Piedmont

Piedmont (pēdˈmŏnt) [key], Ital. Piemonte, region (1991 pop. 4,302,565), 9,807 sq mi (25,400 sq km), NW Italy, bordering on France in the west and on Switzerland in the north. Turin is the capital of the region, which is one of the richest in Italy. Piedmont is divided into the provinces of Alessandria, Asti, Cuneo, Novara, Turin, and Vercelli (named for their capitals). The mostly mountainous and hilly region has the Alps in the north and west and the Apennines in the south.

In the more elevated parts of Piedmont, forest products and fruit are produced and cattle are raised. In the fertile valley of the upper Po River wheat, corn, rice, grapes, honey, and chestnuts are grown. Piedmont has considerable industry, powered in part by well-developed hydroelectric facilities and aided by an extensive transportation network. Manufactures include motor vehicles (mainly at Turin), textiles, leather goods, aluminum, chemicals, glass, wine, and office machines. There is a substantial tourist industry, notably at Lago Maggiore in the northeast, and skiing is a popular activity. There is a university at Turin.

The area of Piedmont was incorporated by Rome in the 1st cent. B.C. It came to be known as Piedmont by the 13th cent., growing out of Turin and Ivrea, western marches of the Lombard kingdom of Italy. Created in the 10th cent., the marches passed by marriage (11th cent.) to the Savoy dynasty (see Savoy, house of). In the 12th cent. free communes were instituted in many cities, while others remained under feudal lords. Besides the counts (later dukes) of Savoy, the marquises of Saluzzo and Montferrat were powerful nobles. By the 15th cent. Savoy emerged as the chief power.

The French often entered Piedmont via the strategic Mont Cenis and Montgenèvre passes through the Alps, either as allies or as enemies; they greatly influenced Piedmontese history and culture. Moreover, Piedmont was a major battlefield in the Italian Wars (15th–16th cent.), the wars of Louis XIV, and the French Revolutionary Wars. The dukes of Savoy, who in 1720 became kings of Sardinia, had acquired all of present-day Piedmont by 1748. From 1798 to 1814, Piedmont was held by France. After 1814, the region became the nucleus of Italian unification during the Risorgimento, and Turin was the first capital (1861–64) of the new Italian kingdom. Valle d'Aosta was part of Piedmont until 1945.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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