Ever heard of Asti Spumonti wine? It’s an Italian sparkling wine, their answer to French champagne. It has a rather dubious reputation in the States. Most Americans know it as the bubbly slightly sweet liquid you pour over fruit when you have company over for dinner. It transforms an otherwise boring bowl of berries into something interesting and alcoholic.
But no American wine devotee would ever consider just drinking the stuff! At least not the Asti Spumonti that is exported to the States. As you might guess, things are different here…
Our new home is about 30 minutes from the legendary wine town of Asti where the beautiful bubbly was born. And believe me, nobody turns their noses up at Asti Spumonti here, it’s delicious!
Besides being a major wine center, Asti has a weekly open market that is colorful, huge and tons of fun to wander through. It draws hundreds of area farmers and merchants who cram together in booths on Asti’s gigantic central square. As is typical with town markets in Italy, you will find the freshest and cheapest produce, plus a jumbled array of housewares, clothing, furniture and shoes - lots and lots of shoes.
Italians buy new shoes like we buy lettuce. As near as I can figure, last week’s shoes wilt or go stale and must be replaced. My translation of a conversation overheard in the market - “Let me have a bunch of bananas, a loaf of bread and a couple pair of those fresh stilettos, per favore.”
The Asti market is located in the piazza where every fall the spectacle called Il Palio is held. The Palio of Sienna in Tuscany is much better known, but the Palio in Asti is less touristy and therefore more authentico. Palio literally means flag or banner. Il Palio is a pageantry competition between rival local townships. It’s sorta like a medieval Italian version of Westside Story . Rival gangs of really good-looking guys dressed in tights but somehow looking macho leap around the piazza waving giant flags. It’s a synchronized, costumed male dance-off! It’s been a very big deal here for centuries prior to Bernstein’s rip-off musical version. It’s like Broadway production values meet Italian pomp and circumstance – personally I can’t think of anything more entertaining. The winner takes home the coveted Palio attached to his giant Italian pole (yes, you should giggle here).
Below is a link to the Community of Asti homepage which includes a live image from a cyberspace webcam. The camera is located in the ancient Piazza San Secundo, a lovely little square where Chris and I have picnicked on those benches and/or taken a coffee at the café you can see on the right of the image. The scene of the cathedral and benches you will see is real-time, updated every 7 seconds.
Tune in on Monday, October 24th at 9am USA CST to see THE SALVOS LIVE FROM ASTI. You can access the webcam from the link under my profile or the link below.
Email us afterwards and let us know what you thought of our cyberspace performance. God, I love technology. And cyberspace photos of us from Italy with ancient cathedrals in the background is just the best! Set your alarm, we promise to be entertaining.