Renaissance Dissident
Art History from a Different Perspective

The Art, History and Culture of Piedmont

The 14th century Castle of the Princes of Acaja, lords of Fossano
The beautiful frescoed interior of the church of San Fiorenzo, Bastia Mondovì. Photo: Alexandra Korey.

Travellers who come to Italy in search of art typically arrive in Florence, Rome or Venice, but one of the best-kept secrets of Italian art is to be found in a region of Italy that you probably fly right over in your search for the giants of the Renaissance - Piedmont. It’s that particularly verdant part in the top left-hand corner of Italy just after you cross the Alps. Piedmont, in local dialect is ‘Pie de’ Monte’, which in English means the land ‘at the foot of the mountain’, and if you travel through Piedmont, you see that the name is well-earned. When the air is clear, the beautiful chain of mountains that borders the north and west of the region often dominates the horizon. This is the region of Italy which has the heaviest French influence, today expressed in the elegant cafés of the larger towns and cities, and widely in local dialects.

Step outside of those cities, and you will find yourself in a land of hilltop towns, with impressive castles and frescoed churches. Those castles sometimes contain art of an an amazing quality equal to anything you will find in Florence, and even the smallest churches and tiny chapels along the Pilgrims’ Way southwards are filled with the most fantastic frescoes. But the style of the art in this region is very different to what you will find in Venice or Florence, and you are going to have to go very much ‘off the beaten track’ to find it. But if you do, you will not be disappointed.

A fresco of Christ Pantocrator in the Chapel of San Bernadino, Lusernetta, in Piedmont.
A fresco of the evangelists on the ceiling of the Parochial Church of San Pietro e Paolo, Pianezza, in Piedmont.
Frescoes of Christ Pantocrator in the Chapel of San Bernadino, Lusernetta, and the Evangelists in the Parochial Church of San Pietro e Paolo, Lusernetta. Photos: Paolo Barosso.

Visiting Piedmont also means you are going to have to learn a whole new artistic vocabulary. Instead of more famous names like Michelangelo, Mantegna or Botticcelli, you are going to be ‘meeting’ masters like Aimone Duce, Giacomo Jaquerio, the brothers Tommaso and Matteo Biazaci, and many other anonymous artists (I’m working on the ‘anonymous’ bit).

The culture of cuisine is also very strong here. Piedmont is where the ‘Slow Food’ movement was born, and you will find festivals of local food and wine - sagre - everywhere in the small towns and villages of the region in the autumn. Piedmont is also famous for its white truffles.

Do take the time to come and visit us in this wonderful region of Italy, with its unique culture: the land ‘at the foot of the mountain’.

A carved Romanesque capital of the church of San Secondo in Cortazzone.
Nebbiolo grapes in a vineyard in the Langhe, Piedmont
A 17th century map of the Italian region of Piedmont.
© Chris Dobson 2024 | All rights reserved