Excursion to Asti
Asti is a quiet provincial capital in Piedmont. Thanks to its historic center, its wine and culinary traditions and its festival (Palio d’Asti), it has a lot to offer to demanding tourists.
Already in medieval times Asti was an important trading centre. The city, apart from other monuments, has in its central area numerous medieval towers made with bricks. They were used by local families as a way of displaying their power and wealth.
In Asti have been found numerous remains of Roman buildings. There were also Longobard settlements before this territory passed into the hands of the Dukes Visconti of Milan and later under the rule of the House of Savoy.
Through the north of the city passed the old road of the Franks. It was used by pilgrims to go to the Holy Land.
At the time of the Italian city-states Asti was continually competing with another famous city of Piedmont: Alba. This fact is still reflected on the similarities of the festivities of both cities.
Among its temples and churches is worth mentioning:
• The Collegiate of San Secondo, a legionary martyr because of his faith in the time of Tiberius. He is the patron of the city. There is a crypt with his remains and a large collection of banners from different periods related to the traditional Asti festival: the Palio (traditional horse races representing each neighborhood of the city).
• The Cathedral of the city, rebuilt in a Gothic style with very interesting and unusual baroque frescoes on its ceiling and internal columns.
• The elegant Crypt of Sant’Anastasio, whose cult has its roots in the eighth century, in the Longobard era.
• The Baptistery of San Peter.
In Asti can also be found several palaces that belonged to rich and noble families of the XVI-XVIII centuries. They are carefully restored and decorated with beautiful works of art, well preserved furniture and exotic collections.
At the end of September, the typical calm of the city is interrupted by the traditional festival of the Palio, whose history dates back to the thirteenth century. During a few days many representations and activities with people dressed in historical costumes take place. The party culminates with a competition on horseback around Asti’s central square. The symbol of that competition is the Palio; a locally woven banner.
The square where the horse race takes place is meticulously prepared before the race: the sand must be of a certain humidity and density so that the horses do not slip, the riders during the Palio do not use a saddle and the participating horses are controlled in detail.
The spectators are located next to the track and the entire city is decorated with flags representing the different neighborhoods (one per horse) at stake.
The grape is one of the economic engines of Asti and the map of its province also remembers it. In Asti there are wineries of international renown. A wine tour through the wineries of Le Langhe is the ideal complement to a tour of Asti. You can also complement your visit to Asti with a tour of Turin or an excursion to the royal residences of the Savoy in Piedmont.
Since 2014, the province of Asti altogether with the Langhe and Roero (in the province of Cuneo) are classified as World Heritage sites protected by UNESCO.