An Itinerary to Explore the Most Beautiful Places in the Province of Asti
Are you planning to visit Asti and eager to discover the surrounding areas? Then, read on and find out what to see around Asti, preparing for a wonderful vacation!
The Province of Asti is truly enchanting, characterized by vine-covered hills and valleys adorned with wheat and sunflowers. In this setting, you’ll find charming villages, each with its unique, fascinating story that never fails to delight visitors. Although this province covers a significant part of Monferrato, the panoramas you can admire vary greatly from east to west. To the east, you have the Lower Monferrato with its gentler hills, while to the east, there’s the Upper Monferrato with steeper, forested peaks that gradually blend with the Langhe and Roero. In fact, the province of Asti also includes a small part of Roero and a somewhat more significant portion of Langhe (the Langa Astigiana).
In this article, we’ll guide you to some of the places that, as a Piedmontese, you should absolutely see, even on multiple vacations, in this splendid area. So, let’s get started with our itinerary!
What to See Around Asti: Vezzolano Abbey
We’ll start our itinerary from the north of the Province of Asti, almost on the border with the Province of Turin. Here, at the foot of the village of Albugnano, you’ll find the Canonica di Vezzolano, known to most as Vezzolano Abbey. This complex is one of the most important medieval buildings in Piedmont, a true masterpiece of Romanesque architecture, and you can visit it for free on Saturdays and Sundays. Legend has it that it was founded by Charlemagne, but it was probably built in the 11th century. It was remodeled in the 12th century, and the forms you can still admire today were established. It was inhabited by the clergy until the 19th century.
The structure is characterized by alternating red and white bands typical of Lombard Romanesque architecture and is built around a very distinctive cloister. Each side is constructed in a different, easily recognizable style. Moreover, interesting frescoes from various eras and styles can be admired under the arcades.
Another unique feature of Vezzolano Abbey is the presence of a traditional orchard (indeed, native species are cultivated, now rare). The Frutteto della Canonica di Vezzolano Association organizes maintenance and cultivation courses for the orchards every year. Furthermore, if you visit during the harvest season, you can receive a bag of freshly picked fruits as a complimentary gift.
If you’re fond of Romanesque churches, note that the Turismo in Collina Association, which manages the Abbey, also opens several other churches in the Asti area on different occasions. Check their website and mark down the scheduled events.
If you want to learn more about Vezzolano Abbey, read our article!
The Village of Cocconato, the “Riviera of Monferrato”
A few kilometers from Vezzolano Abbey, there’s a village that you have to absolutely see around Asti: Cocconato. The village is located on the highest hill in the area, where the climate is so favorable that typical Mediterranean plants can be seen without difficulty. For this reason, it has been a popular tourist destination since the 19th century, especially for residents of the humid plain cities.
The “Riviera of Monferrato,” as the village is affectionately called, is famous not only for its climate but also for the beauty of its streets. Notably, Cocconato has been included in the list of the most beautiful villages in Italy and has received the Orange Flag from the Touring Club. Its history is long and marked by signs that indicate the location of walls and moats that surrounded the historic center, as well as still-standing palaces. The most beautiful of them all is the Municipal Palace dating back to the 15th century, with its portico adorned with pointed arches and large clay-decorated windows.
Continuing up the hill, you’ll come across the Church of Santa Maria della Consolazione, built in the mid-17th century. While the exterior is straightforward, the interior is richly decorated with works by important artists such as Guglielmo Caccia and Giovanni Francesco Sacchetti.
Finally, dominating the landscape is the Radicati Tower, the last surviving tower of the castle built by the noble feudal family. After various vicissitudes, it was restored in the 19th century and transformed into a luxury residence.
Cocconato also hosts numerous events throughout the year, such as the Palio degli Asini (Donkey Palio) and the Fiera di San Marco (St. Mark’s Fair).
If you want to learn more about Cocconato, read our article.
