Things to do in Avigliana, Piedmont
Avigliana is a small town in the Piedmont region, northern Italy, with just over 12,000 inhabitants. A ruined 10th century castle, mountains as far as the eye can see, a beautiful lake inviting for a swim on hot days, surrounded by abundant nature, views of the iconic Sacra di San Michele and a very charming historic center full of history: that’s it. that the little Avigliana gem has to offer.
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We are currently experiencing the intense and ultra hot Italian summer. Desperate to get out of the house for a bit, we looked on Google Maps for a place that wasn’t too far away to visit. We soon decided on Avigliana, which is about 30 minutes by train from Turin
The city was already on my list of “Cities in Piedmont to visit”. A very charming borgo, full of history and surrounded by nature, mountains and lakes: it seems the perfect place for a Sunday trip. And it really is, if it weren’t for the almost 40 degrees and our intention of not entering the lake on this first visit, lol.
Apart from our suffering from walking a lot under the sun and returning home the color of a tomato, we were enchanted with the city and we will certainly come back to enjoy it on a less hot day.
Arriving at the station, you’re already faced with a view of the Sacra di San Michele, the architectural ensemble that is the symbolic monument of the Piedmont region. We don’t know it yet, but as soon as we do, of course I’ll bring you all the information.
As the city is at the foot of Monte Pirchiriano, where the Sacra di San Michele resides, we can see it (even if very small from a distance) from several points in Avigliana, which brings us a certain emotion, you know?
What to do in Avigliana?
In Avigliana you can visit the Lakes Natural Park, the ruins of Castello di Avigliana and its historic center, and wander through the streets and buildings that transport you to medieval times.
Below I will detail a little more about each location.
Things to do in Avigliana, Piedmont: The Lakes Natural Park
- How to arrive:
This is the arrival location at the lake. I suggest that you enter these coordinates in your GPS.
If you walk from the Avigliana train station, it will be a 40 min walk. You can follow the path suggested by Google Maps, or adjust this route to pass through the historic center. That’s what we did on our way back to the station.
- About the park:
The park area was planned so that tourists – but mainly residents of the city and region – could have this very direct contact with nature. There are many programs for the population to explore and learn about the local fauna and flora. It is possible to do trails and guided tours as well, as the place is home to numerous species of birds.
The Park (Parco naturale Laghi di Avigliana) was built primarily to preserve and keep intact the two lakes that resulted from the melting of the last two glacial periods. The future of the lakes depends, in the words of the official website, “on the strategies of recovery and environmental requalification that man will be able to implement.”
- The lakes:
The two lakes are called Lago Piccolo e Lago Grande.
We’ve only been to Lago Grande, where people usually swim Lake Piccolo is for those who want to make these observations and explorations of the natural area, especially the birds.
The beautiful lake area, surrounded by mountain views and abundant forest is beautiful. Many activities include sightseeing tours or private speedboats, boat trips – which you can rent. The waters of this lake are certified every year for their excellence and it is one of the best lakes to swim in Piedmont in this regard.
The lake region also has a few restaurants, with beautiful views. To be honest, we didn’t have a good gastronomic experience at this place, with Ristorante Lago Grande. It’s the typical tourist restaurant that gets crowded, costs a little more than normal and you don’t eat as well as we know you can eat while in Italy. Worth the view! 🙂
The lake has parts of its edge with pedestrian walkways, but they are more natural than a large structure. It is not like other lakes that we have visited, which have a larger structure in the commercial area, with shops or cafes and restaurants, stools to sit on, etc.
There it is more “wild” (although there are some stools here and there). In fact, a friend went on a Sunday afternoon and didn’t find anything open, not even the restaurants, so a good tip is to take a snack in your bag so you don’t get in trouble!
If you access Lago Grande through the main entrance of the Park, you will arrive in a green area, before reaching the lake, where people gather a lot, spread out their towels, take food and drinks (some of them make barbecue) and stay there enjoying it among themselves, one jump into the lake and another.
On the day we went there were loooots of people sprawled on the grass, escaping from the heat (it was unbearably hot!). I didn’t register this place because of people’s privacy but, on these hotter days, know that you can find the lake very full! If it’s not to your vibe, it’s better to leave it for another time.
There, in Lago Grande, you can also visit the Santuario della Madonna dei Laghi, a place of Marian worship (addressed to the person of Mary, mother of God), where you also have good views of the lake.
What to do in Avigliana, Piedmont: Avigliana Castle
Avigliana Castle is one of the oldest castles in Piedmont, built in 924.
It was a large castle with high towers. Today its ruins remain. You can go up to it, accessing it through the streets of the historic center. From there, it’s possible to have even more beautiful views of the lake, of the whole Avigliana and even of the Sacra di San Michele.
We didn’t go up for reasons of: extreme hot day! lol… but it’s one more reason to come back!
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The Historic Center of Avigliana
The historic center of Avigliana is pure charm. Very small but very capable of transporting you back in time, where at every corner, street and building you find yourself thinking “how old is this?”.
Because we went on a Sunday, everything was closed – usually on Sundays, especially in small towns, shops close. But the facades of the restaurants and cafes are very cute and I really wanted them to be open so I could order an iced coffee and stay there, enjoying everything calmly.
The Chiesa di San Giovanni and the Torre dell’Orologio beautifully make up this medieval setting. It’s impossible not to notice them when walking around this center. Turin’s Medieval Borgo, which is a reconstruction of what a medieval village in Piedmont would look like, has a very faithful reproduction of this Torre dell’Orologio.
- Read the post about the Medieval Borgo of Turin by clicking here.
The Chiesa di San Pietro is also beautiful and we had a view of it from a distance, but it is definitely worth a visit.
In the main square, Piazza Conte Ross, there is the charming Chiesa di Santa Croce, which today houses art exhibitions and cultural events.
Avigliana was a very pleasant surprise to meet. I hope this post has transported you to this charming little Italian commune, at the foot of the mountains and the majestic Sacra di San Michele, and given you an idea of everything you can do there!
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See you in the next post!