descending into Asti

Perhaps it is poor etiquette of me to write a post about my first journey before I write about my classy Italian villa apartment or home city. Mi dispiache (I’m sorry). Bear with me, those posts are coming. I just want to make sure I can include fairly representative pictures (which I do not currently possess) with those posts.

Admittedly, before I arrived I knew very little about Torino and Northern Italy. One of the facts I was surprised to learn is that the Piedmont region, the northwest area of Italy where Torino is located, is actually one of the main wine regions for Italy. Of course Italy is known for its wine, but most of the time Tuscany is credited as being the best area for Italy’s finest wine. However, the Piedmont region gives Tuscany a run for their money; either beating them for the title of “Best Wine in Italy” or finishing a close second every year. Ask any local resident of Torino and they will make sure you realize that they have much better wine than their detestable rival.

So, on the weekend before classes start Brandon and I decided a quick jaunt down to Asti, the wine capitol for the Piedmont, would be well worth our time. We woke before the sun that Sunday morning, ate a quick breakfast, and undertook the almost one and a half mile hike down to the Lingotto train station. We bought our round trip tickets for a mere 7,80 euros and jumped on the train to begin our first Italian excursion.

A quick note, Brandon is my roommate and travel companion. He hails from the arid desert city of Reno, Nevada where he goes to the University of Nevada to study Finance, Accounting, and Italian Studies. Yes, I kid you not, he is a triple major! He is a teller for the Wells Fargo Bank branch in Reno as well; and runs the Disney Land half marathon every year. He and I both share the same aspirations of seeing as much of Italy (and hopefully France and Spain) as possible and are doing as much of this traveling as possible together. But I digress, back to Asti; I will scribble a basic biography of the honorable Brandon another time.

Let me begin by saying Asti is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. It was founded by the Romans in the first century AD and has been a busy city ever since. Before, during, and for some time after the Renaissance

One of Asti's medieval towers

it was nicknamed “the City of Towers” as it had over one hundred lovely towers scattered throughout the city. Only some still remain, though they are still quite unique. It was also surrounded by a picturesque red brick wall created to demoralize would be intruders as well as for aesthetic appeal. It is also filled with breathtaking piemontese Gothic churches and palaces. One palace in particular, the Palazzo Mazzitti, was actually so envied that it was replicated in Amsterdam (based on what Brandon and I could decipher from the description, which was of course written in Italian).

To add to the experience of being in this unique little city there was a light fog the entire time we trudged the narrow streets of Asti. It gave an almost dream

A castle's tower in the mist amidst Asti's sleepy streets

like authenticity to the ancient European city, and made the whole experience seem like something out of a novel. We could see towers faintly outlined in the mist while we walked through the cobblestone streets and would round corners to be unexpectedly confronted with gorgeous churches and palaces. Gardens were also dispersed throughout the city and created unique oases by the churches or statues they were situated near.

The city is on a hill which offers great views of its buildings and skyline as one walks through. Store fronts are faced in marble and church bells chime softly in the background throughout the course of the morning. The locals are friendly and were perfectly happy to put up with our broken Italian and give us directions through their beloved town.

In addition to its stunning architecture and quaint lifestyle when the weather is warmer the medieval castle-turned-vineyard,Tenuta Castello di Razzano, outside of the city offers wine tastings on their premises. The price starts at six euro for five wines and ranges up to fifteen euro for eight wines. Both prices include locally made salami, bread, focaccia, and pizzas with the more expensive option serving even more appetizers. You can also go up in at least one of its historical towers during the spring and summer to see view the little city from its lofty heights.

Sadly, this city is largely unknown by tourists and vacationers since it is well off the beaten path and located amongst small farming towns and vineyard villages. If you really want to experience authentic Italian life, sample their wine, and see the lovely architecture away from the crowds and tours: visitare Asti! (visit Asti) You won’t be disappointed.

The famous "San Secondo Church"