Visiting Alba, Italy's Land of White Truffle
A flavor journey through the city of Alba (Italy) and the Langhe, Roero and Monferrato areas, land of the best white truffle and good wines.
There are places that really catch your eyes and your heart. Places where a journey becomes a total experience that involves all your senses because there you can really enjoy the wonders of Mother Earth. The Langhe, Roero and Monferrato aresa are some of theses places. A hilly region in the province of Cuneo, about 43 miles from Turin, Piedmont's capital city, which has become a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A wonderful place and definitely not an obvious Italy tour destination.
A trip to Alba and in the surrounding territory, the Langhe, makes you live in close contact with a richnature and history: medieval cities, towers, museums, landscapes, woods and vineyards.
You can participate to cultural events, food and wine tourism, outdoor excursions, sports activities, folk and Jazz events, and even truffle hunting! In fact, it is also possible to participate in a real research of the famous white truffle, accompanied by a special "truffle hunter" and his inseparable and precious dog.
Langhe typical products
The Langhe area is famous in the world for being rich in the prized white Alba truffle, Tuber magnatum Pico. Truffle is a spontaneous mushroom highly prized and fragrant, in this case with a color between yellow and ocher. It's possible to collect it from late summer until early winter.
The Italian white truffle is the most prized variety of truffles and iit preserves a unique scent: a tiny piece of it can enrich a delicious plate of pasta or season an "uovo al paletto", or fried egg. The important thing is not to cook this variety of truffles and use it raw in recipes.
If you think that in your journey you will buy white truffle, there are a couple of precious tips you should know:
- to store white truffle keep it in the refrigerator: wrap the truffles in paper towels and place it in a glass jar. In this way it can last a week, but it is advisable to consume fresh truffle as soon as possible. It should be cleaned with a brush under cold water and consumed after a few minutes. Read more on how to store truffles.
- to add flavor to pasta recipes cut the white truffle into very thin slices; there is also a tool, truffle shaver, able to cut this precious ingredient into thin flakes. You can also try excellent food products flavored with thruffle such as truffle Oil, truffle butter and truffle cheese.
Every year, between October and November, there is the Alba International White Truffle Fair, unmissable event for truffle lovers. In this period there are multiplying cultural initiatives and folklore festivals. All information is available on the official website of the truffle fair.
But there are also other important productions in this area such as the famous Macadamia hazelnuts, used in the confectionery industry, or fine wines such as Barolo, Barbaresco, Barbera, Nebbiolo and Dolcetto (if you love red wines) and Moscato, Gavi and Asti (if you prefer white wines).
Alba is a city with 8000 years of history: its first settlement dates back to the Neolithic, a prehistoric village which survived until the arrival of the Romans. During this period the city was called Alba Pompeia. In the centuries following the fall of the Roman empire, Alba suffered other dominations, such as the Lombards and the Franks. In the XII century Alba became a free municipality associated with the Lombard League and it's in this period that the city adopted the structure we can see today, with narrow streets, towers and palaces.
Then it came a period of wars and foreign dominations until a short Napoleonic domination that took place in 1796, then the town became part of the Kingdom of Savoy.
During the Second World War Alba was the first partisan Republic; this experience is described in the beautiful pages written by Beppe Fenoglio in his book "The twenty-three days of the city of Alba." Today Alba is known for its gastronomic delights and beautiful architecture: between the things to see in Alba we have to mention the old town with its towers, the San Lorenzo Cathedral, the Church of the Madeleine and the wine cellars of the city.
Do not miss a visit to underground Alba. There are also special openings during the year, but generally you can do the visit every second and fourth Sunday of the month in two rounds of visits, at 3 and 4 pm and every third Saturday of the month at 10:30 am. Booking is essential to participate.
If you love outdoor excursions and sunny days, the best months to visit Alba are June, July, August and September, when the average temperature goes from 16° C in June to 20° C in August and July. If you are interested in a food Alba tour which includes fairs, traditional markets and festivals, October and November are the best months.
Let's see some places you must see in a trip through the land of white truffle.
An ancient medieval castle, impressive in size, to demonstrate the power of the ancient Lords of the city. The castle was a country residence, a monastery, a fortress ... you can visit the rooms of the Marquise Juliette Colbert, with the originally furniture, and the library with the memories of Silvio Pellico a poet, a writer and a patriot of this region, which after a long imprisonment, he lived inside the castle walls, working in his library. In the castle there are also a regional cellar and the WiMu, the Wine Museum: is an interactive voyage through cultures and wine traditions.
Cavour Grinzane Castle
A lovely scenery and a well maintained facility: during a tour in the Langhe you cannot miss visiting the castle surrounded by beautiful vineyards belonged to Count Camillo Benso di Cavour, an italian statesman who had a leading role in the unification of Italy. Every year the castle hosts the World Alba White Truffle Auction.
Monferrato Infernot Tour
The so called "Infernot" are ancient cellars owened by the local noble families. These cellars were dug out of the local stone, a kind of tufa called Pietra da Cantoni, a unique and evocative place that you can visit with an organized tour.
A book for the journey
Before leaving for the Langhe and Roero we recommend reading Cesare Pavese's novel "The Moon and Bonfires", the journey of an emigrant who returned to his homeland from America. He rediscovers its territory with a passionate and autobiographical look, accompanied by the poetic prose of one of the greatest Italian writers of the 900.