The Province of Cuneo extends to the southwestern tip of Piedmont, and borders France to the west and Liguria to the south.
The Alps, with the Monviso massif and the hills of Langhe, Roero and Monferrato, covers most of the territory, while at the center lies a vast plain traversed by the Po, Tanaro, and other rivers. The beautiful landscapes offer great variety: valleys with luxuriant vegetation, hills with patchworks of vineyards broken up only by castles, and wildlife reserves of unique beauty.
The Maritime Alps Natural Park features high-altitude lakes that reflect the surrounding peaks with unforgettable views. The Parco Fluviale Gesso-Stura and the Parco Fluviale del Po Tratto Cuneese are of equal beauty and encompass unique landmarks, such as the Rio Martino Cave with its spectacular waterfall.
In addition to its natural beauty, the area offers many other attractions. Its positions made it an important point of contact between peoples and cultures. The most important routes of Medieval pilgrimage ran across it: the Way of San Giacomo and Via Francigena. Important families have fought for its control through the ages.
Its artistic and cultural heritage bears witness to centuries of history: castles and towers that have become an integral part of the landscape, villas and princely residences, and wonderful abbeys, like the Staffarda.
In Cuneo's environs, various towns boast a wealth of historical and artistic works, such as Alba, Fossano, Mondovì and Saluzzo, one of the most fascinating towns in Piedmont. The area is also home to some of the best Italian wines, and has been enriched by Occitan cultural influences - religious, gastronomic and folkloristic traditions - that make it the perfect locality for a vacation steeped in culture and charm.
The first stop on a discovery of the homonymous Province should be Cuneo itself, surrounded by the snow-covered Alps and dominated by the Torre Civica.
Piazza Galimberti, a vast, central square, is the point of departure for a visit to Cuneo Vecchia (or old Cuneo) with its arcades, lanes and monuments: the Cathedral, the former Church of St. Francis and the Civic Museum.
A land of traditions and culture, it boasts many of the residences of Savoy, works of immense architectural importance surrounded by wonderful parks and listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the Royal Castle of Racconigi, an imposing building realized in different styles; the Castle of Pollenzo in the municipality of Bra; the Castle of Govone boasting its rich décor and fine wooden furniture; and finally, the Savoy Residence of Valcasotto in the municipality of Garessio.
Archaeological sites dating back to the Roman era are definitely worth a visit, including the Excavation of Augusta Bagiennorum and the ruins of ancient Pollentia, including remains of the theatre and amphitheatre.
Along the ancient Medieval pilgrimage routes, the Via Francigena and the Way of Santiago, are many artistic and religious relics. The most famous are: the Shrines of San Magno in Grana Valley, of Sant’Anna di Vinadio and of the Madonna of the Woods in Boves.
Sites of great spiritual dot the landscape, for instance the imposing Abbey of Staffarda, one of the most important Medieval monuments of Piedmont; and the Carthusian Monastery (Certosa) of Pesio.
Saluzzo is known as the “Siena of Piedmont” for its monuments that date back to the Middle Ages and the Renaissance; they are testaments to its historic role as an important Marquisate.
Other important sites are Alba, the Medieval “town of a hundred towers” in the Tanaro River Valley, and home to the precious white truffle; Bra, renowned for its carnival mask production; and Dronero, a summer resort of exemplary architecture.
An exciting trek through the hills reveals ancient manors, including the Castle of Grinzane Cavour, former residence of Camillo Benso and one of the most evocative buildings of the Langhe; and the Castles of Cherasco, Manta and Acaja di Fossano, possessing an ancient drawbridge that still functions today. Finally, Piasco is home to the Victor Salvi Harp Museum and its fascinating collection of harps.
From Frabosa Soprana to Limone Piemonte, from Vinadio to Argentera and Pontechianale, the mountains and valleys of the Province of Cuneo offer winter sports in modern resorts fully-equipped with facilities and slopes for skiing, cross-country ski and snowboarding, along with trails for snowshoeing and rinks for skating. Numerous mountaineering and trekking paths cater to all capacity levels, as does the Grande Traversata delle Alpi, a long-distance hiking trail running through the Alps and marked in part by lodges for pit-stops and overnight stays.
The Maritime Alps Natural Park also provides a number of hiking trails, while the Gesso-Stura River Park offers a wide range of walking/cycling routes; meanwhile the City of Cuneo accommodates swimmers and athletes in general with swimming and sports facilities.
Valdieri, Vinadio, Garessio, Roccolo di Busca, Camorei di Borgo San Dalmazzo, Lurisia, and Peveragno are thermal hot springs with spa centers inviting guests to rejuvenate and relax for as long as they want.
Events and festivals to be highlighted are the National Exhibition of Antiques and Artisanry of Saluzzo; the International White Truffle Fair of Alba; and the traditional Palio degli Asini, a donkey race, also taking place in Alba.
The historical re-enactments are especially evocative, from the Baio di Sampeyre that commemorates the victory of the inhabitants of the Cuneese vallyes against the Saracens in the Middle Ages to the Roumiage de Setembre in Coumboscuro and the Giostra dell’Oca, a tournament staged for archers, infantrymen and flag-bearers in Fossano.
The most important product is the white truffle of Alba that has an intense fragrance and is picked in various areas: Langhe, Monferrato, Roero. Just as tasty and appreciated, the black truffle is gathered in the Mongia and Grana valleys.
The most common main courses are dunderet di patate, tajerin, agnolotti, gnocchi alla bava and risotto with quails. Cheese varieties include various types of toma from the Langhe, the robiola of Dogliani, and bruss. Castelmagno cheese is a renowned local product made in the Occitan Valleys of Piedmont, where the ancient Oc language is still spoken.
The most outstanding typical products are cured meats like batiur or mariur, made from pork, spices and wine; and cured beef.
The local desserts include cuneesi with rum and the torrone d’Alba, a type of nougat. In the Monviso valleys, losëtte, brut e bun ("ugly but tasty") with almonds and hazelnut granola, and risòle (fried ravioli with jam inside and sugar topping), are all favorites. In the Po Valley, a typical sweet is batiaje, pastries made with yellow flour.
From Langhe to Monferrato and Roero, this is a realm of great wines - perhaps you have heard of Barolo, Barbaresco, Dolcetto, Nebbiolo, Freisa, or the DOC wines of the Saluzzesi Hills?