Via Francigena

a piedi bicicletta cavallo

Stretching back to ancient times the Susa Valley has been a central point for connecting Italy with France, through the Monginevro and Moncenisio passes.
The medieval period endorsed its leading role as a gateway between the Italian peninsula and the rest of Europe for merchants, armies, aristocrats, men of Church and pilgrims who were aiming to reach Rome, the epicentre of Christianity, or Santiago de Compostela, the ancient religious destination.
Already in 333 AD, the Moniginevro Pass was crossed by the anonymous author of Itinerarium burdigalense (the oldest description of a Christian pilgrimage route) for reaching the Holy Land: precise notes were made of the mansio and the statio in Susa Valley, some of which are now important archaeological sites.

Starting from the early Middle Ages, the Moncenisio Pass became one of the nerve centres of the European political scene with the first arrival in Italy of Charlemagne in 773 for the Battaglia delle Chiuse against the Longobards, and the marriage of the Comitissa Adelaide Manfredi with Oddone di Moriana-Savoia in 1046, which resulted in the Savoy dynasty entering Piedmont and, thus, Italy.


The intense flow of people along the Via Francigena circulated ideas and generated a constant exchange of knowledge, languages and religion which helped nurture a European cultural energy in the valley: monasteries of international renown were built, such as the Abbey of Novalesa and the Sacra di San Michele, other places of worship with a more local feel such as the Cripta di Celle, chapels, as well as town centres home to markets or places of transit and the mandatory tolls such as Susa, Bussoleno, Avigliana and Oulx.


Along the route were created hospitali, xenodochia, inns and hotels such as the Ospedale di Passo del Moncenisio (founded between 814 and 825 AD), the inns of Novalesa and Bussoleno or places of assistance such as the Precettoria di Sant'Antonio at Ranverso and Hotel dieu at Salbertrand, known for the treatments against ergotism.
Fortified castles, strongholds and palaces, marking out many of the Susa Valley villages – Oulx, Chiomonte, Susa,San Giorio, Chianocco, Bruzolo – now reveal the widespread territorial control held and also the aristocratic power along the valley, relating to the economic and commercial importance that the route acquired over time.

These days, going along the Via Francigena in the Susa Valley means a journey for discovering art, nature and culture, where also the cuisine, the typical seasonal products, the fetes and fairs of ancient tradition are still a living expression of the territory's identity.


It is through this varied and authentic panorama that the route meanders for over 170km with two historical variants, starting from Moncenisio and Monginevro towards the valley floor and on towards Turin: by taking the Via Francigena in the Susa Valley, the many pilgrims and hikers are offered the chance for once again savouring the spirit of this land and for reliving, by means of gentle tourism that revives the spirit, mind and body, a unique cultural mosaic.

for further details see:

http://www.turismotorino.org/viafrancigena/IT/home

http://youtu.be/w6pLyQ7zTPM

http://youtu.be/9K-cyzldhCY

  • discending drop: 1580 m
  • starting: Colle del Moncenisio
  • arrival: Susa
Colle del Moncenisio - Moncenisio (9,4 km)
 
Having crossed the Moncenisio Pass, with the lake, the hairpin bends of Gran Scala and the Piana di San Nicolao behind you, after the remains of the Fell railway line tunnel, at ricovero 4 you take the ancient Strada Reale, a mule-track that leads to the picturesque Alpine hamlet of Moncenisio.
Known in the past as Ferrera, it developed due to its strategic role as an obligatory stop along the way: the living museum route and the Parish Church of San Giorgio provide information on its history relating to the pass.
 
Moncenisio - Novalesa (6,9 km)
 
The Strada Reale resumes a little way below, descending to Novalesa: here the woody landscape of Val Cenischia opens up in certain sections to display the glorious gorges and the waterfalls of the Cenischia river. Going along the Via Maestra, with its characteristic paving, remains can be seen of its historical past as a place for resting and transit towards the Moncenisio Pass: the internal architecture and frescoes of heraldic coats of arms in the ancient inns; the Parish Church of Santo Stefano with its rich collection of paintings donated by Napoleon, and the goldsmith’s masterpiece of the Urn of Sant’Eldrado; the Museum of Religious Alpine Art and the Ethnographic Museum of Mountain Life. At the other side of the town, it is essential to deviate towards the Abbey of Novalesa, named after the Saints Pietro and Andrea, one of the oldest Benedictine monastic foundations in the Alps (726 AD): in its park there are some rural chapels of rare beauty, such as the Chapel of Sant’Eldrado (12th century), while part of the abbey complex is home to the Archaeological Museum.
 
