Alba, small capital of the Langhe (Piedmont) and Unesco Creative City for the Gastronomy, is famous for the white truffle, which from September to December is located underground, among woods, fields and gorges, and it becomes the protagonist of tables and of an International Fair, which conveys curious and visitors from all over the world.
The characteristics of this tuber are unmistakable: light hazelnut color, mainly smooth skin, compact flesh with whitish veins, and very intense and aromatic smell; appearance, which makes it particularly sought after and expensive: a hectogram can also costs 400 euros.
In the gastronomy, it is enhanced raw, cut into thin slices on risotto, butter eggs, traditional pastas such as tajarin (thin egg spaghetti), fondue and raw meats.
And then, there are the derivate products: paté, sauces, pasta, oils, cheeses… made from parts or quantities of products that cannot be marketed fresh, but which nevertheless feed a flourishing market.
The White Truffle International Fair
As an Italian delicacy (does not exist anywhere else in the world), the precious white truffle is for Alba an inestimable treasure and in the month of the Alba White Truffle International Fair, from the first ten days of October to the last ones of November, no truffles leave the world market area, set up in the courtyard of the eighteenth-century church of La Maddalena, without passing to judges attention, who certify the quality requirements and wrap it in numbered bags to ensure the traceability of the seller.
In the Langhe, a traditional job is the truffle seeker, called Trifolau, who finds the precious tubers in the underwood helped by his inseparable dogs, which dig a hole in the ground when they feel the right smell.
It’s a real emotion to be present at a truffle seek!
A city tour
Four steps in the heart of the city also allow you to understand that Alba is not only a treasure trove of good things, but also cultural and architectural beauties not indifferent.
Starting from Via Vittorio Emanuele, the street of the World Market of the precious White Truffle, called via Maestra, the visit takes place practically nose up, guided by the beautiful threads of buildings of the most different styles, from Gothic to Art Nouveau, and from the play of decorative elements, culminating in the terracotta friezes of Casa Do.
An unmissable stop is the historic Café Pettiti, where you can enjoy hot drinks, liqueurs and fine pastry between old boiserie and liberty mirrors, before earning Piazza Risorgimento, dominated by the red brick of the majestic San Lorenzo Cathedral, of Renaissance origins and the medieval lines of the Palazzo Comunale.
A few steps away, in the adjacent Via Cavour, you will see the Loggia dei Mercanti, with its arcade with ogival arches and a frieze of terracotta panels decorated with floral motifs. This is also the privileged area to admire the tourist profile of Alba, which, in medieval times, had over one hundred towers, towering sentries on the Tanaro river and the hills of Langhe and Roero. Today only four remain; many others have been lowered to the level of the roofs or incorporated into the palaces.
Good Things to Buy : Truffles / In addition to the Market of the International White Truffle Fair of Alba, truffles can be purchased in different shops in the old town, which are synonymous of quality and reliability, and that help to keep its reputation high: * Tartufi Morra, in Pertinace square,nr.3 . In addition to the precious tuber, it also offers cream of olives and almonds with truffles, sauces, pasta and bon of truffle chocolate. It is a very dear address to the inhabitants because, here, after the Second World War, the entrepreneur Giacomo Morra began to make known the truffles beyond the borders of Piedmont, sending examples in homage to characters like Winston Churchill, President Eisenhower, Marilyn Monroe and many others. * Tartufi Ponzio, in via Vittorio Emanuele 26; white truffles of all sizes make beautiful display in the window, lying on spoons of silver under bells saves smell. * Tartufi&Co., in via Pertinace 12, by appointment, you can also meet an expert trifolao, the truffle seeker, and discover the most curious and unpublished aspects of his craft.
Wines / The best labels of Barolo, Barbera, Nebbiolo, Barbaresco, Arneis and all the other nectars of Langhe and Roero can be found at the central * Enoteca Le Torri, under the arcades of Via Cavour, where you can also taste grappa and Barolo chinato. Or from * Carosso, in via Vittorio Emanuele 23, also provided in the matter of typical sweets and confectionery.
Chocolate, hazelnuts, typical sweets and nougats / * The Caffè Storico Pasticceria Pettiti, in via Vittorio Emanuele 25, is the reign of the typical bon-bon albesi, with chocolate, rum, grappa, Moscato or Barolo cream; of the Banda, a puff pastry cake with apples and custard cream, and of the Campagnola, a dried cake with raisins and chocolate chips. * Tuttonocciola Francesetti, in via Mandelli 9, the IGP hazelnut called Gentile dele Langhe is the undisputed protagonist of cakes, creams and pastries; you can also visit the workshop and watch the different preparations. In terms of nougat, * Sebaste is the best brand in the Langhe, produced in the factory of Gallo Grinzane, It can be purchased on the stalls of Piazza Savona, in Alba.
Photographic credits: Alberto Campanile; Archivio Ente Turismo Alba Bra Langhe Roero; Fiera Internazionale del Tartufo Bianco di Alba.