In Italy, great food and wine are fundamental to life. Never is this more apparent than at the country’s sagre, the town festivals that consecrate the yearly harvest of local delicacies. People come together at these rustic village fairs to feast on seasonal specialties and partake of the local wine. In Alba, where its prized white truffle is feted each autumn, the community celebration has grown to epic proportions, with throngs of visitors drawn by the chance to taste the town’s culinary treasure.
Alba’s Fiera del Tartufo is in its 86th official year. Last year saw a record half a million visitors flood the town over six weekends, and for 2016, the turnout is expected to be even greater as the festival adds more gastronomic events to the schedule.
Each weekend at the festival, truffle hunters sell their finds directly to customers in a hall dense with the pungent scent of the precious fungi. The market takes place in Alba’s medieval central piazza, where a fist-sized truffle can set you back as much as a nice pair of shoes—with truffles turning up in high quality but low quantities this year, the going rate is close to $1,600 a pound. The fragrant white truffle variety that grows in the forests around Alba is considered the best in the world for its mellow but distinctive flavor; its price, though dependent on the weather and the talent of the dogs (and a few pigs) that hunt them out from among the tree roots, reflects their status as the king of truffles.
During the festival, there are many tastings, and the area’s celebrated restaurants serve special dishes that showcase the flavorful morsel. However, Alba and its surrounding hills are the stuff of epicurean legend for more than just truffles: this corner of Italy’s northern Piedmont region is home to the nebbiolo grape, which makes the prestigious Barolo, along with Barbaresco and Dolcetto wine. This year, Alba’s truffle festival joins forces with the surrounding vineyards for the first time, offering visitors the chance to feast on the rare delicacies and also indulge in special wine tastings. At Alba’s town wine cellar, attendees have the chance to try bottles from many of the region’s top producers in a single sitting, while sommeliers guide them through the characteristics of the region’s wines and territory.
Events will be crowded—book ahead and come hungry, thirsty, and ready for a food and wine lover’s dream.
Alba’s Truffle Festival Runs until November 27.
PLAN YOUR TRIP with Fodor’s Alba Guide