Novalesa - Venaus  (3,9 km)
 
From Novalesa, the walk continues along a cart-track through to Venaus with its neo-Gothic Parish Church of San Biagio. The hamlet is known for its traditional Danze delle Spade e degli Spadonari (sword dance), which is held in February and has its roots in pre-Christian traditions: the headwear embellished by colourful flowers and all the swordplay actions are connected with winter rituals for prompting the spring’s arrival.
 
Venaus - Mompantero (3,2 km)
 
A pleasant secondary route, bordered by dry-stone walls, goes across meadows and vineyards to San Giuseppe of Mompantero, at the foot of mount Rocciamelone. Mompantero village is dominated by the modern Sanctuary of the Madonna of Rocciamelone which is built close to the ancient mule-track that leads to the Susa Valley’s most sacred peak (3538m): venerated since Celtic times, in 1358 it was reached by Bonifacio Roero of Asti who placed upon it the precious Trittico del Rocciamelone, while in 1899 a bronze statue of the Virgin Mary was placed at the very top.
 
Mompantero - Susa (1,3 km)
 
From San Giuseppe, a secondary cart-track leads to the village of Passeggeri, just above Susa, which joins the one coming from Moniginevro and entering the historical Piazza Savoia. Full of Roman and medieval remains, the city was built where the two strategic routes met, leading one way to the most important passes for France and, the other way, towards Turin: its strategic position ensured that it long ago became of point of reference for the whole valley. The millennial history of Susa can be seen in important remains such as the Arco di Augusto, the Roman arena, the city walls, Porta Savoia, the archaeological excavations and the Castle, residence of Countess Adelaide of Torin, wife of Oddone of Savoia-Moriana.
San Giusto Cathedral and the imposing bell-tower with its slender octagonal spire are the result of various styles of architecture layering over the years, since 1029 – when the Benedictine abbey was founded – to the Gothic and neo-Gothic additions between the 13th and 19th centuries. Stratified decorative series can be seen outside, such as L’entrata di Cristo in Gerusalemme (15th century, attributed to Serra di Pinerolo) and the Medaglioni dei Santi e profeti; precious paintings, richly decorated altars and the 14th century wood choir stalls adorn the interior.
A short distance away there was the Priory of Santa Maria Maggiore, the oldest baptismal church of the Susa Valley, of which remains the Romanesque bell-tower; other testimonies of the Susa Valley’s religious heritage are the Church and Convent of San Francesco which, according to tradition, was founded by St Francis of Assisi when he passed through in 1214. On the left bank of the Dora Riparia there is the baroque Church of Madonna della Pace, or the Church del Ponte, whose adjacent rooms house the Diocesan Museum of Sacred Art with important collections; the Tesoro della Cattedrale di San Giusto, the Tesoro della Chiesa del Ponte, the Oreficerie, the Statuaria and the Tessili.
  • discending drop: 1351 m
  • starting: Colle del Monginevro
  • arrival: Susa

Colle del Monginevro - Claviere (2,4 km)

The Monginevro Pass, mons Matronae for the ancient Romans, is the historical pass from France to Italy: having left Montgenèvre, from the milestone that says 2010km to Santiago de Compostela and 914km to Rome, you enter the Susa Valley, crossing Clavière, a tourist and skiing centre in the Vialattea ski area dominated by the soaring Mount Chaberton.

Claviere - Cesana torinese (5,1 km)

The marked path goes along the beautiful Gole di San Gervasio (which can also be crossed by taking the exciting Tibetan Rope Bridge), following the course of the river through to the asphalted road just above Cesana Torinese. You go through the centre of this Alpine hamlet up to the parish church of San Giovanni Battista which towers over the village and is characterised by a majestic bell-tower in Romanesque-Dauphin style and, inside, by a richly decorated wooden coffered ceiling of 1678. The route continues along a dirt road, running parallel and higher up than the state road, and takes to the picturesque villages of Mollieres and Solomiac.

