. . . Centuries of history take shape in the streets and plazas of Asti, in the towers and buildings of the ancient city that lies on the bank of the Tanaro River.
Vittorio Alfieri welcomes us as we enter the city from the south along the Fulvia path. The majestic monument to Asti’s most famous son dominates the place where in September, the Palio of Asti, the most ancient Italian horse race, takes place. The city is decked out in bright and vivid colors with the stony smell of tuff in the air, people clapping, ready to re-live the ancient tradition.
From here, we enter the Alfieri Avenue that cuts the city in two and ends close to The Torre Rossa (Red Tower). It was here in this tower, which leans against the St. Caterina church, that Saint Secondo, the patron Saint of Asti, was imprisoned before his martyrdom.
Near the Torre Rossa is the Recinto dei Nobili (Noble Fence), the most ancient part of the city where narrow streets seem to hide the grandeur of the palaces once inhabited by the most important local families. A thousand years ago, dozens of towers stretched to the sky making Asti the most important city in Piedmont. Today, there is only a little evidence of that past. The Comentina Tower, the highest tower in Piedmont, and the Troyana Tower give spectacular views of the beautiful landscapes of Monferrato and Barbera d’Asti hills.
Saint Martino Square is a quaint place, where the church of the same name fronts the desconsacrated Saint Michele church, as if to symbolize the medieval struggles between Guelph and Ghibellini. The Saint Maria Assunta Cathedral is very impressive, one of the most important expressions of Gothic art in Italy, breathtaking, imposing, and almost cumbersome in its enormity in Asti’s cozy, quaint small center of town.
Going down the main street, we must visit the fascinating 8th century crypt of Saint Anastasio that lies a few steps away from Palazzo Alfieri, the poet’s original house. Continuing on the way back, we meet two of the perhaps most beautiful medieval buildings in Asti: Palazzo Ottolenghi, home to the Museum del Risorgimento (Italian Unification), and Palazzo Mazzetti with the Pinacoteca Civica (Civic Art Gallery).
A very long day dedicated to beauty, an historical journey from ancient Roman times to the Italian Unification that spread from Piedmont to the entire penisula. Asti the beautiful, Asti is able to capture those overlooking the Monferrato intrigued by the unknown territory, rich in history, art and culture.