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Alba Truffle Festival – A Must For Italian Truffle Lovers

Alba Truffle Festival

One of the most important festivals in Italy, the Alba Truffle Festival, celebrates one the rarest and most highly prized cooking ingredients in the world: the white truffle.

In the fall, the famous Alba, Italy Alba White Truffle Festival fills the town with thousands of gourmets looking to sample and procure the exotic truffle.

View from top over the Alba Truffle Festival
Ente Fiera del Tartufo – Photos by Davide Carletti

Italian White Truffles

The unique flavor profile of white truffles is like that of fine wine: something more than words can describe. Its aromas can be mushroomy, and they almost get caught in the throat. While world-renowned chefs use truffles in many different ways, they all agree that Alba is the number one place in the world to get white truffles.

Alba Truffle Festival Dates:

Alba Truffle Festival Dates 2020: October 10 – December 8, 2020

The truffle festival begins in early October, at the height of the truffle harvest, and runs until mid-November. So, foremost, the truffle festival is a great way for gourmets to sample fresh white truffles. The entrance fee to the Alba Truffle Festival is two euros.

Things to do at the Alba White Truffle Festival

The annual Alba Truffle Festival offers a plethora of entertainment. Each day of the festival, local truffle hunters set up grid-like rows of stands proffering their truffles. This event is known as the World Truffle Market, and you can get some really great deals.

man holding huge white truffle on top of blue checkered dish towel
Ente Fiera del Tartufo – Photos by Davide Carletti

During an interview with Stefano, whose family owns the Tartufi & Co. shop and whose grandfather, Lidio, was one of the founding members of the prestigious Alba Truffle Association, I was told that prices skyrocket during international sales. But if you are lucky enough to visit Alba, you can pay local prices. At the market, truffle hunters will often try to outbid one another, so try to be a good haggler.

Truffle Hunting Piedmont

Another unique experience offered in conjunction with the festival is the chance to actually go truffle hunting. Truffle hunting is a secret art and getting the opportunity to tag along should not be taken lightly. Many truffle hunters go only at night, and they always keep their locations secret.

When I was taken truffle hunting in the south of Italy, truffle hunter Giuseppe Lolli took me down enough winding roads, which at times were more like dirt paths, that I could never retrace our steps. In Alba, where a single white truffle has cost up to $160,406, tours are offered by a few groups, so take a look here to book your truffle hunting tour: Walking and Truffle Hunting Tours in Piedmont. Make sure to book your tour in advance.

Successful truffle hunting Italy. Man holding truffle in his hands and thumbs up with Black Dachshund in the back.
Successful truffle hunt in Italy

During the weeklong festival, the town also hosts a large number of events that are not directly related to truffles. The famous donkey race, for example, includes traditional costumes and music. If you are traveling as a family, this can be a particularly fun experience. An art show, food tastings, wine tastings, and a hot air balloon show are also offered.

Alba Truffle Festival – Final Tips:

  • Make hotel reservations in advance and try to stay within walking distance of the festival. Take a look at our hotel recommendations!
  • Show up a few days early or stay a few days late to experience the quieter side of Alba, population 36,000
  • When purchasing truffles, beware of dirty truffles and small rocks: it is an underhanded method of increasing weight and therefore price.
  • Truffles dramatically lose size and potency with time: eat fresh!
  • Many products are sold with preserved truffles, including truffle honey, truffle pasta, truffle oil, etc. While delicious, these products can be purchased year-round, so focus on the fresh truffles while you have the opportunity.
man holding black truffle and truffle hunting tool with truffle hunting dog in the background
Successful Truffle Hunt

Truffle Season in Alba

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.

My Visit to the Alba Truffle Festival

I arrived in the Langhe region to visit the annual Alba White Truffle Festival. Located in a part of Italy’s Piedmont region, the Langhe is home to some of the most prized cooking ingredients on earth. White truffles, Carrú beef, and a variety of cheeses, such as, the Robiola Rocchetta, testun de fen, and Castelmagno cheeses are products of this region.

Plan Ahead

Some travelers that I met had accidentally stumbled upon the festival, whereas others had planned their visit months in advance. “We got married with the truffle festival in mind,” said Nadine Gordenev, who was with her husband Brian on their honeymoon.

Piedmont produces many of Italy’s most popular egg pastas, including agnolotti, tajarin, and panzerotti; and its wines, with names like dolcetto, Barbaresco, Barolo, and barbera, are world-famous. For me, Alba and the towns that surround it—Barolo, Barbaresco, Bra—are culinary heaven.

Arriving in Alba

I arrived in Alba during some of the heaviest rains in recent memory, and the Po River was threatening to flood its banks. The colors of the leaves in the vineyards were so brilliant that they looked like molten lava, but the pelting rain soon tore them to the ground.

