The term "Piemonte" refers to both a geographical entity—as an administrative district of the Italian state—and to a linguistic entity, distinct enough from Standard Italian to be treated as a language in its own right. Piemonte is comprised of the districts of Alessandria, Asti, Cuneo, Navarra, Turin, and Vercelli. It is bordered on the west by France, on the north by Val d'Aosta District and by Switzerland, on the east by Lombardy, and, between its southern border and the Ligurian Sea, by Liguria. Its principal city is Turin (Torino). The northern portion of the region is subalpine, with the remainder formed by the northern Italian plain. Piemonte is a part of "continental Italy," as distinct from "peninsular Italy" to the south. It is exposed to polar air in winter and warm winds off the Atlantic in summer. Winters are characterized by fog and frost, with snow at elevations above 1,500 meters. The portion of Piemonte that verges on the Alps differs climatically from the plains region, in part because the latter enjoys the shelter from winds provided by mountains on three of its sides. In the plains region, while temperatures may drop to below freezing in winter, snow is rare.
Piemonte is one of the more densely populated of Italy's regions, with more than 4.5 million inhabitants. Much of its population growth in recent decades has been fueled by Immigrants from the economically depressed regions of Southern Italy, who are drawn northward by the possibility of employment in Piemontese (and Lombardian and Ligurian) industries.
Piemontese is a Gallo-Italian dialect, along with Lombard, Ligurian, and Emilian. Illiteracy, historically a problem in Italy because of its wide range of linguistic diversity, occurs at a substantially lower rate for Piemonte than for any other administrative region of the country. This may in part be the result of the long-standing tradition of lay education that distinguishes Piemonte (and its neighbor, Lombardy) from the rest of the country.