Asti, a true medieval capital
Asti, situated on the Tanaro plain and blocking the way to France as well as the Po Valley, was for two centuries one of the richest city in Europe, the first real banking centre, with the so-called "casane" (local pawnshops) that lent money to kings and financed wars and crusades. Asti, a Free Commune since 1095, with its own laws written in the Codice Catenato (The Code of the Chain), which is still kept in Palazzo Mazzola) and a proud independence ensured by an army that was feared and respected by all its mighty neighbours.
Asti which in 1275, out of mockery, ran around the walls of besieged enemy Alba its traditional Palio, and thus made it the oldest in Italy. Asti, which for a century founded on its borders some villanova, fortified market centres free from feudal rights but permanently tied to the city by a loyalty pact. Asti, that would fight Alba then Chieri and would always oppose, like an insurmountable wall, the ambitions of the Marquisate of Monferrato, which in fact never conquered it. Asti, a Roman city that preserves the identity of its Latin memories, including its patron saint, San Secondo, a martyred Roman soldier. Asti, a very ancient diocese dating back to the 4th century that once extended as far as Ceva, whose powerful bishop was the only one in southern Piedmont, along with those of Alba and Acqui Terme. Asti, which finally fell on 14 August 1342, was submitted to the Visconti family and then passed from hand to hand, from lord to lord. Asti, ingloriously given as a wedding dowry to Valentina Visconti, betrothed to one of the Orléans family.
In fact, anyone who walks through the streets of the centre today will think that the noble families of Asti, with their names and their blind fury, still claim " power" over Asti at night and that, from towers and palaces, loggias and hallways, through these centuries-old stones, they still whisper their stories. Nevertheless, their stories and buildings are still here, all to be discovered. We can do it together by following four itineraries in the city and beyond.