest royal palaces in the world. While most of the palaces original elegance and grandeur was stripped bare by Napoleon who walked through the place in 1798, it still offers a stirring insight to the life that may have been led inside its regal hallways.


Afterwards, we were resolute to spend more time outside with the sunshine pouring down on us, so we decided to take a drive along the sapphire blue seas of Lake Maggiore. Amidst the wild fauna we found rare species of birds, owls, and even a family of turtles, it was spectacular! A quick ferry ride brought us over to the Borromean islands where we wandered our way between splendid palaces and art galleries. We finally brought in the evening at a restaurant located in the large and beautiful 17th century palazzo.


In the days that followed our drive through Piedmont, we uncovered many of the region’s secret gems; the quaint towns and hamish villages of Asti, Ginazani and Rapallo that all dot the way, adding character to every kilometer we travelled. We stopped throughout our drive many times to try a new vintage of wine that we had never had before, familiarised ourselves well with the many joys of traditional Italian cuisine, we daringly entered into some most imposing churches that inspired our sense of grandeur and we even had a chance to praise our lucky stars in a horse race on the Palio di Asti racing track.   

Finally we arrived on the Italian Riviera where we stayed the night in the elegant and exotic hotel, Santa Margherita Ligure. Indeed the Piedmont region lived up to everything that was promised. Amidst its fascinating and rich history, there was romance to be shared, delicacies to be tried and hidden grandeur that demanded being exposed. Perhaps we found the true beauty in Piedmont, but perhaps this was a location that found the real beauty in each of us.

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