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In the Middle Ages, the town of Pinerolo was one of the main crossroads in Italy, and was therefore one of the principal fortresses of the dukes of Savoy. Its military importance was the origin of the well-known military school that still exists today. The fortress of Fenestrelle is nearby.
The earliest mention of Pinerolo is in the 10th century, when it belonged to the March of Turin and was governed by the abbot nullius of Pinerolo who ran the abbey of Abbadia Alpina, even after the city had established itself as a municipality (1247) under the government of Thomas Savoy.
From 1235, Amadeus IV of Savoy exercised over the town a kind of protectorate which became absolute in 1243, and was continued thereafter either by the house of Savoy, or of Savoy-Acaia.
When French troops invaded Piedmont (1536), Pinerolo was conquered and it remained under their control until 1574.
With the treaty of Cherasco it again fell to France (1631).
France agreed to hand back Pinerolo to the house of Savoy under the Treaty of Turin (1696) with the conditions that its stronghold's fortifications be demolished and that Savoy withdraw from the League of Augsburg against Louis XIV.
The 2011 Tour de France featured a stage in the area.
It is around Pinerolo that revolves the economy of the waldensian valleys (right slope of Val Chisone, Valle Germanasca and Val Pellice) and of the plain between these valleys and the Po (river) course.
Several industries have their base in this area, particularly mechanical, paper making, chemical and textile industries, and also absorb manpower from the nearby centres.
The leading companies are Corcos which produces seals for rotating shafts and valves sterns, Raspini, a meat processing company, Euroball which manufactures ball bearings, the Trombini Group (ex Annovati) which supplies the furniture industry with chipboard and PMT Italia which supplies the pulp and paper industry with paper machines. Moreover, Pinerolo is the trade center of the surrounding mountain area.
The agriculture and the breeding of the livestock are conducted with advanced techniques. Pinerolo is the centre of the community called Comunità Montana Pinerolese Pedemontano. 
- the Cathedral dates from the 9th century, and has an attractive bell tower
- church of San Maurizio, in Gothic style.
People born in Pinerolo include:
- Lidia Poët (born 1855), the first Italian female lawyer and an important figure in female emancipation
- Luigi Facta (1861–1930), politician, journalist and last Prime Minister of Italy before the dictatorship of Benito Mussolini
- Ferruccio Parri (1890–1981), partisan and politician who served as Prime Minister of Italy for several months in 1945
People who died here include:
- Anna Canalis di Cumiana (1680–1769) (morganatic spouse of King Victor Amadeus) died in the convent here
- Nicolas Fouquet, marquis de Belle-Île, vicomte de Melun et Vaux, (1615–1680) superintendent of Finances in France under Louis XIV, died in Pignerol.
- The "Man in the Iron Mask" was imprisoned in Pinerolo from 1669.
- Nicolas Fouquet, Marquis of Belle-Ile, was imprisoned in Pinerolo from 1665 to his death in 1680.
- The Montevideo football team Peñarol takes its name from the Montevideo neighbourhood of Peñarol, which in turn takes its name from this town.
- 23x15px Gap, France, since 1963
- 23x15px Traunstein, Germany, since 1986
- 23x15px San Francisco, Argentina, since 1996
- 23x15px Derventa, Bosnia and Herzegovina, since 2005
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