What to See Around Asti: Moncalvo
One of the most important villages to see around Asti, in terms of history and beauty, is undoubtedly Moncalvo. The town is known as the “Smallest City in Italy” due to its status as Civitas granted by the Holy Roman Emperor during the Middle Ages. During that time, it was also the first capital of the Marchesato del Monferrato, established by the Aleramici family, but its origins are even older. Today, thanks to its beautiful historic center and the many events and fairs held throughout the year, it proudly displays the prestigious Orange Flag from the Touring Club.
During your visit to the village, you can’t miss the remains of the Castle, which over the centuries were transformed into beautiful porticos. You can climb the two towers and reach the Bonaventura Belvedere to admire the surrounding panorama. You can also access the Camminamenti del Castello, the corridors that connected the various parts of the fortress, which have been recovered in recent years.
Another interesting area in the village is the Fracia, which is the current Via XX Settembre. This street leads to the most picturesque neighborhood and branches off into alleys that lead to the ancient Jewish Ghetto with its stumbling stones, as well as other interesting palaces and churches. Of particular interest are Palazzo Lanfrancore, Casa Montanari, and Palazzo Testafochi, in addition to the churches of Santa Maria delle Grazie and Sant’Antonio Abate. These last churches, in particular, along with the Parochial Church of San Francesco, preserve a remarkable collection of works by Moncalvo, also known as Guglielmo Caccia. This artist, who lived in the 16th and 17th centuries, is considered the Raphael of Monferrato due to his exceptional talent.
For more information on monuments and the most interesting events to attend, read our dedicated article.
Grazzano Badoglio : the Aleramic Abbey and Aleramo’s Tomb
Located near Moncalvo in the direction of Lower Monferrato Casalese, you’ll come across the small village of Grazzano Badoglio. The name Badoglio was given in honor of General and Prime Minister Pietro Badoglio, who was born here and whose birthplace you can visit. However, we recommend that you take some time to visit a far more interesting monument that bears witness to the early years of the Marquisate of Monferrato: the Aleramic Abbey. This abbey is situated in the highest part of the village and was founded by Aleramo, the legendary First Marquis of Monferrato, in 961, and entrusted to the Benedictines. Today, only the Romanesque bell tower, a well-maintained cloister with a picturesque view of the surrounding landscape, and a portico remain from that structure.
Another intriguing site is the Church of the Saints Vittore and Corona, which replaced the abbey church in the 16th century. This church is particularly famous for housing the Tomb of Aleramo and several paintings by Guglielmo Caccia. It is said that the portrait of Aleramo on the tomb was also created by Moncalvo and adds to the beauty of the Medieval mosaic situated above it. The mosaic features a sphinx and a dragon, adding to its historical significance. Within the abbey, you can also find a second-century A.D. Roman funerary plaque that is of great historical importance in understanding the region. The upper tympanum, adorned with a bas-relief depicting a vessel brimming with grapes and two birds pecking, is a visual delight.
The Abbey is open for visitation from March 15th to November 15th, exclusively on Saturdays and Sundays, at the Tourist Information Office from 10 am to 12 pm and from 3 pm to 6 pm. For reservations, contact Tel. 0141-1706829.
What to see around Asti: Montemagno
Another village on the border of Lower Monferrato Casalese that deserves your attention is Montemagno. Although not widely known, Montemagno promises to provide unique and memorable experiences. Founded around 1000 A.D., this village boasts a distinct triangular shape with 12 alleys branching off from the main street, each labeled with Roman numerals.
Perched atop the village is the Castle, which overlooks all the surrounding buildings. While you may not be able to enter the castle, you can explore a short trail along its walls that offers splendid panoramic views of the Casalese region.
