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Avigliana originally developed in the 15th century when several of the Princes of Savoy established their homes here. The town is overlooked by the ruins of a 10th century castle, the ruins of which can be reached by a short walk from Avigliana centre.
Both the town itself and the surrounding countryside - Avigliana is surrounded by lakes and mountains and is part of the scenic Susa Valley - are very pleasant to visit, while the most important monument for visitors is the Abbey Sacra di San Michelle a few kilometres from the town.
Explore Avigliana: tourism and travel guide
In the centre of the town activity revolves around the two main squares: the Piazza Santa Maria and Piazza Conto Rosso. Both of these squares are impressively surrounded by grand medieval houses. The Piazza Conto Rosso in particular, with its medieval arcades and 13th century houses, several with fascinating decorative and architectural elements, is very picturesque.
A building of particular interest in Piazza Conto Rosso is the 14th century Church of San Giovanni and the 16th century paintings by Defendente Ferrari it contains.
Another religious monument is the Shrine of Our Lady of the Lakes, perhaps not surprisingly set on the edge of one of the lakes in Avigliana. You can admire the imposing entranceway then step inside to see the 16th century altarpiece and a 14th century icon of Mary.
You will come across several other small churches and other historical monuments such as the Round Tower and the Clock Tower as you explore. The Clock Tower is said to be one of the oldest in Italy.
On the hill above Avigliana you can see the ruins of the 11th century castle (it was destroyed in the 17th century). To walk up to the castle you can start from Piazza Conto Rosso.
We do recommend that you visit the Egyptian museum in Avigliana - quite unexpectedly this museum in northern Italy has a very extensive collection of Egyptian artefacts and a great deal of interest
Abbey Sacra di San Michelle
Most visitors to Avigliana will also want to visit the Sacra di San Michelle, the 10th century (and rather sombre) abbey complex 10 kilometres to the west of the town, in a dramatic hill-side setting on the slopes of Monte Pirchiriano at almost 1000 metres altitude.
During the Middle Ages this was one of the most important and powerful religious and pilgrimage centres in Italy. Often reached by the strenuous walk from Avigliana or the slightly easier but really not very easy walk from Sant'Ambrogio, it is also possible to get here by car along a scenic route. Both the walk and the abbey have some great views across the surrounding mountains and countryside.
The final approach to the sanctuary at the abbey is by way of 154 steps hacked out of the rock.
Of particular note is the 12th century carved doorway at the top of this steep stairway, embellished with signs of the zodiac and other curious carvings, called the Zodiac Door. Inside the 12th century church itself you can see various frescoes from the 15th century.
Other attractions close to Avigliana
The popularity of Avigliana rests largely on the attractions of the Abbey at Sacra de San Michelle (above), walks around the two lakes in the Regional Natural Park of the Avigliani Lakes (Lago Grande and Lago Piccolo) and explorations elsewhere along the very scenic Susa Valley.
Among other activities in the Natural Park there are trails through the woodlands and along the lakes, chances for birdwatching, and the opportunity to hire a boat to further explore the larger lake.
The close proximity to Turin mean that many Italians also visit to enjoy the town and scenery. Of course, you will want to visit Turin while you are here.
During the winter both the Vallee di Susa and the Valle di Chisone are popular with ski enthusiasts, while in the summer they are popular with hikers and cycling enthusiasts. Together they make up the Via Lattea region.
Where is Avigliana?
The town is in a very scenic setting to the west of Turin in the picturesque Susa Valley, in the Piedmont region of north-west Italy.
You can find more local travel ideas in the Piedmont guide.