Piedmont

       
View of the Po from Torino, near the Ponte Balbis.

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Piedmont is one of the 20 regions of Italy. It has an area of 25,402 square kilometres and a population of about 4.4 million. The capital of Piedmont is Turin. The main local language is Piedmontese. Occitan is also spoken by a minority in the Occitan Valleys situated in the Provinces of Cuneo and Turin. Franco-Provençal is also spoken by another minority in the alpine heights of the Province of 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 13th century).
 
Piedmont is surrounded on three sides by the Alps, including Monviso, where the Po rises, and Monte 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 contiguous 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 it's 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 the lower the 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 varied: one passes 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. The percentage of the territory which is a protected area is 7.6%. There are 56 different national or regional parks. One such park is the Gran Paradiso National Park.
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