The truffle hunt—during which trained dogs paw the countryside looking for white truffles, some of which grow as much as a meter deep—had been canceled due to the rain, and because I didn’t feel like getting washed away in the river, I went straight to the Alba Truffle Festival.  You can read about another of my truffle hunting adventures here.

White truffles from Piedmont, Italy, placed on tray held by the hands of a woman in the background a landscape of hills with vineyards of Langhe
White truffles from Piedmont, Italy.

Two weeks prior to visiting Alba, I’d attended and written about the Zigante Truffle Festival in Istria, Croatia. Istria and Alba are the only two places on earth recognized for producing high-quality white truffles.

The white truffle perplexes scientists because it cannot be cultivated, and it only grows September-November. That white truffles stay fresh just seven to ten days makes them even more elusive, and when they appear on restaurant menus in the United States they are exceptionally expensive.

Wandering among the rows of truffle hunters, each seated behind glass cases full of white truffles, I was in search of good deals. Are white truffles more affordable if you buy them locally?

How to find High Quality Truffles

I met with Stafano Cometti, who opened the Centro Nazionale Studi Tartufo (the National Center for the Study of Truffles), a school—the first of its kind—dedicated to studying white truffles. He taught me that different truffles have different flavors and that the flavors are determined by soil type as well as the type of tree under which the truffle grows. The larger and fresher the truffle, the more flavorful the truffle.

closeup of man sniffing white truffle on someons hand
Ente Fiera del Tartufo – Photos by Davide Carletti

At the fair, I found truffles that cost as little as 10€, but I noticed that they looked a little dried up, which is a sign of a lack of freshness. Fortunately, all of the truffles at the Alba Truffle Festival are examined by members of the Centro Nazionale Studi Tartufo, and you can even get the experts to examine a truffle that you’ve bought.

The prices of white truffles ranged from 10€ to almost 2,000€, and the next time I visit Alba during truffle season, I plan to rent an apartment and cook gigantic truffle feasts.

Besides white truffles, products showcasing white truffle essence were sold, which stay fresh longer than fresh white truffles. White truffle essence is not actually derived from white truffles, but it tastes similar and its flavors remain intact for months.

hands slicing truffle over plate of pasta with truffle slicer
Ente Fiera del Tartufo – Photos by Davide Carletti

There was fresh, truffle-stuffed agnolotti pasta, truffle sausage (raw samples of which were out of this world), white truffle cheeses, and white truffle honey. Wineries also set up stands, and you could buy a wine glass for eight euros and get unlimited tastes of all the wines.

Carne Crudo with Truffles

To get a taste of the Langhe’s traditional dishes, we attended the Saturday for Foodies event. I highly recommend it: For 15€, you get to learn about the local cuisine over a light lunch with wine. The first dish was the famous carne crudo, which features the area’s high quality beef. Literally translated as “raw meat,” carne crudo is a simple dish of carefully chopped or ground beef that is lightly seasoned.

I was served three types of carne crudo: one with salt, pepper, olive oil, and garlic; one with salt, pepper, olive oil, and Parmesan shavings; and one with salt and hazelnut oil. Each crudo’s beef had been cut differently; the courser crudo showed the meat’s inherent texture whereas the more finely ground crudo revealed the beef’s sweetness. The crudo paired perfectly with the 2009 Rivetto Dolcetto D’Alba “Ercolino.”

Beef tartare with black truffle on a white dish
Carne Crudo with black truffle

Finding Truffle at Restaurants in Alba

I tried Alba’s fresh white truffles at two restaurants. Most restaurants offer either truffle tasting menus or the option to purchase truffle by the gram and add it to any dish. Most restaurants charge around five euros a gram. At La Piola restaurant, our waiter, Andrea Canaparo, suggested a minimum of three grams of fresh white truffle for a plate of pasta.

If you want to taste truffle but don’t want to break the bank, I recommend ordering fried eggs—a ubiquitous menu item thanks to its ability to showcase truffle flavor—with two grams of fresh white truffle. The entire dish should cost around 16€.

La Piola

La Piola restaurant is located in Alba’s main piazza, Piazza Risorgimento. I tried my first Albese white truffle over Tajarin pasta with salt and butter. Tajarin is a very eggy pasta cut into fine strips; it’s the perfect vehicle for fresh white truffle.

The dish’s aroma was buttery and slightly mushroomy, and the heat brought out the flavor of the truffle. The dish paired excellently with the 2008 Ceretto Barbaresco Asij: the acidity and tannins were soft enough to let the truffle shine, and I tasted red fruit, cedar, and baking spices.

Still life of Alba's white truffle on the traditional blue-checkered cloth
Alba’s white truffle

Il Vigneto

I had my second truffle experience at Il Vigneto restaurant, which is located in a farmhouse outside of Roddi (a 15-minute drive from Alba). Perched on a hill, the restaurant comes with astonishing views of the rolling, grapevine-covered hills (Roddi is just one town over from Barolo after all). The restaurant’s décor was youthful but refined, like a farmhouse meets a lounge in Milan.

