Asti ★★★

Asti: 60km (37 miles) SE of Turin, 127km (79 miles) SW of Milan

The Asti of sparkling-wine fame is a bustling working city, but it has many treasures to uncover in its history-drenched centro storico—medieval towers (there were about 120 at one time), Renaissance palaces, and piazzas provide the perfect setting in which to sample the town’s most famous product, which flows readily in the local enoteche and cantinas.

Each year on the third Sunday of September, the area is mobbed for the Palio, Asti’s annual horse race (; (tel) 0141-399-482), now held in Piazza Alfieri (originally it was in Campo del Palio). Like the similar race in the Tuscan city of Siena, Asti’s Palio begins with a colorful medieval pageant through the town and ends with a wild bareback ride around the triangular Piazza Alfieri. First staged around 1273, the race coincides with Asti’s other great festival, the Douja d’Or (, a weeklong bacchanal celebrating the grape harvest.


Getting There -- Up to four trains an hour link Asti with Turin Porta Nuova (30–60 min; 5.25€) via Trenitalia (; (tel) 89-20-21). Arfea (; (tel) 0131-225-810) runs buses per day from Turin Autostazione to Asti; the trip takes 1 hour. By car, Asti can be reached in less than an hour from Turin via Autostrada 21.

Visitor Information -- The APT tourist office is near the train station at Piazza Alfieri 34 ((tel) 0141-530-357). It’s open Monday to Saturday 9am to 1pm and 2:30 to 6:30pm; and Sunday 9am to 1pm and 1:30pm to 5:30pm.

Exploring Asti


Asti’s historic heart is centered on three adjoining squares: Piazza Libertá, the vast Campo del Palio, and the grand arcaded Piazza Alfieri. Behind Piazza Alfieri stands the Romanesque-Gothic redbrick Collegiata di San Secondo (; tel. 0141/530-066; daily 7:30am–7pm). This church has two distinctions: it houses the Palio Astigiano, the prestigious banner awarded to the winning jockey at the Palio, and it also contains the tomb of St. Secondo, patron saint of both the race and the town. A Roman officer who converted to Christianity in a.d. 119, Secondo was martyred for his faith, beheaded in roughly the spot where his tomb now stands.


From Piazza Alfieri, the charming and largely pedestrianized Corso Alfieri bisects the old town and is lined with Renaissance palazzi. At the eastern end is the church of San Pietro in Consavia (tel. 0141/399-489; Tues–Sun 10am–1pm, 3–6pm, or until 7pm in summer) with a 10th-century Romanesque baptistery that was once a place of worship for the Knights of the Order of St. John. The archeology located inside San Pietro in Consavia has recently been renovated. At the western extreme of Corso Alfieri you’ll find the rotund church of Santa Caterina, abutting the medieval red-and-white brick-topped Torre Rossa.


Asti’s 15th-century Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta (tel. 0141/592-924; daily 8:30am–noon, 3–5:30pm) is also at the western end of town in Piazza Cattedrale. Its austere exterior hides the gaudy excesses of the interior; every inch of the church is festooned with frescoes by late-15th-century artists, including Gandolfino d’Asti.


Being the agricultural and gourmet hotspot that it is, Asti is blessed with two food markets. The larger is held in the Campo del Palio on Wednesdays and Saturdays, as part of a day-long street market with all kinds of wares; the food stands, however, are only there from 7:30am–1pm. The market spills over into neighboring piazzas, with stalls selling cheeses, herbs, flowers, oils, and wines. The covered Mercato Coperto on Piazza della Libertà is open daily except Sunday (Mon–Wed and Fri 8am–1pm, 3:30–7:30pm; Thurs 8:30am–1pm; Sat 8am–7:30pm). Look for white truffles, bagna cauda (a delicious anchovy and garlic fondue), robiola cheeses, almond-flavored amaretti biscuits, and nocciolata (hazelnut and chocolate spread). The region’s famous Asti Spumante DOCG sparkling wines can be bought from cantinas and enoteche in the town center and direct from some vineyards—a list is available from the tourist office at Piazza Alfieri 34.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.