Where is Asti?
Asti is in the Italian province of Piedmont, in the north of country. The regionborders both France and Switzerland, and it can be observed in the eating habits of the region: rich and creamy stews and polentas rather than light and olive oil based. On the Italian side, the Piedmont region borders the Lombardy, Liguria, the Aosta Valley, and a little bit of the Emilia Romagna regions.
Asti is better known for its wine, which received DOCG status (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita – Controlled and Guaranteed Designation of Origin) in 1993: the light, sparkling white Asti, the robust red Barbaresco, and the sophisticated white sparkling Alta Langa; its truffles, which are celebrated in a Festival of their own in November; and for being home to the oldest Palio in records – the fast-paced horse race dates from the 12th century.
How do I get there?
If you’re travelling from Europe you can easily (and relatively cheaply) fly to Turin’s airport, from where you can then take the train or hire a car to Asti – it takes only an hour. If you’re coming from other continents, you can fly to Milan and then take the train or drive –this too is a short journey, as it takes about 1 hour and a half to reach your destination.
What’s there to do?
Apart from simply sitting back and enjoying yourself with a good glass of wine or a cup of coffee, eating delicious food, and relaxing, there’s plenty to do here: you can go for a walk around the city and see all the beautiful medieval buildings that are in pretty much every corner – it’s specially delightful if you can sketch them; you can take a tour or two on the local vineyards or, if you’d like to sample different kinds of wine at once, find a good enoteca; in the Asti region only there are three golf clubs, two of which are 18 hole courses – one was projected by Graham Cooke, the other by FulvioBani.
If you feel you’ve explored Asti enough, you can always take a day trip to one of the neighbouring cities: go to Alba and visit the Ferrero factory, take the waters at AcquiTerme (natural hot springs!), which housed baths in Roman times, or go to the beach: the train to Genoa will get you on sandy shores in less than an hour. Bonus: the Ligurian Sea is known as a “Sanctuary for Cetaceans” – take the boat and go see those wonderful animals up close.
When is it best to go?
The weather in Asti doesn’t go to extremes: it varies from 0ºC in winter to 30ºC during summer, so you won’t either freeze to death or melt away under the scorching sunshine. It does tend to be rainy during spring and autumn, so if it bothers you immensely you’d better choose another season.
In my humble opinion, the best month to be in Asti is, without a doubt, September: that’s when the best – and most important – festivals take place, from the first week to the 3rd Sunday. The Douja D’Or wine show, the Festival of Festivals and the Palio di Asti all happen in subsequent weeks.