Piedmont is not on the seaside, but the sea is not essential to enjoy watersports. The Po, the most famous Italian river has its source in Piedmont, and hundreds of torrents and streams of water flow through the region. In 1863 a group of eleven young students formed the area’s first rowing squad. Nowadays the riverbanks are occupied by many different rowing associations, some of whom also offer the opportunity to try the sport out for free. During the festival of Saint John, the patron saint of Turin, these groups organise a torch-lit procession down the river, and once a year the University and Polytechnic rowing teams engage in a fiercely competitive race, which recalls the Oxford Cambridge boat race.
As if this was not enough, the more adventurous can also organise white water kayaking or hydrospeed-rafting trips on the mountain torrents of Val Sesia (Vercelli) or Valle Stura (Cuneo) or go canyoneering down narrow river-beds, exploring otherwise inaccessible gorges, waterfalls and ravines. Finally, it is worthwhile exploring the lake districk of Verbano Cusio Ossola, a beautiful area, often visited by Gustave Flaubert who declared it “the most voluptuous place in the world, where nature enchants you with a thousand unknown seductions …”. In peak season, large numbers of foreigners visit the Lago Maggiore, the Lago d’Orta and the Lago di Mergozzo to sail, water-ski or windsurf.