However, the most enchanting sight you’ll encounter is Piazza San Martino, a rectangular square dominated by a dramatic Baroque staircase. Observing it leaves no doubt as to why it has been compared to the Spanish Steps in Rome, as it was constructed to provide access to the Church of Saints Martino and Stefano. Montemagno is also home to the “Casa sul Portone,” which was adapted from one of the ancient gates to the fortified village and now serves as an exhibition venue and the town’s tourist office.
What to see Around Asti: Cisterna d’Asti, the Only Roero Village in Asti Province
If you opt to explore the eastern part of the Asti Province during your trip to Monferrato, consider visiting Cisterna d’Asti. This small town is the only one in the province to be part of the Roero region, located halfway between Asti and Alba. Cisterna d’Asti is distinguished by its imposing castle perched high above the town, which still houses the cistern from which the town gets its name. The castle has evolved over time, reflecting the changes that have occurred in the town and region, but it retains historical elements from every era
A museum within the castle tells the story of the area’s art and crafts from bygone times, especially for younger visitors who may not remember older trades and objects replaced by agricultural and general life mechanization. These items showcase the strong connection between the inhabitants and the challenging land cultivated with vines.
The castle, with its tower, also serves as an excellent 360-degree panoramic viewpoint overlooking the rest of Roero and the nearby Langhe.
What to see around Asti Castagnole delle Lanze
Among the “Most Beautiful Villages in Italy” in the vicinity of Asti, Castagnole delle Lanze stands out, having recently joined this prestigious list and already become popular with tourists. This village is located just a few kilometers from the Barbaresco region and has absorbed the beauty and art influences from this famous wine-producing area.
In recent years, Castagnole has undergone a significant transformation, opening its historic center to contemporary art influences. The exquisite Church of San Pietro in Vincoli, adorned with dazzling Baroque decorations, remains its primary attraction. Today, various artworks have been added throughout the village, including the Portico of Via Ener Bettica, painted by Vincenzo Piccato with colors typical of the region throughout the seasons, and the Portico of Tristano and Isotta. The latter, also painted by Vincenzo Piccato, is inspired by the story of the two lovers, adding vibrancy to one of Castagnole’s most picturesque corners
Another work by the artist is located inside the deconsecrated Church of the Battuti, painted with the changing seasonal tones of the hills around Castagnole. It’s now known as the “Adopters’ Room” and is used for collecting bottles from those participating in the Adopt a Row initiative in the village.
You should also take time to explore the Rimembranza Park and climb the Tower of Count Saint Robert. At the tower, you can learn about interesting facts related to this important historical figure associated with Castagnole and, most importantly, savor a 360-degree panorama overlooking Langhe, Roero, and Monferrato.
What to see Around Asti: Canelli, the first Italian capital of sparkling wine
A fundamental stop on an itinerary exploring what to see around Asti is undoubtedly Canelli. This town, situated on the border between the Langhe and Monferrato regions, is globally renowned as the first Italian capital of sparkling wine. There’s good reason for this recognition. To attest to its extensive history of success, there are many famous wineries with their Underground Cathedrals. These long tunnels and underground galleries, carved into the rock and lined with bricks, are the places where sparkling wines were and, in some cases, still are aged. Due to their beauty and unique characteristics, they have become part of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Many of them can be admired through guided tours organized by the wineries themselves
In addition to the Underground Cathedrals, Canelli’s historic center stands out with the presence of Stërnia, an ancient cobbled walkway connecting the town to the Castle. As you ascend the hill, you’ll encounter many picturesque views, with stone Langhe houses juxtaposed with brightly colored homes and dramatic monuments. Among the latter are the Churches of San Tommaso, San Rocco, and San Leonardo, and at the hill’s summit stands the Gancia Castle. Along the Stërnia path, you’ll find the “Via degli Innamorati,” a veritable art gallery inspired by the works of Raymond Peynet. The street concludes with a panoramic terrace overlooking the lower town and the surrounding hills, known as the UNESCO Belvedere.
If you enjoy panoramic views, we recommend visiting the Torre dei Contini, an ancient watchtower that offers a breathtaking vista.
