Il Palio - The Story
Il Palio is a bareback horse race dating back to medieval times. Held in Asti, the ancestral home of Palio D’Asti’s founder Gianni Fassio, the race was historically run in homage to its patron saint, San Secondo and as a celebration of victory in battle. Records indicate that Il Palio began in 1275, and was run regularly through 1862. The race was briefly reborn from 1929 – 1936 and then in 1967, the tradition of Il Palio came enthusiastically to life, once again.
Today the race is celebrated annually on the third Sunday of September. Participants parade the streets of Asti in a colorful and historic display of over 1,000 costumes dating back to the 13th and 14th centuries. All aspects of life in Medieval Asti under the reigning Savoy family come to life- including the revered flag throwers - Sbandieratori d'Asti- who we honor with colorful banners hung in our main dining room. There are twenty entries in the race representing Asti's neighborhoods and outlying villages. The triangular Piazza Alfieri always proves a particularly difficult test, even for the most talented jockeys as depicted in artist Marco Sassone's vivid, original mural of Il Palio displayed in our restaurant’s Enoteca della Douja room facing Sacramento Street.
Leading up to the running of Il Palio, a week of “Sagre” food festivals are held that, at their zenith, draw 250,000 people to this city of 70,000. Forty-eight nearby villages set up stands to serve a spectacular feast of local specialties while a parade of floats depicting ancient crafts and guilds illustrate the traditional ways of life in the region.
Since its founding in 1990, the mission of Palio d'Asti has been to honor this glorious cultural and culinary tradition; utilizing traditional techniques and authentic ingredients in a way that connects yesterday and today.