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Very soon, the world's attention will be focused on the Piemonte area of northwestern Italy where the 2006 Torino Olympics kick off in a little more than two weeks. Even though millions of Americans travel to Italy each year, they don't often get to Torino, or the surrounding mountainous Piemonte region, which translates from Italian to "foot of the mountains."

When was the last time a neighbor told you they were just back from a great trip to the Piedmont region of Italy? (No, the Cinqueterre don't count). "Where is Torino anyway?" is the more common question you get when you bring it up. It's just not on the tourist map.

I don't know it either. And I really should. My mother, Luciana, was a "Piemontese" who grew up in the Olympic city. My Italian parents met in Torino and married there and my older brother Massimiliano was born there in 1947 before the Iaconos moved south towards Naples, where I was born. My parents then emigrated to the United States, settling in the Washington area, when I was 3 years old and my brother 11.

And it's not like I don't know Italy. I do. I lived there for 10 years as an adult, moving back after college to get in touch with my roots and launch my journalism career. I speak Italian. I met my husband in Italy. A few years ago, we bought a house on a lake near Rome.

But yet, the misty, mountainous Piemonte of my mother's side of the family is as unknown to me as it is to most Americans. And with the Olympics just around the corner, I decided the time had come to change that.

If you read the guidebooks on the area (it's left out of many Italy books entirely), there's plenty to see there. Torino is a Baroque jewel, they say, with an architectural purity that rivals other Italian cities. It's not just the gritty industrial home of the FIAT car company, or the hard-to-see Turin Shroud, but rather an elegant, Paris-like city with big boulevards and a vibrant cafe culture thriving under graceful stone porticos.

Near Torino, there's the towering Alpine resorts where the Olympic skiing competitions will take place, an area smack up against France. It's not hard to see why French is this region's second language.

Piemonte is also a food and wine center, complete with ultra-expensive, super-rare truffles and the production of some of Italy's best-known wines. It's also the home of Nutella, that yummy chocolate spread, and it's where the Ferrero Rochers we just gave everybody for Christmas are made.

Come discover the Piemonte with me this week, on this blog, which will run from Monday to Friday. Pierre Kattar, a videojournalist from washingtonpost.com, and I will start off in Torino and then travel in a big loose circle around the Piemonte to check out if the guidebooks - and tourism officials - are right. That this area has always deserved more of a look-see. I'm not sure who's right on that. But we'll find out together.

By Maura McCarthy |  January 20, 2006; 10:08 AM ET  | Category:  Introduction
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We spent two weeks in the Cinqueterre region last February. Torino is a unique Italian city to visit. Lets not forget that it is the home of FIAT; the Bugati's, Maseratti's and the Ferrari's. It has the great FIAT museum for the Car lovers, young and old. We had a great time visiting the Italian Alps, the Monte Blanco and drove through the longest tunnel to get to Chamonix. A fantastic experience and I will probably do it again, this time in late spring when I can do some mountain biking...

Posted by: Shaila Mani | January 23, 2006 03:14 PM

You make me homesick. It is true that is difficult to see articles about Piemonte, but guess what, everytime we go to Italy we go to Piemonte. I was born in Alessandria and my mom in Nizza Monferrato.
Fall is the best time to visit there and see the beautiful vineyards in the Langhe. Interesting small towns and I can keep going and going.
Hope you enjoy it. Thanks for this blog. Adriana

Posted by: Adriana Bobbio-Bokma | January 23, 2006 03:25 PM

As the others state, it is good to see Torino in the spotlight over here. My grandfather's family hails from just North of the city, and I spent the better part of a week visiting cousins there when I was living in Venice. One of the things that struck me about the city when I was there was how off the English speaking tourist path it was. There I was, standing under the crowded arcades of that city of a million people, and I don't think I overheard a single word of English: in addition to the Italian, there was a fair amount of French, and some German, but the Americans and Brits seem not to have discovered Torino. It was very refreshing; let's keep it our little secret.

Posted by: Zachary Tyler Newton | January 23, 2006 04:52 PM

I spent the summer of '78 in Torino as an exhange student. It was the height of the Red Brigades scare- my first tour around the city, with my long-haired host brothers, was punctuated by a thorough inspection from machine gun-toting soldiers at a roadblock - but the quiet charm, even elegance, of the city quickly won me over. My fondest memories include sipping a beer while translating La Stampa in the Piazza San Carlo, and I was thrilled when other Italians could tell by my accent that I was "from" Piemonte. I hope Torino gets some well-deserved exposure from the Games.

Posted by: Jeffry Burden | January 23, 2006 08:47 PM

Reading Ms. Deane's lovely travelogue, I feel like I'm hearing an old friend speak....keep up the good work!

Posted by: Beth Steward | January 25, 2006 07:32 PM

I just started to take a course in Italian and I can't wait to go there and practice. The more I read and learn about this great country the more I want to make sure that I visit it this year!!
Ciao and grazie

Posted by: Maria Vargas | January 27, 2006 11:45 AM

Thanks for a very well-written travelogue. My wife and I will be making our first trip to Italy this Spring, and Torino will be our base, so we're reading your reports eagerly.

Most of all, however, I want to say WOW! about those phenomenal panoramic photos. How do you do that? It's amazing to feel like you're standing in the middle of each scene.

Posted by: Frank Moritz | January 27, 2006 03:40 PM

You do a great job of capturing the essence of Torino and presenting it to the reader. I specially love those panoramic pictures. Great work Daniela and Pierre.

Posted by: Kunal Chawla | February 1, 2006 08:42 AM

In your article you mention you "bought a house on a lake near Rome." What might that town be called?

I was watching a series on Everybody Loves Raymond which was filmed in a town near Rome. But I did not catch the name of the town on the credits.

Posted by: jmarion@bellboyd.com | February 2, 2006 08:55 AM

Dani-I enjoyed seeing your article and your blog. I went to Italy for the first time last year and thought of you when we went through Naples. I'd love to hear from you.


Posted by: Pat McMurray | February 7, 2006 08:23 PM

Very much enjoyed Daniela's entertaining and well-written articles. Makes me very anxious to plan our second trip to Italy. Will definitly be including this region in our plans. Thanks for such an original approach to pre-olympic coverage.

Posted by: Connie | February 11, 2006 11:42 PM

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