The 15 Best Things to Do in Asti, Italy

Country landscape of Monferrato (Asti, Piedmont, Italy) at summer, with vineyards
clodio / Getty Images

Asti, Italy is a medium-sized city situated between two hills, Monferrato and Langhe, and covered in vineyards. Located in the heart of Italy's northwestern province of Piedmont (Piedmonte) a mere 40-minute drive from Turin and an hour drive from Milan, Asti makes for a great day trip from either city. But if you have more time to spare, there is so much to explore in this city rich in history, culture, and gastronomy.

Inhabited since the Neolithic period, Asti became a Roman encampment sometime around 124 BC, later becoming an economic and political powerhouse in the Middle Ages, and it continued flourishing, falling, and rising again several times over the city's long and remarkable history. Today, Asti is best known for its exceptional food, the standout sparkling wines Asti Spumante and Moscato d'Asti, and for the Palio di Ast—a bareback horse race through town.

If you're traveling to the Piedmont region and are planning a stop at this ancient city, here is our list of the top things to do in Asti, Italy. Note that most of the attractions listed here are administered by the city, and links are to the city's website.

01 of 15

Spend an Afternoon Sipping on Asti's Famous Wines

Piedmont in autumn

Credit:Filippo Maria Bianchi/Getty Images 

Asti is the main commercial center of Piedmont's wine area, with the vineyards surrounding the city producing a whopping 40 percent of the region's wines, including its most famous varietal Asti Spumante. The best way to experience Asti's wines is on a tasting tour through the hills (which are also a UNESCO World Heritage site), stopping at several vineyards along the way to sip sparkling whites and robust reds.

02 of 15

See Works of Art at Asti Cathedral

Cathedral of Asti, interior. This church, in baroque style, has plenty of fresco paintings and is open to visits.

 

clodio/Getty Images 

Address
Via San Giovanni, 8, 14100 Asti AT, Italy
Phone +39 0141 592924

The beautiful and impressive Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta, also known as the Duomo, is a must-see attraction, especially for first-time visitors to Asti. The first iteration cathedral is estimated to date back to the 5th or 6th centuries and has been built and rebuilt several times during its long history. The current structure was completed in the 13th century, with additions dating through the 1800s.

It is one of the largest churches in the region of Piedmont and is a shining example of Lombard Gothic-style architecture. The structure features a soaring belfry (bell tower) dating back to 1266, a brick facade marked by three rose windows, and an interior covered with delicate carvings, frescoes, and works by Piedmont Renaissance painter Gandolfino d'Asti. Don't forget to check out the presbytery which has an intricate mosaic floor that was part of the remains of a primitive ancient church buried below. 

03 of 15

Tour the Collegiate Church of Saint Secundus

Asti, Piazza San Secondo - Italy

argalis/Getty Images

Address
Piazza S. Secondo, 14100 Asti AT, Italy
Phone +39 0141 530066

Among the oldest Gothic churches in Asti (it was built between the 13th and 15th centuries), Collegiata di San Secondo sits adjacent to the Palazzo Civico (town hall) and overlooks Piazza San Secondo, a lovely town square. The church facade has three notable Gothic portals, and the interior holds works by Gandolfino d'Asti, including an important polyptych (a painting on a hinged wood panel). Built on the spot where San Secondo was beheaded, the 6th-century crypt now preserves the bones of the martyred saint. The church is open to visitors every day, but only when mass isn't in session, and visits to the crypt must be arranged through the sacristan.

04 of 15

Cheer on Horses and Riders at the Palio

Palio di Asti, Asti, Piedmont, Italy, Europe
Ben Pipe / robertharding / Getty Images

It may not be as famous a horse race as the Palio di Siena, but 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 with over a thousand costumed participants marching through town before ending at Piazza Alfieri. Afte the parade, 21 representatives of the town's ancient boroughs compete in three thrilling heats on horseback. And did we mention that the jockeys are riding bareback? 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.

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05 of 15

Enjoy an Afternoon People-Watching on Piazza Alfieri

Piazza Alfieri, Asti

Damien Simonis/Getty Images 

Address
Piazza Vittorio Alfieri, 14100 Asti AT, Italy

Take a leisurely 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, this piazza is an excellent example of 19th-century urban-architectural planning—it's lined by porticoed buildings and contains the marble and granite Vittorio Alfieri Monument by Giuseppe Dini. Besides hosting the famed Palio di Asti each year, it's home to a weekly food market. On your visit, consider grabbing some food and admire the architecture before settling in for some people-watching.

06 of 15

Admire Traditional and Contemporary Art at Palazzo Mazzetti

Palazzo Mazzetti

incola/Wikimedia Commons 

Address
Corso Vittorio Alfieri, 357, 14100 Asti AT, Italy
Phone +39 0141 530403

Once the residence of a noble family, the stately Palazzo Mazzetti is now the city's civic art museum. Its galleries exhibit a fascinating collection of Italian paintings from the 17th through 19th centuries, along with an impressive array of more contemporary works of art—including pieces by Michelangelo Pittatore. The museum's collection also included clothes, historical clothing, and wooden sculptures. Spend a few hours at this user-friendly museum, with interactive touchscreen tables, an educational room, a library, and a coffee bar.

