Asti is the capital of the province of Asti, one of most important wine areas in Italy, and lends its name to some illustrious wines, such as Moscato d’Asti.
The city dates to pre-Roman times and a few ruins remain. In the 10th-13th centuries, Asti rose economically and politically to become one of the most powerful independent cities in Western Italy, with extensive trading rights granted by the Holy Roman Empire. The old medieval town still maintains many of the historic palaces and towers built by the rich families -Asti was known as the “city of 100 towers” (in fact there were 120 of which about 15 survive). Eventually power struggles between Turin and Milan led to Asti’s demise as an independent city and the city changed hands frequently over a 300 year period until it fell under control of the House of Savoy in 1575, regaining some of its former glory. The city is divided into the new Baroque (1700s) town centred around the Piazza Alfieri named after one of Italy’s most famous poets who was born in Asti and the medieval town centred on the Piazza San Secondo with the Romanesque San Secondo Church and Crypt. Today Asti is the main commercial centre of Piedmont’s wine area, but still retains a friendly small town feel and is a good base for touring Piedmont. Asti is 40 minutes trip from Turin and one hour from Milan.
Office of Tourism
- Asti Turismo, Piazza Alfieri 29 , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org.
Travel by plane to Asti
Turin Caselle (one hour), Genoa Cristoforo Colombo (one hour), Milan Malpensa or Linate (one and half hours). Better to hire a car, (useful for touring around Asti area) or take shuttle to main station and train to Asti.
Travel by car to Asti
Asti is on the A21 Torino-Piacenza autostrada; other (scenic) routes are via SS231 from Ventimiglia via Cuneo, Bra and Alba; via SS457 from Casale Monferrato (and Vercelli); via SS458 from Ivrea and Chivasso;
Travel by train to Asti
Asti is a principal station on the main Turin to Rome line. Frequent trains from Turin (30 minutes) or Genoa (one hour). From Milan you need to change in Alessandria or Voghera.
Transportation in Asti
Central Asti is quite compact and there is a large and reasonably well preserved historical centre which is easy to walk around. The train station is close to the centre and there are 2 large and convenient parking spaces in the centre (except on market days) at Piazza Alfieri and Campo del Palio. Also parking in the old city at Piazza Roma and Piazza Catena, but be cautious of restricted streets.
Sightseeing in Asti
There are several medieval churches in Asti, the oldest dating back to XI Century and most open to visitors in normal hours, including
- Collegiata di San Secondo, Piazza San Secondo. Build on the site of Asti’s patron saint’s martyrdom (119 AD), rebuilt in XIII century, located in the old market piazza and houses the bones of the sacred saint of Asti in the crypt and the Palio d’Asti banners in a chapel.
- Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta, Piazza Cattedrale. Built in XIV century, one of Piedmont’s most important gothic churches.
- Medieval City, the central part of Asti still comprises narrow paved streets, ancient buildings, towers palaces and churches, with many parts of the old wall still intact. Great for wandering around.
- Torre Troyana (Trojan Tower) Piazza Medici 13th C. Asti was known as the “city of 100 towers” – in fact there were 120 of these fortified family bolt-holes, of which about 12 still survive. This tower is open to visitors on weekends to walk up the summit.
- Torre Rossa (Romano), end of C.Alfieri. Oldest surviving tower dating back to roman era (1st C) formerly part of the old gate
- Palazzo Civico, Piazza San Secondo.. An old palace, used as the mayors office and other Asti commune offices. Visitors allowed on the first floor halls.
- Historical Archives, Palazzo Mazzola, Via Cardinal Massaia, opposite Cathedral. Houses a large collection of historical documents and maps, including a room dedicated to Palio di Asti. Open weekdays in normal hours, €2.50 admission.
- Teatro Alfieri, Asti’s theatre, built in 1860, resembles an opera house and was recently renovated. Often if someone is there they will let you wander around.
