Piedmont is one of the 20 regions of Italy. It has an area of 25,402 square kilometres (9,808 sq mi) and a population of about 4.6 million. The capital of Piedmont is Turin.
The name Piedmont comes from medieval Latin Pedemontium or Pedemontis, i.e., ad pedem montium, meaning “at the foot of the mountains” (attested in documents of the end of the 12th century).
Piedmont is surrounded on three sides by the Alps, including Monviso, where the Po rises, andMonte Rosa. It borders with France, Switzerland and the Italian regions of Lombardy, Liguria,Aosta Valley and for a very small fragment with Emilia Romagna. The geography of Piedmont is 43.3% mountainous, along with extensive areas of hills (30.3%) and plains (26.4%).
Piedmont is the second largest of Italy's 20 regions, after Sicily. It is broadly coincident with the upper part of the drainage basin of the river Po, which rises from the slopes of Monviso in the west of the region and is Italy’s largest river. The Po collects all the waters provided within the semicircle of mountains (Alps and Apennines) which surround the region on three sides.
From the highest peaks the land slopes down to hilly areas, (not always, though; sometimes there is a brusque transition from the mountains to the plains) and then to the upper, and then to the lower great Padan Plain. The boundary between the first and the second is characterised by risorgive springs, typical of the Padan Plain which supply fresh water both to the rivers and to a dense network of irrigation canals.
The countryside is very diversified: from the rugged peaks of the massifs of Monte Rosa and of Gran Paradiso, to the damp rice paddies of Vercelli and Novara, from the gentle hillsides of the Langhe and of Montferrat to the plains. 7.6% of the entire territory is considered protected area. There are 56 different national or regional parks, one of the most famous is the Gran Paradiso National Park located between Piedmont and the Aosta Valley.
Piedmont was inhabited in early historic times by Celtic-Ligurian tribes such as the Taurini and the Salassi. They were later subdued by theRomans (c. 220 BC), who founded several colonies there including Augusta Taurinorum (Turin) and Eporedia (Ivrea). After the fall of theWestern Roman Empire, the region was repeatedly invaded by the Burgundians, the Goths (5th century), Byzantines, Lombards (6th century),Franks (773).
In the 9th–10th centuries there were further incursions by the Magyars and Saracens. At the time Piedmont, as part of theKingdom of Italy within the Holy Roman Empire, was subdivided into several marks and counties.
In 1046, Oddo of Savoy added Piedmont to their main territory of Savoy, with a capital at Chambéry (now in France). Other areas remained independent, such as the powerful comuni (municipalities) of Asti and Alessandria and the marquisates of Saluzzo and Montferrat. The County of Savoy was elevated to a duchy in 1416, and Duke Emanuele Filiberto moved the seat to Turin in 1563. In 1720, the Duke of Savoy became King of Sardinia, founding what evolved into the Kingdom of Sardinia and increasing Turin's importance as a European capital.
The Republic of Alba was created in 1796 as a French client republic in Piedmont before the area was annexed by France in 1801. In June 1802 a new client republic, the Subalpine Republic, was established in Piedmont and in September it was also annexed. In the congress of Vienna, the Kingdom of Sardinia was restored, and furthermore received the Republic of Genoa to strengthen it as a barrier against France.
Piedmont was an initial springboard for Italy's unification in 1859–1861, following earlier unsuccessful wars against the Austrian Empire in 1820–1821 and 1848–1849. This process is sometimes referred to as Piedmontisation. However, the efforts were later countered by the efforts of rural farmers.
The House of Savoy became Kings of Italy, and Turin briefly became the capital of Italy. However, when the Italian capital was moved toFlorence, and then to Rome, the administrative and institutional importance of Piedmont was deeply reduced and the only remaining recognition to Piedmont's historical role was that the crown prince of Italy was known as the Prince of Piedmont. After Italian unification, Piedmont was one of the most important regions in the first Italian industrialization.
The population density in Piedmont is lower than the national average. In 2008 it was equal to 174 inhabitants per km2, compared to a national figure of about 200. It rises however to 335 inhabitants per km2 when just the province of Turin is considered, whereas Verbano-Cusio-Ossola is the less densely populated province (72 inhabitants per km2).
The population of Piedmont followed a downward trend throughout the 1980s. This drop is the result of the natural negative balance (of some 3 to 4% per year), while the migratory balance since 1986 has again become positive because of an excess of new immigration over a stable figure for emigration. The population as a whole has remained stable in the 1990s, although this is the result of a negative natural balance and a positive net migration.
The Turin metro area grew rapidly in the 1950s and 1960s due to an increase of immigrants from Southern Italy, and today it has a population of approximately two million. As of 2008, the Italian national institute of statistics (ISTAT) estimated that 310,543 foreign-born immigrants live in Piedmont, equal to 7.0% of the total regional population. Most immigrants come from Eastern Europe (mostly from Romania, Poland, and Bulgaria) with smaller communities of African immigrants.