“Among the vineyard landscapes of Piedmont”
Our second part for this weekend, coming from our base in Turin was for visiting the small and beautiful Piedmont cities of Cuneo and Fossano. Another two places important to the once rich and wealthy House of Savoy Royal Family. While you will not find in here such impressive palaces as those in Turin and nearby, you can expect to see finely preserved medieval old towns built on top of the former perfect Roman grid of streets, containing countless churches, palaces and mansions, among nice parks, gardens and castles; and all with the perfect background of the Alps mountain range, highly likely with snowy tops during the summer months or full of snow during winter and spring, and among the world famous vineyard landscapes, designated an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Quite an impressive setting!
While you can easily spend an entire weekend in Turin alone, especially if you are planning in visiting all or most of the Palaces of the Royal House of Savoy; then there is no chance you could possibly include anything else however if you are a returning tourist (as we are to Turin), or prefer not to enter to that many palaces, then a day is well enough for visiting everything allowing you an entire extra day to do both Cuneo and Fossano, or if only time for one, then make it be Cuneo.
Both cities are very small, with a compact historic centre where distances are short through every sight. Cuneo is long, but narrow while Fossano has a squared shape and way smaller, famous for its traditional arched streets and the four towers castle towards the highest part of the city. A day is well more than enough for both either if you have your own transportation here or not because both cities lie along the mainline railway from Turin to Savona in the Mediterranean coast.
Being that simple to visit and so straightforward, there is not much more that can be said or mentioned for this brief introduction, only a few notes on something great about the north of Italy with regards to dinner time. While of course you have countless restaurants of any kind anywhere, you also have the “happy hour” places where you buy a drink, and get a food buffet included! They call it apericena. Ok, do not expect having a huge choice of food, but it is great enough. For around 8 Euros for a cocktail as an example, then you can eat until you wish, although the general will be around 10 to 12 Euros. A fantastic alternative to an otherwise expensive business that can be finding a nice restaurant, and a much better way to chill out with friends or rest after a long sightseeing day.
Also, don’t forget to try some of the chocolates, the region of Piedmont is famous in the whole of Italy for its production, and Cuneo’s specialty is the Cuneesi al rhum, chocolates filled with rum.
For more information about Cuneo check this Wikipedia article, else for Fossano, this one. Italy’s currency is the Euro (EUR). Please note that any price reference is true as from when this guide was created, therefore check prices in advance as with the time they change.
What to see and do in Cuneo:
- New Town The elegant late 19th century extension of the city, small, long but narrow, with an urbanism of a perfect orthogonal grid, legacy of the ancient Roman town.
-Corso Niza The main street cutting through the entire length of the city, becoming Via Roma towards the northern section, the old town.
-Piazza Europa The first of the two squares along Corso Niza, towards the south.
-Galimberti Square The second and most important square in Cuneo, the most elegant and impressive with the symmetrical buildings. It links both the “new” extension at the south with the old town at the north.
- Old Town Very small, the original medieval city, north from Galimberti Square.
-Duomo A street ahead from Galimberti Square, in Via Roma, is the main church in Cuneo. The main facade is a later addition.
-City Hall and Central Post Office One opposite the other on Via Roma.
-Sant’Ambrogio Church Towards the northern end of Via Roma.
-Piazza Vicenzo Virginio Parallel to Via Roma, in the northwest tip of the old town.
What to see and do in Fossano:
- Borgo Piazza The western half of the historic town, developed from the 15th to the 18th centuries
-Via Roma The main throughfare cutting north to south, famous for its ancient portici (arcades).
-Duomo Built from 1771 in typical brick Piedmont neoclassical style, with the white marble bell tower predating to the origins of the old cathedral from the 13th cnetury.
-City Hall Opposite the Duomo, built in the 18th century also in the traditional red brick.
-Castle of the Princes of Acaja Two streets west from the City Hall is the main highlight in Fossano. Built in the so traditional Piedmont brick style as a square with four corner higher squared towers. Completed in 1332 was home to the extinct branch of the Acaia family, then later in the 15th century Amadeus VIII of Savoy turned it into a ducal residence.
- Borgo Veccio The original medieval core of the historic town, located east from Borgo Piazza where Via Ancina divides both districts.
-Piazza XXVII March 1861 Towards the south and along Via Ancina, surrounded by palaces and old buildings.
-Santa Caterina Prison At the northernmost end of Via Ancina.
-San Filippo Church In the largest square within the Borgo Veccio, with a portico at the front if its main facade.
Both cities are near Levaldigi Airport, simply known as Cuneo, 75 kilometres south of Turin, and serves majority the low cost carriers, however very few destinations. For the nearest bigger international airport that’s Turin Sandro Pertini, commonly known as Caselle, 16 kilometres north of the city, 100 altogether from Fossano and 130 from Cuneo.
From Cuneo airport to the city itself or Fossano, there are buses in coincidence with plane arrivals and departures. As of Turin’s airport, you can easily get there by train or bus. It costs 6.50 Euros.
Trains do connect both Cuneo and Fossano along the northwest-southwest corridor from the Alps to the Mediterranean sea, quite convenient, not the most frequent, but you can reach anywhere in Italy with just a change or two on a major city, for example to get onto the mainline Milan-Rome-Naples.
Once you are at either of these cities, there is no need for taking any public transport. The distances are very short, while most of the historic centre is fully pedestrian.
As we did not stay overnight at either of Cuneo or Fossano since we came from our base Turin, I cannot say anything about what’s the situation and costs for finding a place where to stay. Both cities are in any case, a day trip for most of the tourists who will most likely be based in Turin, city I can provide the following feedback and experience. A city that is becoming with the years more and more popular and not only in tourism, but also a strong economy and industrial motor of the country, the amount of hotels keep growing constantly. 5 years after our first time here and the difference is enormous. There is a huge choice of hotels and accommodation of any kind, from the top luxurious to the more modest. A good and reasonable point to start your search is by checking some of our preferred affiliate hotel search engine such as Hotels.com, Booking.com, Expedia, Otel.com, Agoda, Opodo, Hotels Click, LateRooms or Ebookers.
In our most recent trip we chose to stay at a hotel near the airport, in the north of the city. The reason was simple, we were planning a wider tour visiting not only Turin (actually revisiting it) but also the cities of Cuneo and Fossano, for what we rented a car hence the flexibility of being anywhere we wanted or wherever we would find the best deal. That always works great! The difference between staying in the city centre of Turin was double the cost than near the airport, for a property of the same characteristics, 4*, breakfast included. We stayed at the Pacific Hotel Airport, in Viale Martiri Della Liberta 76, Borgaro. Right in between the airport and the city centre. Let’s start by wondering from where they got the 4* because it is looking and feeling as a 3*, however, very nice. The staff was incredibly friendly, polite and enjoyably to speak to. The bedroom although dated, was good in size, with a comfortable bed and most important, it was quiet at night so we could have a great rest both days. As last, the breakfast. Comparing to similar properties this was great, medium to large in options and good in quality. Definitely a good choice I recommend for anyone who don’t mind location. However for someone planning in visiting Turin, I would then recommend you to stay somewhere in downtown.
As for our experience back in July 2012, we booked just 2 days before going without any trouble and found a great deal at the Pacific Fortino, in Strada del Fortino 36. A 4* property near the metro station and next door to many of the tram lines. A great location, quiet and clean, very comfortable a nice room with a large bed and a nice breakfast too. This is for sure a 4* property, not like it tends to happen in Italy with the hotel standards where sometimes it is a mystery how they even get 4* because they feel 3 or even lower, however you still pay the extra as if a truly 4*.