Susa is the town that the Susa Valley (Val di Susa in Italian) is named after, and is situated where the Dora Riparia river and the Cenischia torrent join, in a strategic position ideal for keeping under control the routes to Moncenisio and Monginevro. The origins of Susa, “Gate of Italy” go way back in history. In 500bc, when cities like Aosta and Turin had not yet been founded, Susa had a bustling Celtic society, perfectly organised by the Druids.
Later on, during the Roman Empire, it reached maximum splendour. Then came a decaying period until the 8th Century, when the Franks gave the town new importance and value.
Susa is situated on the routes which then linked all of Northern Europe to Rome. It was very often attacked and set on fire. Susa then became a Savoire Province, and stayed so right up to the end of this Dukes control. After the unification of Italy, it then became a province of Turin.
Sightseeing in Susa starts with “Porta Paradiso”, also known as “Porta Savoia”, or doorway to Savoia. The structure of the gate has a “fish-bone” covering and round, alternatively offset, windows.
Next is Sant Giusto’s Bell Tower – 51 metres high. Its style is Romanesque and it was developed in Gothic style in the 15th Century.
Amongst other attractions in the town is the Augustus Arch, which is one of the best preserved arches in North Italy. It has a one barrel type vault with half columns, which support an architrave showing decorated friezes. The top shows the “foedus” inscription, referring to the treaty between Cotius, King of the Celts, and Octavian Augustus Ceasar – the first Roman Emperor after who it is named.
There is also the Celtic Altar, which faces the mountain, which was considered sacred by Druids (Mont Rocciamelone at 3538 metres high).
Finally there is the De’ Bartolomei Palace, one of the most important Medieval pieces of architecture here; Dante mentions it in the XII Canto of Paradiso.