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.
- I Introduction
- II Get in
- III Transportation in Asti
- IV Sightseeing in Asti
- V What to do in Asti
- VI What to buy in Asti
- VII Where to eat in Asti
- VIII Drink
- IX Where to stay in Asti
- X Go next
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: , ✉ email@example.com.
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 , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. 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
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