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These words are taken from a song by Paolo Conte, the lawyer-songwriter who has appeared in theatres all over the world and is surely one of the biggest celebrities to come out of Asti in the last decade. But is Asti still “in fondo alla campagna” (“deep in the countryside”), as he suggests later on in the same song. Asti, with its medieval centre, is the principal town in one of the world’s most important wine-producing provinces. Nowadays, it is also a centre for advanced geographical and environmental research into the farming industry, and an important point of reference in the development of new agricultural practices for Italy and Europe.
Palio di Asti, September
Ancient contest between 21 thoroughbred horses representing the different districts of the city, accompanied by a parade involving over 1200 people in Medieval costumes.
Piazza San Secondo, 1 - 14100 - Asti
Tel. +39.0141.399111 (Centralino)
In an atmospheric city draped with flags, over one thousand two hundred figures in medieval costume parade down the streets, amidst the enthusiastic applause of a thronging crowd. Twenty-one jockeys mount twenty-one bare-backed horses, with the aim of winning a velvet banner bearing the insignia of the city and the image of the city’s patron saint, Saint Secundus. These are just some of the scenes which make the Palio of Asti the most eagerly awaited event in Asti’s social calendar for Autumn. The city’s activities stem not only from a sense of duty to tradition, but also from a sincere passion, which is fuelled by the inhabitants of the fourteen villages which compete in the Palio – a passion which grows from year to year, making the event more and more special. Festivities begin on the Thursday, with the historical parade of the standard-bearers, dressed up in the colours of their districts. This is followed by the Palio market, which offers the participants an opportunity to meet and exchange unusual and original souvenirs of the event, packaged in the colours of their respective districts. Dinners are held, in order to wish the participants good luck and ease the tension of the night before the race, where both interested passers-by and participants in the Palio gather around tables laid out along the streets. Local products, songs, dances and performances: it is always a night to remember.
Asti is a welcoming and versatile city. Although its renown stems above all from its wines and food, its artistic beauty, its lively commerce and, above all, its many cultural and gastronomic events, which attract thousands of tourists every year, are also much admired.
Asti lies at the centre of a predominantly hilly area, crossed by the river Tanaro and by a number of roads which have been important thoroughfares since Roman times. Its strategic position meant that it was powerful and rich in the Middle Ages, when, from the eleventh to the fourteenth centuries the free City of Asti, one of the richest and most powerful cities of North Italy, came into frequent conflict with the Marchese of Monferrato. The Medieval heart of the city, which is crescent-shaped, is criss-crossed in narrow streets in which traces of old fortresses and ruined towers can still be seen. The changes made to the city during the eighteen-hundreds and the Baroque period are also of interest. A large number of historical monuments bear witness to this important history. These include the Collegiata di San Secondo (Collegiate of Saint Secundus), which was dedicated to the city’s patron between the thirteenth and the fourteenth century, the Palazzo di Città (Town Hall), which has been home to the council since 1558, the Cathedral, dedicated to the Assumption of Mary, which is one of the most important fourteenth century gothic churches in Piedmont, the Palazzo Alfieri, which hosts the Museo Alfieriano (Alfieri Museum) containing mementos of and documents relating to this Asti-born author, and the cripta di S. Anastasio (Crypt of Saint Anastasius). Neither should we forget to mention the San Pietro in Consavia complex, nor, for that matter, the Troiana Tower, commonly known as the “Torre dell’orologio” (“Clock Tower”), once host to the civic clock which marked the official time of public proceedings. The Certosa di Valmanera (Valmanera Charterhouse) on via dell”Arazzeria is host to the Ugo Scassa Tapestry workshop. There is a collection on display containing tapestries based on the works of famous Italian and foreign artists including Casorati, De Chirico, Guttoso, Mastroianni, Kandinski, Klee, Matisse and Miro adjacent to the tapestry workshop.
Nowadays, Asti is not just about history and art. It is also an important point of reference for national and international food and wine culture. We need only remember that every September Asti is host to and organises a large number of events, the Douja d’Or food and wine festival, the Salone Nazionale dei Vini selezionati (National Exhibition of Selected Wines), with wine available to taste or buy from all over Italy, and the Festival delle Sagre, a celebration of the traditional wine and cuisine of the area.
Date of last update: 10/02/2012
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