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One of the closest towns to the Sacra di San Michele is SANT’AMBROGIO, a small town at the foot of San Michele’s hill. It’s thirty minutes by train from Turin and connected with the abbey by a very steep ninety-minute hike; with your own car, however, you can drive up to the abbey from the town of AVIGLIANA. The walk is worth it, both for the views and for the opportunity to soak up the eerie atmosphere. Climbing up to the abbey and hewn into the rock, a long flight of stairs – the Scalone dei Morti (Stairs of the Dead) – sets a morbid tone, for it was here that the skeletons of the monks used to be laid out for local peasants to come and pay their respects and to remind them of human frailty. The Romanesque entrance arch is carved with signs of the zodiac to the Gothic-Romanesque abbey church.

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