07 of 15

Gat a Birdseye View of the City Atop Troyana Tower

Troyana Tower, Asti

Wikimedia Commons

Address
Piazza Medici, 6, 14100 Asti AT, Italy
Phone +39 0141 399489

The area of Asti between the medieval center and the cathedral is teeming with palaces and wealthy merchants' houses. Many of these houses once featured lofty towers—in fact, Asti is nicknamed the "the city of 100 towers," though only 15 towers are still standing. The tallest among those surviving 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.

08 of 15

Explore the Crypt and Museum of Sant'Anastasio

Cripta e Museo di Sant’Anastasio

Wikimedia Commons

Address
Corso Vittorio Alfieri, 365, 14100 Asti AT, Italy
Phone +39 0141 530403

The Romanesque Cripta e Museo di Sant'Anastasio serves as both a museum and an archaeological site. Located steps from the Asti Cathedral, the site houses the remains of four ancient churches—all of which once belonged to the Benedictine monastery of Sant'Anastasio. Inside the museum, you'll see the sandstone capitals (the top of a column) from the second church (from the 12th century), as well as remains of the Gothic church of Maddalena (13th-15th centuries). Being able to see the masonry up close gives visitors a chance to truly admire the skills of ancient Roman masons. You can also take a tour of the beautiful crypt beneath the museum/

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09 of 15

Learn About the History of the Palio di Asti

Old flags and outfits on display in the Palio di Asti museum

Courtesy of Visit Asti

Address
Via Cardinale Massaia, 5, 14100 Asti AT, Italy
Phone +39 0141 399489

If you can't make it to Asti in September in time for the race, check out the Palio di Asti Museum (Museo del Palio di Asti) housed in the 15th-century Renaissance-style Palazzo Mazzola. The museum documents the history of the Palio, displaying vintage posters, ancient drapes of the "Palio," old parade costumes, and interactive multimedia workstations.

10 of 15

Walk Along Remnants of Roman Walls

Because Asti was a Roman-controlled city, it has a number of ancient ruins that are still remaining today. Despite the well-known ancient history of the city, remants of a Roman wall weren't discovered until the late 20th century when construction work on a building on the north side of the city exposed the ruins. There are several sections of wall spread around the city. Remains of a first-century Roman amphitheater were also discovered during a 1987 construction project. Located in the basement of Gallizzi Fur Shop, guests can visit the sit by making an appointment.

11 of 15

Take in a Performance at Teatro Vittorio Alfieri

Teatro Vittorio Alfieri

De Agostini/C. Sappa/Getty Images 

Address
Via Teatro Alfieri, 2, 14100 Asti AT, Italy
Phone +39 0141 399057

Built in 1860 in the classic opera house style, Teatro Vittorio Alfieri is located in the city's historic section close to the town hall.  As the most important theater in Asti, it presents theatrical, musical, and lyrical performances of the highest caliber. Since 1979, the theater has undergone extensive renovations, rendering it modern and functional but retaining its historical authenticity.

12 of 15

Discover Fossils at the Paleontological Museum

display cases of artifacts in a room with many brick archways

Phrexian / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

Address
Palazzo del Michelerio, Corso Vittorio Alfieri, 381, 14100 Asti AT, Italy
Phone +39 0141 592091

Set in a former 16th-century monastery, the Paleontological Museum of Asti (Museo Paleontologico Territoriale dell'Astigiano) is a family-friendly destination. The museum is 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.

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13 of 15

Visit the Church of San Martino

Address
Piazza S. Martino, 11, 14100 Asti AT, Italy
Phone +39 0141 593477

Overlooking a square in the San Martino-San Rocco district, Chiesa di San Martino dates back to at least the 9th century. The original Gothic facade was eventually demolished and rebuilt in the Baroque style around 1738. Considered the third most important church after the Cathedral and San Secondo, it contains remarkable works by Gian Carlo Aliberti and Michelangelo Pittatore. The sacristy's rich walnut furnishings were added in the 18th century.

14 of 15

Savor a Local Food Festival

Festival delle Sagre Astigiane

Andrea Marchisio/Wikimedia Commons

Foodies traveling to Asti won't want to miss the Festival delle Sagre. Held every year in September, this event celebrates the culinary customs and traditions of Asti. The popular fair begins on a Saturday and runs through the weekend, and these days it attracts nearly 200,000 visitors to Piazza Campo del Palio. You'll be able to dine on classic dishes before washing them down with glasses of local wine while enjoying a historical costumed parade (corteo).

15 of 15

Splash Around at Astilido Water Park

Address
Via Recinto, Str. Santo Spirito, 18, 14100 Asti AT, Italy
Phone +39 0141 216344

For a day of family fun at a waterpark, you only need to take an 8-minute drive from the city center. Astilido Water Park is a 4,000-square-meter playground with a series of exciting water slides, a lagoon with a beach, as well as swimming, diving, and kids' pools. There are also picnic areas, bar service, a restaurant, and free parking. A visit to Astilido is a great way to spend a day of family fun in the sun. But it's open seasonally, from late spring to early fall.

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The 15 Best Things to Do in Asti, Italy