- Museum and Crypt of Sant’Anastasio, 365 Cso Alfieri, 8th C . Mondays closed admission €2.50
- Bapistry di San Pietro, Cso Alfieri /Pzz. 1Maggio, Romanesque church and museum complex (Paleantological and Archeological) built 12th C modeled on Church of Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, with cloisters, tower and pilgrims hospice. Closed Monday, admission €2.50
- Synagogue and Jewish museum. Visit by appointment only.
- Scassa Tapestry Workshop and museum. Scassa specializes in making tapestries based on famous paintings.Visits are free by appointment.
What to do in Asti
Palio di Asti
- Palio di Asti, this historic bareback horse race is the oldest one of its type in Italy originating in 1273, when the Astigiani staged a race beneath the walls of the enemy city of Alba causing great devastation to their vineyards. Wars between Asti and Alba have long since ceased, although to this day there is intense rivalry between the cities, and the Palio horse race is now held every 3rd Sunday in September. All the ancient borgo (boroughs) of Asti, and many nearby towns enter both a horse and a contingent for the medieval parade preceding the Palio. The parade starts at the Cathedral and winds through the historical medieval town ending up on the Palio arena on Piazza Alfieri. There are 3 heats, followed by an interlude for the flag-throwers to show their skills; then the final is raced (usually after several deliberate false starts) and the winner claims his prize – the precious banner with the picture of Asti’s patron saint, the “Palio di Asti”.
- Festival delle Sagre, every second weekend in September. Every small town and commune in Piedmont holds a “Sagre” festival celebrating their special food dish and local wines. The Asti Sagre is the “Sagre of Sagres” where some 50 or so provincial towns and communes build a thematic stand in the Campo Del Palio and for two days over the weekend hold an eating festival. Tickets are bought directly at each stand and typically cost €3-€4 a plate, plus €1-€2 for a glass of wine. On the Sunday morning all the participants sponsor a float depicting traditional rural themes, such as wine making, truffle hunting, distilling grappa, old threshing machines, laundry day, etc. (there’s even one depicting the local bordello). The staging area is in the Campo del Palio and the parade goes through the medieval town, pulled by antique tractors lovingly maintained for the occasion.
- Douja D’Or, for 10 days between the Sagre and Palio, Asti holds the Douja D’Or (gold goblet) wine tasting competition and symposium. Every day there are taste workshops, learned discussions, wine judging, label competition, plus speciality plates from the local restaurants and music at night. Over 400 wines are available for tasting, not only Piedmontese but from all over Italy and each year a non-Italian wine region is featured.
- Palio degli Sbandieratori, Piedmont’s flag-throwing teams are justly famous and every Asti Borgo and provincial town sponsors a team, who compete in the Piazza San Secondo in a night time spectacle during the Palio week. This event is not staged for tourists, its very much for locals to support their commune, and hence has a lot of character and charm.
What to buy in Asti
Asti has many smart shops in the town centre. Some good places for gifts:
- Ricambi d’Arte, 306 Cso Alfieri. Linens, materials, laces, table clothes and small gift items.
- Pasticceria Giordanino, 256 Cso Alfieri. Cakes, chocolates and biscuits.
- Enoteca Pompa Magna, Via Aliberti 65. Good selection of local wines and wine bar at very reasonable prices – owner speaks English.
- Gastronomia San Secondo, Cso Dante 6. Wonderful delicatessen close to Pza Alfieri.
- Laboratorio Caseario, Via Cavour 6 (near Rainero Hotel). Asti’s best cheese shop, also a wine bar and café ideal for a light lunch.
- Indoor Food Market, near Piazza Alfieri, open everyday except Sunday and Thursday afternoon. Bakeries, cheeses, meats, fish, etc. Good quality.
- Farmer’s market, Piazza Catena, open daily in mornings except Sunday, vegetables and fruit from local small farms.
- Asti market Piazza Alfieri and Campo del Palio, a big general market twice weekly on Wed&Sat, clothing, shoes, haberdashery, hardware’s, household etc., plus cheese, meat and bakery stands. Fruit and vegetables in the morning only.
- Fiera Carolingia, huge yearly market every May, over 1000 stalls from all over Italy.
- Antique market, in central Asti every 4th Sunday of the month.
