Source: Elizabeth Heath
Asti, Italy is a medium-sized city situated between two hills, Monferrato and Langhe, in the heart of Italy's northwestern province of Piedmont (Piedmonte), a 40-minute drive from Turin and an hour from Milan.
This city is best known for its exceptional food, the standout sparkling wines Asti Spumante and Moscato d'Asti and for the Palio di Asti – a bareback horse race through town. If you're traveling to the Piedmont region, Asti certainly merits a couple days of your time. Here is a list of the top things to do in Asti, Italy, a city rich in history, culture, and gastronomy.
1. Spend an Afternoon Sipping Asti's Famous Wines
Asti is the main commercial center of Piedmont's wine area, with vineyards surrounding the city producing some 40 percent of the region's wines, including its most famous Asti Spumante. Take a wine tasting tour through the hills (declared a UNESCO World Heritage site), stopping at vineyards along the way to sip sparkling whites and robust reds.
2. See Works of Art at Asti Cathedral
A must see, especially for first-time visitors to Asti is the beautiful and impressive Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta, also known as the Duomo, with its interior of delicate carvings, frescoes, and works by Renaissance painter Gandolfino d'Asti. Don't forget to check out the presbytery with its intricate mosaic floor, part of the remains of a primitive ancient church buried below.
3. Cheer Horses and Riders at the Palio
The Palio di Asti was first staged in 1273, making it one of the oldest races of its kind in Italy. Taking place on the first Sunday in September, festivities begin with a parade that ends on Piazza Alfieri, where representatives of the town's ancient boroughs compete in three thrilling heats on horseback. A traditional flag-throwing demonstration takes place at intermission, followed by the final race in which the winner is awarded the coveted banner: "Palio di Asti." Check the Palio's official website for specific dates and start times.
4. Shop, Eat, and People-Watch on Piazza Alfieri
Take a stroll through this lively, triangle-shaped piazza named for one of Italy's most renowned 18th-century poets, Vittorio Alfieri. Located on the edge of the old town, it's lined by porticoed buildings and is home to a weekly food market.
5. Get a Birdseye View Atop Troyana Tower
The area of Asti between the medieval center and the cathedral is teeming with palaces and wealthy merchants' houses. Many of these once featured lofty towers—in fact, Asti is nicknamed the "the city of 100 towers," though only 15 towers survive. The tallest among them is Troyana Tower (Torre Troyana). Located on Piazza Medici and extending 144 feet into the air, a climb to the top promises breathtaking views of the city and its surrounding countryside.
6. Walk Along Remnants of Roman Walls
Asti dates back to pre-Roman times and has a number of ancient ruins still remaining. On the north side of the city, construction work on a late 20th-century building uncovered a section of a Roman wall.
7. Take in a Performance at Teatro Vittorio Alfieri
Built in 1860 in the classic opera house style, Teatro Vittorio Alfieri is located in the city's historic section near the town hall. The most important theater in Asti, it presents theatrical, musical, and lyrical performances of the highest caliber.
8. Savor a Local Food Festival
Food lovers rejoice. The Festival delle Sagre is a yearly event that takes place in September to celebrate the culinary customs and traditions of Asti. The popular fair begins on Saturday and runs through the weekend, and these days it attracts nearly 200,000 visitors to Piazza Campo del Palio. Dine on typical dishes washed down with local wines while enjoying a historical costumed parade (corteo).
9. Splash Around at ASTILIDO Water Park
ASTILIDO Water Park is an 8-minute drive from Asti city center. The 4,000-square-meter playground has a series of exciting water slides, a lagoon with a beach, and swimming, diving, and kids' pools. There are also picnic areas, bar service, a restaurant, and free parking. It's a great way to spend a day of family fun in the sun. Open late spring to early fall.
10. Discover Fossils at the Paleontological Museum
Set in a former 16th-century monastery, the Paleontological Museum of Asti (Museo Paleontologico Territoriale dell'Astigiano) is a family-friendly destination. Split into two sections: the first lays out geo-paleontological events of the last 25 million years, and the other displays pre-historic fossil skeletal remains of Asti cetaceans (aquatic mammals) from a time when the Po Valley was under the sea.