Asti was a very busy province in Piedmont during the Middle Age, being particularly powerful throughout the 13th century. The historical parts of the province are littered with medieval buildings that were preserved and are open to tourists today, and make Asti one must-see destination for all who are interested in Medieval History and Architecture.
I have selected some of the buildings that I think are the most interesting, and definitely worth the visit.
1. Complesso del Battistero di San Pietro, or San Pietro in Consavia
The Church of San Pietro (or Saint Peter, if you will) is a rotunda – a round church. Its foundations were built around the year 1000, and additions to the building were carried out until the 18th century. Here, not only you get to visit a beautiful round church and witness centuries of architectural designs, but there’s also an archaeological and paleontological museum: housed in the museum are some fossils collected locally, whilst the archaeological collection is comprised of objects from important site, such as Egypt and Greece.
2. Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, or Asti Cathedral
The Cathedral of Asti is one of the largest in the Piedmont, the best gothic structure to be found on the region, and one of the most beautiful buildings in the Lombard Romanesque style. Its construction started on the 5th or 6th century, with elements such as the bell tower being added later on. If its beauty and grandeur aren’t enough to convince you it’s worth the visit, here’s a tidbit of information that might change your mind: in 1095 the cathedral was consecrated by pope Urban II so he could use it to preach the very first Crusade.
3. Torre Rossa
In English, its name is Red Tower; whether the name comes from the bricks used to build it or from the surname of the family that owns the adjacent building (the De Rubeis; Rubeis come from an old Latin name, Rubeo, which means ‘red’) we may never know. But what makes the tower worth a visit is that, according to popular folklore, the city’s patron saint, San Secondo, was imprisoned here before his martyrdom. Saints apart, this tower was built in two stages: the first one was completed in Roman times (around the 1st century), the second during the 11th century – giving the tower its Lombard Romanesque looks.
4. Collegiata di San Secondo
In the middle of the old town there’s a church dedicated to the province’s patron saint, San Secondo. Like many medieval churches, the current building was erected on top of previous constructions; the oldest part is the crypt, from the 6th century, where the remains of San Secondo are buried. The bell tower was built in the 11th century, in Romanesque style. The interiors are gothic, and feature frescoes from the 1300s and 1400s. Finally, there’s a chapel that was built in the 1700s.
Being quite honest, there are loads and loads of interesting building around Asti; taking a walk in the city is almost like going back in time. If you like visiting historical sites you’re going to have a blast in Asti, as it has towers and churches from all periods, just waiting for you to discover them. Besides the ones here, there are the Santa Maria Nuova (11th century), San Martino,Sant’Anastasio (8th-12th centuries), and Santa Caternina churches. Asti is known as the city of a 100 towers (though there are actually 120), and some of them are the Tower of the Comentini (13th century), the Torre de Regibus (12th century), the only octagonal tower in the city, and Torre Troyana (13th century).
Have fun discovering them all!