Asti city and province are in the heart of Piedmont, sandwiched in-between the mountains and the sea, and not just any mountains or sea, we talk here about the Alps and the Mare Mediterranean, both natural beauties with historic links to Western culture, and an hours drive either north or south. And then Asti lies in the middle of the Monferrato hills, the ancient weathered dome in the middle of Piedmont, conveniently blessed with underlying chalk soil and cut by rivers running north-east/south west, created perfect sunshine exposure, god’s gift to grape growers.

There can be no doubt that the Monferrato and adjoining Langa Hills are one of the world’s most superior terrains for growing vines and producing wine, a tradition dating back to the Roman era, and possibly earlier. Especially in the production of red wines, so many unique and traditional varieties as well as the world famous Barolo and Barbaresco wines. And lets not forget Barbera D’Asti, long the people’s choice, now achieving international fame and the wonderful Moscato D’Asti, so delicate and delicious (and possibly the perfect dessert wine) not as well known as the more commercial Asti Spumante exported all over the world.

Asti was a great mercantile republic in the 11th century, long before the rise of Florence, and the old walled city is wonderful to walk around the old cobblestone streets and transport your-self back to the middle ages. Old churches and mansions are all over the city and in the medieval parade preceding the Palio, this age comes to life again. Of course Asti city was the centre of the surrounding province and during this festival week all the smaller towns and communes are represented in the Palio as well as the parade and in the Sagre festival.

Of course the Palio D’Asti is the most famous event, Italy’s oldest recorded bareback horse race, now held every September in the triangular Piazza Alfieri, a very difficult course and culminating a week of festivities starting with the Sagre feast and the week-long Douja D’Or wine festival.

Above all is the ambience of Asti, not only in this big festival time, or the many other festivals held all year in Asti and the neighbouring towns. Soak up the atmosphere, people are friendly, and know how to enjoy life, as well as work hard. Everyone is always willing to take time out of what they are doing to chat and help foreigners. Asti is Italy at its best.

Tim Brewer