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Pinerolo is a sizable town centrally located in the Piedmont region of north-west Italy about 35km south-west of Turin and in an attractive setting surrounded by hills and valleys.
A brief history of Pinerelo
The town initially developed 1000 years ago because of its important position on a trade route between Italy and France, and subsequently as home to the powerful Acaia family.
Being close to the border with France, Pinorolo also had an important military role in the region - for long periods of time in the 16th and 17th centuries it even fell under French control, a period during which many of the original medieval buildings were unfortunately destroyed.
While Pinerolo is no longer the important centre it was a few hundred years ago, and there are now quite extensive newer developments, it has retained an attractive medieval centre that is well worth visiting if you are in the region.
While the main highlights in Pinerolo are the Duomo (cathedral) that dates from the 9th century, and also the gothic style Church of San Maurice, be sure to explore a while - there are several other imposing palaces and townhouses to discover in the town, some dating back to medieval times such as the 14th century palace of the princes of Achaia.
Cathedral of San Donato
The Cathedral of San Donato in Pinerelo has its origins in the 11th century, although little remains to remind us of this early sturcture. The current gothic style cathedral dates largely from the 15th century, with further substantial changes made in the late 19th century.
The cathedral has a symmetrical facade in three parts, featuring rose windows and a gothic style entrance with two statues, and also an impressive belltower. Inside the cathedral is interesting with its columns and ceiling decoratively painted with many religious portraits.
Basilica of Saint-Maurice
The Basilica of Saint-Maurice also has origins that date back to the 11th century, although it has also been frequently altered over the last 1000 years.
The church facade, rather simple in appearance and constructed of red brick, divides into three sections each with rose windows and three symmetrical gothic style stone entrances. Inside the church you can see some 15th century frescoes.
Other Pinerelo monuments
Just behind the basilica you can see the Shrine of Our Lady of Grace. You can also see (from the outside only) the palace that was once owned by the Princes of Acaia - the family of Acaia was an early branch of the later, very powerful, House of Savoy family. The princes from this family are buried at the San Maurice church.
There are several regional museums in Pinerolo that reflect the towns history: the Museum of the Cavalry (the most interesting of the museums in Pinerolo); the Museum of Ethnography; the Museum of Prehistoric Art; the 19th century collection of paintings in the Palace Vittone; the Museum of the Diocese that tells the religious history of Pinerolo.
The weekly market in Pinerolo is held each Wednesday and Saturday in Piazza Vittorio Veneto, the principal square in the town centre and the focus for much of the activity in Pinerolo. On the edges of the square you can see the Palazzo Vittone and the City Hall, both now home to important local museums.
The situation of Pinerolo on the edge of the Alps means it is also a popular sports destination - for example it was one of the bases for the Winter Olympics in 2006, the end of a mountain stage in the Tour de France 2011, and is a frequent stage in the Giro d'Italia.
You can find more local travel ideas in the Piedmont guide.