- Truffle Fair, Cucina e Cantina, mid-November, Asti’s truffle festival combined with many wine and food stalls.
Where to eat in Asti
Asti has many fine restaurants, osterie and trattorie to choose from including.
- Tacabanda, Via al Teatro 5 (next to Teatro Alfieri, downstairs basement). Closed Monday. Good wine selection and value.
- Gener Neuv, Lungo Tanaro 4 (next to the river Tanaro). Closed Sunday evening.. Regarded as Asti’s best restaurant (and most expensive).
- Angolo del Beato, Vicolo Cavalleri , ✉ email@example.com. Closed Sunday. Regional cuisine. Rabbit in tuna sauce, bagna cauda, Piedmontese wines.
- Pizza Francese, Via dei Cappellai 15. Closed Wednesday.
- Hotel Reale, Piazza Alfieri 6. The old hotel in the heart of town on Piazza Alfieri, good restaurant (Il Flauto Magico), wine bar and pizzeria downstairs.
- Locanda del Sant’Uffizio, Strada Sant’Uffizio 1, Cioccaro di Penango, Asti. In the very heart of the truffle region, and offers preparations of traditional piedmont cuisine and a prestigious selection of first-rate wine qualities that are typical of this area.
A glass of Moscato d’Asti with dessert
- Bar Cocchi, corner of Piazza Alfieri, one of Asti’s oldest bars, originally opened by Cocchi spumante house.
- Pompa Magna, wine bar and restaurant.
Where to stay in Asti
- Hotel Cavour, Piazza Marconi 18 , fax: . Inexpensive hotel next to train station.
- Hotel Palio, Via Cavour 106 , fax: . 4-star hotel in central Asti, close to train station and campo del Palio.
- Villa Sampaguita, Valleandona 117 , fax: . Agriturismo B&B 10 minutes from Asti, owned by British couple, with vineyard and winery.
Asti is near many wine country hill towns and villages:
- The Roero; Cisterna d’Asti, Canale
- N. Monferrato; Cocconato, Abbazia Vezzolano, Sacra di Crea
- S. Monferrato; Nizza, Canelli
- Langhe; Barolo, Barbaresco & Mango
Already eleven Corona Infections at the Pope’s Swiss Guard
In the Vatican, seven other members of the pope’s Swiss Guard tested positive for the corona virus . This increased the number of demonstrably infected guardsmen to eleven, as the Swiss Guard announced on Thursday. All infected people had been isolated, the message said. The brightly uniformed guards protect Pope Francis and his residence.
A major corona outbreak among the guards could therefore also be dangerous for the Pope, 83 years of age belongs to the risk group. The Argentinean pope had part of his right lung removed at the age of 21 due to severe pneumonia but he is considered relatively healthy for his age.
The Catholic media platform “Vatican News” reported in early October that the guardsmen had been asked to “be careful when dealing with the Pope” because of Corona. Face mask and social distancing are required, however a young man who was interviewed about his recruit swearing in (October 4th) said that Francis had already shaken his hand.
Corona measures in Italy – Italy reacts to the 2nd Wave of Covid-19
Italy introduced a nationwide facemask requirement in the open due to the increase in new infections. If you don’t wear a mask when leaving your apartment, you risk a fine of up to one thousand euros, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte recently announced. You do not need to wear a face mask when you are doing sport. The regulations do not apply in private rooms or in places where only one family is staying. Children under six years of age are also exempt from this obligation.
In view of the rising numbers, Italy’s Minister of Health Roberto Speranza also ordered mandatory tests for travelers from Great Britain, Belgium, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic.
Another measure taken by the government shows how deep the shock of the first wave of more than 30,000 deaths still sits: It passed a law that prohibits the Italian regions from adopting measures that are less restrictive than those taken by Rome. However, you have the option of setting even stricter rules. Some regions, such as Lazio and Campania, had already decided that the public must wear a facemask.