Cesana torinese - Oulx (13,4 km)

Going for a short way along the state road, from the turnoff for Fenils, leads to another dirt road which heads towards the fork of Amazas. From here, avoiding the motorway crossing, you go up towards the village of San Marco and then, descending, you reach the Parish Church of Santa Maria Assunta which, by its Torre Delfinale (15th century), towers over the town of Oulx. At one time the location for the Prevostura (Provostship) of San Lorenzo (11th century), this hamlet became one of the main sites of the Escarton, an independent form of territory administration, still recalled in the Fiera Franca, the oldest free fair in the Susa Valley, granted in 1494 by the King of France as recompense for the damage incurred by the transit of armies.

Oulx - Salbertrand (7,2 km)

The route continues along the tarred road. Going past the village of Gad you then follow the directions for the Sentiero dei Franchi (a mountain hike that leads to the Sacra di San Michele) up to the deviation for Salbertrand: this is home to the Gran Bosco Natural Park, one of the largest white spruce woods in Europe, and to the Colombano Romean Living Museum which includes as one of its tours a viewing of the splendid 16th century frescoes in the Parish Church of San Giovanni Battista and the Chapel of San Cristoforo in the village of Oulme.

Salbertrand - Exilles (6,2 km)

Continuing along the Sentiero dei Franchi, you reach Sapè, from which you turn to descend towards Exilles, a hamlet featuring intact Alpine architecture of stone and wood, and dominated by the impressive Fort Exilles (12th century). In the central square there is the Romanesque bell-tower and the Parish Church of San Pietro Apostolo which has a richly decorated high altar of 1681. Also the small Chapel of San Rocco, just at the exit of the town, is of interest, possibly the result of renovating an earlier building.

Exilles - Chiomonte (7,5 km)

The route continues around the Fort, partly going down the eastern access ramp, and reaches the ancient path that leads to the crossing over the Dora Riparia. In the distance, on the left, can be seen the old bridge and the new high bridge that cross the Gorges of the Dora: shortly after, the trail turns back on itself, going along the left bank of the river. This is followed by a flat section and then, descending, a picturesque area through the terraces of Avanà vines, a highly appreciated native wine recently rediscovered: today this stretch is characterised by the bold contraposition of an almost extinct civilisation with the high flyovers of the modern Frejus motorway.
Chiomonte is the next stage on the route, once the summer residence of the Bishop of Pinerolo: the old town centre is an exceptional gem of courtyards, porticoes, alleys and ancient aristocratic palazzos such as Casa Ronsil and Palazzo Levis, home to the Pinacoteca Civica (art gallery); the Chapel of Santa Caterina, formerly dedicated to John the Baptist, is all that remains of the Hierosolymitan hospital: its interiors decorated in the Baroque period, there are fragments of 14th century frescos while the outside has a decoration of blind arcades and a 13th century poly-lobed portal. The Parish Church of Santa Maria Assunta, flanked by a majestic bell-tower in Romanesque-Dauphin style, has valuable wood furnishings typical to Alpine baroque such as the choir-stalls and the pastoral seat, works by Jacques Jesse of Embrun, the main door by Eymon Lord, and the retable (altarpiece) of twisted columns on the altar of the Rosario (1682) by Cheffrey Faure. Along the main street there is a beautiful stone fountain dating back to 1544 with four jets of highly refreshing water: travellers should get supplies here for continuing their journey since there will be no other chance for quenching their thirst until Susa.

