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Avigliana, Province of Torino, Piedmont, Italy

Situated amid morenic hills at the entrance of the Valdisusa, one of the most beautiful valleys in Italy, the town has an ancient medieval borough, and was a historic residence of the Savoy family. A couple of miles to the south are the fine, glacial lakes of Avigliana, called Lago Grande and Lago Piccolo.

Info

Altitude: 380 m a.s.l -- Surface area: sq km -- Population: ca. 11,000 inhabitants -- Population density: inhabitants per sq km -- Zip/postal code: 10051 -- Phone Area Code: 011 -- Patron Saint: San Giovanni Battista celebrated on 24 June -- Frazioni & Località: Drubiaglio, Milanere, Mortera, Bertassi -- GPS Coordinates: -- Useful Links: official website of the Comune of Avigliana

History

The area was inhabited since the Neolithic Age, as shown by traces of stilt houses in the marshes near the lakes. The tradition says that in 595 BC Belloveso, a Celtic chief, founded the town. After the fall of the Roman empire a Lombard fortress was established on mount Pezzulano, where remains of fortifications are still extant. Being near the Via Francigena, a medieval itinerary from Canterbury in England all the way south through France, Rome, and finally the Apulian ports, used for many centuries by pilgrims directed to Rome or Jerusalem in Apulia, Avigliana was a resting place for travellers under the control of the Novalesa Abbey.

From the 8th to the 10th century repeated Saracen raids caused the destruction of the castle of Avigliana, and the reconstruction took place under Adelaide, countess of Moriana Savoy. In the early 12th century Amedeo III Savoy further strengthened the castle, which was however sieged and captured in 1187 by Emperor Henry VI, after whose death again the castle was rebuilt. In 1360 Amedeo VI, the so-called Green Earl, had a son in Avigliana, Amedeo VII, who was later nicknamed the Red Earl. In 1367 he ordered the imprisonment in Avigliana of Filippo II d'Acaja who was executed by drowning in the icy waters of the lake: a legend says that his ghost still wanders over the waters of the lakes.

Other two sieges by the French armies were in 1536 and 1630, both times the castle had to surrender. A final siege in 1690 by general Catinat caused the destruction, and the castle was not rebuilt.

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