A culinary epicenter on a global level, Alba Italy is home to the Slow Food Movement, noble wines made with the Nebbiolo grape, and white truffles. A small town, even with a population of 29,000, Alba is located in the rolling countryside of the Piedmont region in the north of Italy. The hillsides that surround it are covered with grape vines. In the fall, the famous Alba, Italy White Truffle Festival fills the town with thousands of gourmets looking to sample and procure the exotic truffle. I visited the town during April.
Alba is reachable by train and offers all of the amenities one could ask for. From luxury hotels and fine dining restaurants to car rentals and wine tastings, Alba Italy has it. In April, the grape growers were just waking up from a long winter; pruning their vines and burning the clippings. Smoke from their fires gently filled the air with the scent of their long tradition. I was pleasantly surprised with the hotel in which we stayed. It offered a balcony with views of the countryside as well as a complete breakfast for an inexpensive price. Hotel Langhe is located on the edge of the city, about one mile from the train station.
The town’s center is both modern and elegant and quintessentially Italian. High-fashion boutiques sell clothing and furniture while gourmet-food stores sell Alba’s best-known delicacies: white truffles and wine. The Nebbiolo grape is the primary grape used in Barolo wine, which is an austere wine that can be aged for extended periods. I was happily surprised to find an extensive selection of 10+ year-old Barolos with price tags between 20-30 euro. Being led into the wine cellars of these stores, which smelled as ancient as winemaking itself, was a surreal experience; I felt a bit like a count!
The region in which Alba is located is renowned for being the only region in the world where white truffles grow. And the region is very particular about when and how white truffles are sold. Fresh white truffle cannot be found in Alba from February to July because white truffles have a particular growing season. From September to December, restaurants offer fresh white truffle on their menus. This doesn’t mean, however, that you cannot taste the delicate truffles outside of their growing season; their aromas and flavors are preserved year-round in a large selection of foods, including: truffle pâté, truffle oil, truffle butter, and cream of truffle. My favorite concoction is honey infused with white truffle. Spread it with Brie on a piece of warm baguette—I’m in heaven.
The world-famous Slow Food Movement was born in Piedmont and the restaurants in Alba proudly advertise their allegiance to the movement. The concept of “slow food” was developed in opposition to that of fast food — after McDonald’s opened a store near the Spanish Steps in Rome. For one of my most memorable “slow food” dining experiences, I had a meal at Alba’s Ristorante Osteria Lalibera that included the best herb-infused risotto ever.
Alba’s town center has medieval towers and cobblestone streets, making it perfect for strolling, particularly after a dinner. I found delicious regional wines offered at incredible restaurants for as low as ten euro. There can be no doubt, Alba is an Italian city where you can taste the best flavors of life.