Lombardy Coronavirus Covid-19 Outbreak – Cases Quarantine Deaths Stats to Italy
Lombardy or Lombardia is a northern region of Italy, and with 10 million people is the most populous one. Producing 1/5th of Italy’s GDP, it is also the mightiest economically. Geographically, Lombardy encompasses both Alps and Prealps in the north, and relatively flat plains in the south along the river Po and its tributaries. Between them there are many scenic lakes, and the alpine backdrop makes even the low-lying cities picturesque and the air rather fresh.
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Lombardy is heavily industrialized, although most of the industry is actually not heavy, but rather mid-sized specialized machinery-building and other assembly and engineering firms, as well as consumer industries such as foodstuffs and apparel. The regional capital, Milan, is Italy’s second-largest city and the foremost centre of commerce and a global fashion capital. Smaller cities also have considerable economic might, and have had so for many centuries, hence Lombardy is the region of Italy with the most UNESCO World Heritage List sites – and simply, a lot of history and scenic views to explore and enjoy.
- Lombardian Alps and Prealps (provinces of Bergamo, Brescia and Sondrio)
- Lake Como (provinces of Como and Lecco)
- Southern Lombardy (provinces of Cremona, Lodi, Mantova and Pavia)
- Grande Milano (provinces of Milan and Monza and Brianza)
- Milan (Milano, the capital of the province) – shares with Paris the title of fashion capital of the world, and is Italy’s second city.
- Bergamo – a fairytale pastel-coloured city perched atop a hillside, and the gate to Bergamo Alps
- Brescia – a major industrial powerhouse since the Ancient Roman times, and a UNESCO World Heritage List
- Como – the city that gave the name to the popular lake
- Cremona – home of Stradivarius violins, but also a wealth of ornate romanesque architecture
- Lecco – a little and charming city situated on Como’s lake.
- Mantua (Italian: Mantova) – the Ducal Palace has a cycle of frescoes by Mantegna that no art lover should miss.
- Sondrio – the northernmost provincial capital situated amidst alpine mountain ranges
- Varese – capital of the namesake province full of lakeside resorts, just 30 minutes from Malpensa airport
- The magnificent lakes of Lake Como – take boat trips in the shadow of the Alps to the picturesque villages of Bellagio, Varenna and Tremezzo – Lake Maggiore, Lake Garda and Lake Lugano.
- The tiny village of Erbusco, home of the award-winning wines of Franciacorta and L’Albereta, the country inn of Gualtiero Marchesi, one of Italy’s premier chefs
- The peninsula of Sirmione, on the south shore of Lake Garda
- The Caves of Catullo, an archaeological site of a former Roman villa situated on the tip of the Sirmione peninsula
- The Sirmione Spa, the largest privately owned thermal treatment centre in Italy
- Val Camonica : UNESCO heritage site, medieval towns, castles, holy art in churches, roman sanctuary and theatre/amphitheatre, ski sports.
- Oltrepò Pavese : Wine region in the utmost southern part of Lombardy, 70km from Milan, part of the Pavia province, medieval towns, castles, stunning views.
The Longobardis occupied the Peninsula in the 6th century, and the territory has been named after them ever since.
Lombardy is a prosperous region with fertile soil and a temperate climate. As in Piedmont, the Po Valley is the site of much heavy industry. High mountains in the north, marking Italy’s frontier with Switzerland, provide excellent skiing and climbing.
Three of Italy’s four busiest airports are in Lombardy:
- Milan Malpensa Airport is an intercontinental airport, and Italy’s second aviation hub after Rome Fiumicino. It has multiple direct connections to Africa, Asia and North America, as well as across Europe, where it is served by both full-service and low-fare carriers.
- Milano Linate is Milan’s city airport, served by business-oriented flights to European major commercial centres, as well as a dense Italian domestic network.
- Bergamo Orio al Serio Airport is served almost exclusively by low-fare carriers, taking advantage of its proximity to both Milan and the Alps.
Despite only Linate being in the city and province of Milan, all three airports are marketed as serving the city. One can easily get to other destinations in the province from them, without necessarily changing in Milan. There is also a small airport in Brescia, which in recent years has seen next to no scheduled traffic.
Travel by train to Lombardy
Road and train links connect the region with Switzerland. As Switzerland is not part of the EU, there is a possibility that you will be delayed by checks at the border, although these are infrequent and usually not rigorous. Remember your passport.