To learn more about Canelli, the Underground Cathedrals, and other iconic places, read our article.
Fontanile A Village of Murals
Before heading south in the province of Asti, don’t miss the opportunity to visit the small village of Fontanile, nestled in the hills of Brachetto d’Acqui. While its name alludes to the presence of numerous springs, Fontanile is now known for its murals. The village is adorned with murals that narrate stories of local figures and everyday life from both the near and distant past
The murals include depictions of five friends who embarked on a cycling trip to Switzerland a century ago and another portraying Francesco Cirio, the founder of the canned food company, who assisted his parents in their shop here. Others illustrate various activities prevalent in the village many centuries ago, such as the armory and tailoring, as well as charming scenes featuring children and sheep.
The quest to discover these murals, which increase in number each year, encourages you to explore all the village’s streets and uncover fascinating stories. In addition to the murals, you’ll find the Church of San Giovanni Battista, an iconic symbol of Fontanile with its massive neo-Gothic dome. This church, visible from several kilometers away, is a true landmark. While wandering through the small historic center, you’ll come across remnants of its past, such as ancient entry gates to the village, the Ansaldi Tower, and the ancient washhouse.
What to see around Asti: Roccaverano
As you head south, where the province of Asti meets Cuneo and Alessandria, you’ll encounter the Langa Astigiana, home to the small village of Roccaverano. This area closely resembles the Ligurian Apennines, in contrast to the gentle hills surrounding Alba. Instead of vineyards and hazelnut orchards, the steep hillsides here are home to goats that produce an exceptional product: Robiola di Roccaverano. You cannot claim to have visited the village without trying it and taking some home!
Roccaverano has more to offer than Robiola, with its historic monuments. Notably, you’ll find the remnants of the Castle and the grand Circular Tower, situated at the highest point of the hill. Access to these sites is entirely free. The tower, measuring 30 meters in height and 26 in circumference, offers truly enchanting views.
The Piazza is also home to another village icon: the Church of Santa Maria Annunziata. This edifice is associated with an important figure, Bramante, one of the Renaissance’s most significant artists. It was Bramante who designed this church upon the request of Bishop Enrico Bruno, a native of Roccaverano, who was the treasurer of Pope Julius II at the time.
Just outside the village is another must-visit location: the Church of San Giovanni Battista. Inside, you’ll find the most comprehensive and imposing fresco cycle in the Astigiano region, dating back to the late 15th century. Although the authors’ names are unknown, it is believed to be the work of painters from the Ligurian Monregalese area.
What to around Asti: Mombaldone, a Medieval Gem in Langa Astigiana
The farthest of the places we recommend visiting near Asti is Mombaldone. This village, located downstream from Roccaverano, near the Bormida di Spigno Valley, lacks prominent monuments but offers a unique glimpse into a bygone era. It has earned its place among the “Most Beautiful Villages in Italy,” and its medieval atmosphere plays a significant role in its charm. It is the only village in the Langa Astigiana to be entirely enclosed by its original walls, preserving its urban core largely unchanged since its foundation.
Wandering through its streets, you’ll encounter the Ancient Gateway, the Church of San Nicola, the Oratory of the Saints Fabiano and Sebastiano, and the Portiola. This covered passage, with stone vaults connecting the main street to a steep descent that connected the village to the river, offers a trip back in time. A few meters away is the Palazzo Fortezza, home to some descendants of the Marchesi Del Carretto who ruled over the village and the region for centuries, and who now own the Aldilà restaurant.
Around the village, you can admire the Calanchi, furrows etched into the steepest slopes of the hills. These have been created by erosion from the waters and are a result of the grey sandstone soil that makes up the hills in this part of the Langa Astigiana.
For further insight into the village’s history and its annual events, read our article on Mombaldone.
Now that you know the most beautiful places to visit around Asti, all that’s left is for you to decide when to go!