Beyond Turin: A trip to Asti

by Charlotte

The city of Asti, 55km east of Turin, is one of the must-see places in the Piedmont region. Built on the plain of the Tanaro River, the area has a rich medieval heritage whilst the city’s stunning cathedral is its centerpiece. Those staying in hotels in Florence may believe they've seen the cream of the crop when it comes to cathedrals in Italy but the one here is something special.

The Asti commune is also where the wine of the same name derives, which should be sampled in any number of the quaint restaurants which dot the region.

Asti, lovingly known as the City of 100 Towers (although it actually had 120!), is like a living storybook of Italy's past. These towers, originally built to defend the city, still stand tall today, scattered throughout the ancient city walls, reminding us of a time when fortresses ruled the land.

Walking through Asti's historic streets feels like stepping back in time. The charming Piazza Medici, with its bubbling Fontane della Acquadotto sculpture, offers a serene escape from the city bustle. Wander down Via Alfieri, and you'll find yourself surrounded by towering structures that seem to whisper tales of centuries gone by.

But the real heart of Asti lies in its breathtaking Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta. This stunning cathedral, built centuries ago on the ruins of an older church, is a masterpiece of architecture. Its facade, adorned with intricate carvings and majestic rose windows, is a testament to the skill of its builders. Step inside, and you'll be greeted by a riot of color and light as frescoes and altarpieces line the walls, each telling a story of faith and devotion.

Asti is a city steeped in spirituality, with churches dotting its skyline like sentinels of faith. From the grandeur of Chiesa di San Secondo to the humble beauty of Torre Rosso, each sacred space offers a glimpse into Asti's religious heritage.

But it's not all about history in Asti—far from it! The city comes alive each September for the Palio di Asti festival, a tradition that dates back centuries. Held in the bustling Piazza Alfieri, this thrilling horse race is a spectacle like no other, drawing crowds from all over to cheer on their favorite riders.

The Festival Delle Sagre, which is held a week earlier, is a food and wine connoisseur’s delight whilst from October through December the local “tartufo bianco” white truffle can be sampled at the weekly local truffle festivals.

Asti's vibrant piazzas, bustling markets, and mouthwatering cuisine make it a delight to explore. After all, what's a trip to Italy without indulging in some delicious food?

Speaking of which, let's talk about Asti's culinary scene. From hearty risottos to savory steaks cooked on open grills, the city is a food lover's paradise. And let's not forget the wine—Asti is renowned for its vineyards, producing some of the finest wines in Italy. So be sure to raise a glass of local vino and toast to the good life!

As you venture outside the city limits, you'll encounter quaint villages and hamlets nestled amid the hills, each with its own unique character and charm. Here, time seems to move at a slower pace, allowing you to savor the simple pleasures of life—like a leisurely stroll through the vineyards or a picnic amidst the olive groves.

The changing seasons paint the landscape in a kaleidoscope of colors, from the vibrant greens of spring to the fiery hues of autumn. In the springtime, the countryside bursts to life with blossoming flowers and fresh greenery, while autumn brings a symphony of reds, oranges, and yellows as the vineyards prepare for harvest.

One of the most iconic features of the Asti countryside is its rolling vineyards, which produce some of Italy's finest wines. The sight of neat rows of grapevines stretching across the hillsides is nothing short of breathtaking, especially when bathed in the golden light of the setting sun. And with countless wineries dotting the landscape, there's no shortage of opportunities to sample the region's acclaimed wines and learn about the winemaking process firsthand.

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