Here, white truffle was also served over Tajarin with salt and butter, but the flavor of the white truffle was strikingly different. Found on the Il Vigneto grounds, the white truffle was much more garlicky and at times I thought I tasted unsweetened chocolate with cinnamon, but that sounds too fantastic to be possible.

Yellow Tajarin pasta with butter and truffle on a white plate
Tajarin with butter and truffle

Perhaps it was the trippy, ambient music playing in the dining room. The dish was finished with olive oil, which spread the truffle aroma even more. After eating at Il Vigneto I realized how different each truffle can be: this is something white truffle essence cannot replicate.

Alba Hotel Recommendation

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. 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.

Hotel Langhe  – $$$
This modern hotel is located one mile from Alba’s center, making for a peaceful stay. As if the babbling brook that runs behind the hotel weren’t enough, the owners go out of their way to make sure their guests feel at home. The rooms are artfully decorated; some have balconies. The included breakfast is hearty, the 15-minute walk to the town center is pleasant.View More photos Strada Profonda, 21

Alba at sunset and Monviso in the background
Alba, Piedmont, Italy

Restaurant Recommendations in and Near Alba

 La Piola  – $$$
Bustling and professional, La Piola provides an excellent selection of traditional dishes. Antipasti begin at six euros, primo at twelve, wine by the bottle at fourteen, and fresh white truffle is sold for five euros a gram. This is a good place to taste white truffle and get to know the local cuisine; the preparation of the dishes is well executed.
Piazza Risorgimento, 4

Vincafe – $-$$
Thanks to Vincafe, it’s possible to find a good, cheap meal in Alba. Upon entering, you’ll see an unpretentious café, but continue upstairs to find a modern dining room. Dishes tend to run a few euros less than typical, and there’s no coperto (cover charge). The pastas are very good, and the list of wines by the glass is enormous.
Via Vittorio Emanuele, 12

Osteria Dell’Arco – $$$
You’ll have to walk through a courtyard off of Piazza Savona to find this restaurant, which serves inspired local dishes in Slow Food style. Osteria Dell’Arco seems to interpret Slow Food cuisine as food that is simple, seasonal, and creative. Expect to be surprised by familiar flavors. The wine list is extensive and there are many good, inexpensive bottles.
Piazza Savona, 5

Il Vigneto  – $$$
Il Vigneto provides a very special experience. Located in the middle of the countryside, the restaurant manages to combine the iconic Italian farmhouse with urban chic. Vaulted brick ceilings meet recessed lighting and designer furniture. All of it combines to create an atmosphere like no other, which is especially ideal if you’re ordering a once-in-a-lifetime meal of truffles. The plates are beautifully arranged. The homemade Tajarin that I had was perfectly cooked. Don’t miss the “Gianduia” Chocolate Mousse, which comes with a playful line of pop-rocks on the side.
Localita Ravinali, 19/20
Roddi d’Alba

Agriturismo Dindina  – $$$$
This is the type of place where you absolutely need to make a reservation: the chef only buys enough food to cover the numbers in the books. Expect authentic Lombardy cuisine cooked as your Lombard mother would cook it. Be warned, many of the dishes will include the traditional fish sauces, such as tonnato sauce and bagna cauda. There are no menus, but there will be at least two options for each course. A complete, four-course meal costs 30 euros before wine.
Via Umberto I

Asso di Quadri Pizzeria – $
Believe it or not, I had one of the best pizzas ever at this little pizzeria in Neviglie (about a 15-minute drive from Alba). If you like pizza like they make it in Naples, check out Asso di Quadri.
Via Mango, 7

Rolling Vineyards at sunset with white building in the background (Costigliole d'Asti)
Costigliole d’Asti, Piedmont

Alba Italy: Slow Food Movement and Italian Truffles

Alba Italy – The Gem of the Piedmont Region

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.

Alba’s #1 White Wine: Barolo

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.

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.

Still Life of White Truffles from Piedmont, truffles cuts and bottle with glass of red wine, with a view of the vineyards and the castle of Grinzane Cavour
Wine, Truffles and Castle of Grinzane Cavour

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!

Alba’s White Truffles

The region in which Alba is located is renowned for being one of only a handful regions in the world where white truffles grow.

Truffle Season in Alba

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.

White Truffles (Tuber Magnatum Pico) on a trader stall of the Fiera del Tartufo (Truffle Fair) of Alba, Piedmont (Italy), most important international truffle market in the world
White Truffles (Tuber Magnatum Pico)

Alba Italy – Home of the Slow Food Movement

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 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.

Alba Truffle Festival – A Must For Italian Truffle Lovers was written by Mattie Bamman for

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