The key to Italy
Natural parks, ancient abbeys, and dramatically beautiful mountains
As you follow the SS25 road which winds its way from Turin through the Susa valley, stop off to see 15th century Frescos by Giacomo Jaquerio and a polyptic by Defendente Ferrari in the St Antonio di Ranverso Monastry and then visit the ancient town of Avigliana and the San Michele Abbey.
Avigliana and the Abbey of San Michele
Situated on what was the main route to France, Avigliana was inhabited by the Celts in the 6th century B.C. and was of strategic importance during the Roman Empire and throughout the Middle Ages. The historic center is full of medieval charm.
The 13th century Casa della Porta Ferrata, still has its original door and carved stone capitals. The façade and rear portico, with painted arches and ornate capitals, of the Palazzo del Vescovo, or Casa Senore, are as they were when the edifice was built in the 14th century.
Perched 962 metres above sea level on the summit of Mount Pirchiriano, the once powerful Benedictine Abbey of San Michele dominates the Lower Susa Valley and has fantastic views of the whole valley and the mountains.
The Abbey of San Michele was the inspiration forUmberto Eco's best seller, In the Name of the Rose
The zodiac portal at the entrance of the abbey was sculpted by Nicola in the 12th century and is thought to be the oldest surviving Romanesque zodiac cycle in Italy.
The key to Italy
Susa lies in the heart of the valley, 10 kilometers further on. Known as the "key to Italy" because of its position at the junction of the routes from Savoia and Delfinate, this ancient town has reminders of its Roman past in the Augustus Arch (9-8 B.C.) the Terme Graziane and the Arena.
Leave the main road towards Venaus-Novalesa to visit the Abbey of Novalesa. The Abbey was almost completely rebuilt in the 18th century but the beautiful; Sant'Eldrado Chapel, with a 16th century apse and 12th century frescos, remains untouched.
As the route climbs upwards to Colle del Moncenisio,( 2081metres) and into France, there is an amazing view.
From Colle del Moncenisio, paths lead off through the mountains from a man-made lake, which generates energy for France and Italy
Driving into the Upper Susa valley, you come to the thick pine forests of the Gran Bosco Park.
The Upper valley was one of the venues for the 2006 Winter Olympics. The snowboarding event was held at Bardonecchia, which is now an all year round holiday resort, with high tech sports provision, set amidst the spectacular scenery of the Alps.