Chiomonte - Susa (7,2 km)

On leaving Chiomonte, the route runs beside the main road for about 800m along a protected path, and is then left at the signpost “Strada del Plans”, going to the left along dirt roads and trails, through meadows and woods towards the deep ravine of the Gorge della Dora, which can be glimpsed through the thick vegetation. The route is in constant descent, apart from an occasional short rise, and goes close to the cliffs of the Gorge above which, on the opposite side, can be seen the villages of Giaglione silhouetted against the sky and the Rocciamelone mountain.
At this point, having crossed the territory of Gravere, the trail gently descends into the woods, revealing here and there the paved road of the probable Via delle Gallie that leads to the incomparable entry into Susa through the elegant Augustan Arch (8BC), next to the remains of the Roman aqueduct (3rd century AD) built on the rocks of a Celtic altar. In this area there is a fountain with exceptionally cold water, even in the summer, and is an important refilling point for those taking the route towards France. A little further down stands the majestic Porta Savoia on the medieval walls to the west of the city, from where started the road towards the “Gaul lands”.

  • discending drop: 125 m
  • starting: Susa
  • arrival: Chiusa San Michele

Susa - Mompantero (1,5 km)

With the Roman and medieval remains of Susa behind you, from the railway station you go in the direction of Urbiano, a part of Mompantero. An ancient settlement as evidenced by the remains of a Roman aqueduct, it is known for the folkloristic rite of 31 January called Fora l’ours! during which the imminent end of winter is celebrated by capturing the bear reawakening from hibernation.

Mompantero - Bussoleno (6,9 km)

The route continues towards San Giuliano e Chiodo, a part of Susa, passing by farmhouses and cultivated fields, until reaching the first houses of Foresto (Municipality of Bussoleno) and the Chapel of the Madonna delle Grazie whose fresco cycle on the life of the Virgin Mary is attributed to Anthoyne de Lhonye from Toulouse who worked in the Susa Valley around about 1462. A short digression leads to the Natural Reserve of the Orrido di Foresta, a beautiful gorge created over the millennia by the erosion of water: close by are the remains of a mill and a lazaret (hospital).

Having passed the Orsiera Rocciavrè Park on the right, the Antica Strada di Foresto leads to Bussoleno. Past the railway station – close to which there is the FERALP - Museum of Rail Transport across the Alps – you continue until the bridge over the Dora Riparia which leads into the medieval village where there can clearly be seen the remains of the town wall, the entrance gate and, along the main street, some homes that inspired D’Andrade for the Borgo Medievale in Turin: Palazzo Allais, Casa Amprimo, also known as Locanda della Croce Bianca, and Casa Aschieri. The Parish Church of Santa Maria Assunta (12th century), flanked by the Romanesque bell-tower, has baroque wooden interiors and interesting paintings by Morgari and Gentileschi resulting from the 18th century refurbishing by the Lorraine architect De Willencourt.

Bussoleno - San Giorio (4,1 km)

Leaving Bussoleno and crossing the SS24, a route along a dirt road in the midst of fields and vineyards leads to San Giorio di Susa, recognisable by the medieval Castle on the hillside.
There are very many traces of its role as a transit road: the Chapel of San Sebastiano, the Garitta, an ancient ‘sentry box’ with mullioned windows and arches, the Parish Church of San Giorgio martire with its Romanesque bell-tower, the stronghold. Among the frescoes decorating the Chapel of San Lorenzo, founded in 1328 and also known as del Conte, the symbols of pilgrimage stand out: the visita dei re Magi and San Cristoforo. Also this hamlet features the tradition of the Spadonari and the Danza delle Spade, which is held in the spring at the time of the festival for the patron saint San Giorgio martire.

San Giorio - Villar Focchiardo (6,00 km)

Leaving the built-up area, a country road crosses the old communal road, bordered by low walls and parallel to the SS24. The dirt road on your left continues between corn fields, vegetable plots and vineyards until reaching the area of Malpasso which, according to local tradition, was home to the brigands who robbed the wayfarers: this route avoids the state road until the crossing with the road of Pianverso. A short deviation leads to below the farmhouses Roland and Giaconera, historical places for resting and changing horses, above the Certosa di Banda and di Montebendetto which are some of the most ancient Carthusian settlements in Piedmont.
Continuing, you go through the town centre of Villar Focchiardo with the Parish Church of Santa Maria Assunta, an example of 18th century baroque typical to the Savoy dynasty, which shows the close link with the Carroccio family who commissioned it. The village, one of the most important producers of quality chestnuts in the Val Susa and Piedmont territory, is known for the historical Sagra del Marrone (Chestnut Fair).

