She has been Professor of Economics at the Turin Polytechnic University and she has also lectured in Pavia, Udine and at the University of Turin. Expert in environmental economy, she is also author of various books and essays. She is Gran Officer of the Italian Republic.
She has been President of the World Federation of United Cities (WFUC) and President of METREX, the Network of European Metropolitan Regions and Areas. She has also been President of the Conference of the Franco-Italian Alps (CAFI).
In 1985 she was first elected in the Regional Council of the Piedmont Region and in 1994-95 she has been Regional Minister for the Territorial Planning and for the Parks. From 1995 to 2004 she has been President of the Province of Turin and of the Union of the Piedmont Provinces.
Elected Member of the European Parliament in 2004, she been leading the Piedmont Committee for the European Constitution. From 2005 to 2010 she was the first woman to serve as President of the Piedmont Region.
The 10 February 2010 she has been elected as President of the Committee of the Regions of the European Union. In 2010 she has been re-elected in the Regional Council. She has been First Vice President of the Committee of the Regions from 2012 to 2014 when she was elected as a Member of the European Parliament.
She is currently Coordinator in the Committee for Constitutional Affairs (AFCO) for the SD Group, member of the REGI Committee (Regional Development) and substitute member of the Committee for Employment and Social Affairs (EMPL). She is also member of the Delegation for relations with Switzerland and Norway and to the EU-Iceland Joint Parliamentary Committee and the European Economic Area (EEA) Joint Parliamentary Committee