As with any place that produces any D.O.C foodstuffs, Asti is home to many Festivals all year long; in the interest of travelling, I compiled a few which I think you’ll be enticed by. Many of Asti’s festivals happen over the month of September, with many overlapping, so you can attend each one – if you’ve got enough energy! Just don’t forget to thank me after you’ve had a wonderful time, alright?
Before we go any further, a little vocabulary explaining: D.O.C is the acronym for Denominazione di OrigineControllata, Italian for Controlled Designation of Origin; it means that only products from a certain area or region may carry the designation. The most famous cases are Champagne, which must be produced in the Champagne area to be called that – the rest is Spumante or Prosecco, if you’re interested – or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, which must be produced in Parma. So whenever you eat
or drink a D.O.C, you know you’re getting the real stuff.
Now, on to festivals!
1. Palio di Asti
The Palio is a traditional Italian bareback horse race that takes place all over the country. It combines civic pride and pageantry with the thrill os a fast horse race that has been celebrated since medieval times. The most famous might be the Palio di Siena, but the Palio di Asti is the oldest one on records, dating back to the 13th century. You can be a part of the Palio if you travel to Asti on the 3rd Sunday of September; the race takes place at the Piazza Alfieri, the main square of the province.
Trivia: the word Palio refers to a pice of cloth emblazoned with the city’s arms, which is hanged at the finishing post of the race; the winner of the race gets to keep the Palio as a prize.
2. Douja D’Or
A staple on Asti’s festival calendar since 1973, the Douja D’Or is a competition between D.O.C wine producers of all Italy. The name means Golden Jug, which refers back to how wine is served – and it really flows in the week when the Wine Show happens. During the Wine show visitors can taste – and buy – wines from all over the country, but the main stars are the ones produced in the region: Asti Spumanti, Alta Langa, e Barbera. The festival takes place on the second or third week of September, coinciding with the Festival dellaSagre, but since it has a moveable calendar, check beforehand when it’s going to be.
3. Festival delleSagre di Asti
Also known as the Festival of Festivals, it’s a great festival of food and wine (since it also hosts the Douja D’Or awards). Traditionally, it takes place on the second Sunday of September; however, celebrations start earlier, on Saturday night – as it should, let’s be honest. Besides all the food and drinks (I challenge you not to overeat at the festival) there’s a procession that weave it way around the city: comprised of over 3000 characters dressed in traditional garments, plus animals, tractors and farming tools, paying homage to the province’s rural traditions.
4. Fiera del Tartufo
The White Truffle Festival. Loved by chefs all over the world, truffles are especially hard to come by, and very few places are able produce enough truffles to be sold elsewhere. One of these places is Asti, and every year in the middle of November, they have a festival to celebrate the beloved mushrooms. The festivals features local wines and, of course, dishes prepared with the prized truffles.
Trivia: in Italy, there’s a law that states that truffles must be hunted using dogs, rather than hogs, since the hogs damage the dormant parts of the fungus, which can affect next harvests.