Villar Focchiardo - Sant'Antonino di Susa (3,5 km)

Having reached Comba you follow the Antica Strada di Francia until Sant’Antonio di Susa. The main square is dominated by the impressive facade of the Parish Church of Sant’Antonio martire, one of the oldest churches in the valley and home of the Ordine Ospitalieri di Sant’Antonino of the Nobilense valley: the architectural structure has typical features of the 11th century, such as the belfry, and is embellished by 14th century fresco cycles.

Sant'Antonino di Susa - Vaie (1,7 km)

Continuing along the same route leads to Vaie, known for the production of the fragrant canestrello biscuit cooked in special pincer grills. An interesting archaeological and wildlife route leads to the Sanctuary of San Pancrazio (11th century) and ends at the Museum of experimental Archaeology.

Vaie - Chiusa San Michele (3,1 km)

The Antica Strada di Francia also takes to Chiusa San Michele: its name is connected to the remains of the Chiuse Longobarde, the site of battle between Charlemagne and Desiderio, and to the annex of the Sacra di San Michele, which dominates the village from Mount Pirchiriano. To the right of the 18th century Parish Church of San Pietro apostolo, among farmed fields and natural woods, there wends the historical mule-track, partly bordered by dry-stone walls, by which the Abbey of Chiusa can be reached in about 2 hours. The powerful Sacra di San Michele (983-987 AD), Piedmont’s symbolic monument, is one of the most important examples of Romanesque architecture in Europe, a centre of monastic culture and for years a destination of international pilgrims: the Loggia dei Viretti, the Scalone dei Morti, the Portale dello Zodiaco, the fresco of the Assunzione della Vergine, the 16th century panels of the triptych by Defendente Ferrari, the altar pieces by Antonio Maria Viani from Cremona are just some of the elements that distinguish this sacred building, the result of work over the centuries and decorations which culminated in 1889 in the great restoration by Alfredo D’Andrade.

 

 

 

 

  • starting: Sacra di San Michele
  • arrival: Rivoli
  • discending drop: 125 m
  • starting: Bussoleno
  • arrival: Alpignano
Almese Torre e ricetto di San Mauro
Almese Villa Romana
Avigliana Castle
Avigliana Chiesa di S. Maria Maggiore in Borgo Vecchio
Avigliana Chiesa di San Giovanni
Avigliana Chiesa di San Pietro
Avigliana The Nobel Dynamite Company
Avigliana The Natural Park of Avigliana Lakes
Avigliana Statio ad Fines
Borgone Susa San Valeriano Chapel
Borgone Susa Maometto
Bussoleno Cappella della Madonna delle Grazie a Foresto
Bussoleno The Natural Park Orsiera Rocciavré
Bussoleno SIC Oasi Xerotermiche Chianocco e Foresto
Buttigliera Alta Precettoria di Sant'Antonio di Ranverso
Caselette Villa Rustica
Chiomonte Cappella di Sant'Andrea delle Ramats
Chiusa San Michele Ex Cappella di San Giuseppe
Chiusa San Michele Le Chiuse
Condove Castle of the Green Count
Condove Chiesa di San Rocco
Exilles Fort
Giaglione Cappella di Santo Stefano
Giaglione Museo di Arte Religiosa Alpina
Moncenisio Ecomuseum of the Borderlands
Novalesa Abbazia Benedettina dei SS. Pietro e Andrea
Novalesa Novalesa Archaelogical Museum
Novalesa Museo di Arte Religiosa Alpina
Novalesa Museo etnografico di vita montana in Val Cenischia
Oulx Torre delfinale
Salbertrand Cappella dell'Annunciazione in località Oulme
Salbertrand Chiesa di San Giovanni Battista
Salbertrand Colombano Romean Ecomuseum
Salbertrand The Gran Bosco Natural Park
San Giorio di Susa Cappella di San Lorenzo
Sant'Ambrogio di Torino Castello abbaziale
Sant'Ambrogio di Torino Sacra di San Michele
Susa Archaelogical Susa
Susa Cattedrale di San Giusto
Susa Convento di San Francesco
Susa Museo Diocesano di Arte Sacra
Vaie Prehistoric Archaelology Museum

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