There is a relatively dense railway network connecting cities and towns in Lombardy, although the layout is intricate and getting from one place to another may not be straightforward. You should be able to reach your destination within 1 or 2 hours by train. Otherwise, buses and minibuses link important destinations, especially those popular with tourists. Hubs are usually in regional centres, as well as near major railway stations and airports; you can try to change there if there are no direct connections. Regional train network is entirely managed by Trenord.
Regione Lombardia offers a good travel planner that lets you query the whole public transportation system.
If you plan to travel a lot, it might be worth buying a io viaggio ovunque in Lombardia pass ticket. Those tickets let you travel without limit on the entire public transport system in Lombardy, including regional trains, buses and city public transportation systems, but excluding some ferry boat lines. Although expensive, they can easily be a cheaper option than regular tickets if you travel long distances. Passes are sold at railway stations (at ticket box or automatic vending machines) and at ATM automatic vending machines. You can buy 1, 2, 3 or 7 day passes (16€, 27€, 32.5€, 43€ respectively – February 2020).
The railway company Trenord offers some good travel packages, under the Trenord Free Time name. The package usually includes a ticket to an attraction or a trip proposal and a train ticket to get to the destination. Most of them are really useful only if you depart from Milan. It’s worth to take a look at the offers as they can also suggest you some new or lesser known itinerary that you may like.
As the Autostrada A4 runs across Lombardy, with the road system radiating from its junctions, you can get around by car as well. The A4 frequently gets congested though and traffic jams can be long and excruciating, especially around Milan. Be aware that Italians drive fast and make no allowances for foreigners, so be sure you are OK with keeping up with the traffic and occasional displays of impatience from other drivers.
Milan, Bergamo and Brescia have efficient and extensive public transportation systems.
What to see in
- Milan Fashion Weeks draw crowds of fashionistas to Milan every year.
- La Scala in Milan is a mecca for opera aficionados.
- You can enjoy water sports or more relaxed boating on the lakes.
- The Alps offer opportunities for hiking or skiing.
Lombardy’s most famous culinary inventions are minestrone soup and osso buco (literally “ox knuckles”). To the west of Milan lie miles of rice fields, where the rice for risotto alla milanese is grown. Other typical dishes of the area include salumi (cold cuts) and polenta.
As in many other areas of Northern Italy, the aperitivo (pre-meal drink with appetisers, for which a small supplement might be charged) is very popular.
The wineries in Franciacorta, around Erbusco, produce many excellent wines. The region has been elevated to the status of DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita). Other remarkable zones for wine are Oltrepò Pavese (which is the zone around Pavia on the south banks of Po river) and the countrysides around Garda Lake.
Valtellina also produces excellent wines, famous for their strong taste and flavour.
As every big city in the world, Milan has also many high quality restaurants, wine bars and Enoteche (wine store) where you can find high class wines from all over the world.
Where to stay in Lombardy
Large cities, like Milan, Bergamo or Brescia, are important business centres, so they have sizeable bases of business-oriented hotels. They are local hubs with connections to destinations within their provinces, and getting between them is also reasonably quick via a variety of means of transportation (trains, express buses or cars across the A4). Do note that accommodation in Milan is generally expensive, and prices skyrocket during major events or fairs, such as the Milan Fashion Week.
Destinations along the lines of the lakes, as well as those in the Alps, are popular with tourists, so you will find a variety of accommodation options there, from luxurious resort hotels to simple B&Bs.
While Milan features many of the usual tourist traps and con acts, as well as sizeable number of pickpockets due to the number of tourists there, other destinations are generally safe, and you can feel secure and welcome there. Do note, however, that in case you need to contact the police they can have very limited English skills and also may not be able to help foreigners much.
To the east is Trentino-Alto Adige and Veneto, to the south is Emilia-Romagna and Piedmont is to the south and west. Switzerland lies to the north.
Current Covid-19 Infections in Italy, Lombardy
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Timeline of Covid-19 Infections in Italy, Lombardy
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