Waiting for the curtain to open again on this grand occasion, the International White Truffle Fair of Alba (from 5 October to 24 November), today I’ll accompany you to discover this beautiful and elegant town just a bit more than an hour outside of Turin.
On the route between Turin and Alba, if you avoid the motorway, you will have the opportunity to observe a panorama that from being flat and a bit monotonous, rises and colours: you are in the hills of the Langhe, of which Alba was since the Middle Ages the most flourishing city. Even today we can breathe in the town the prosperity brought by a diversified and market competitive industrial base and a lively and successful spirit of entrepreneurship. It is no coincidence that Alba, besides being known for its white truffles, is the city of Ferrero, of which we all know Nutella, Rocher, and Kinder eggs, just to mention the most famous products. And it is no coincidence that right here there is the only restaurant in the whole region to have 3 Michelin stars (Restaurant Piazza Duomo).
The exceptional prosperity of the city during the Medieval period is striking even today. Simply by walking in its historic centre: you can see numerous towers and facades of buildings in which refined terracotta decorations testify to the presence in the city centre of many noble and high-class families. We start from Risorgimento Square (Piazza Risorgimento), which is overlooked by the beautiful and imposing Cathedral dedicated to Saint Lawrence. Today it has a neo-Gothic facade built during the nineteenth-century restoration but has kept the three portals of the original Romanesque church. Inside, the conservative restoration allows you to see, in the right aisle, the remains of the fifth-century baptismal font, testimony to the early Christian foundation of the building, on which the current church was erected in the 15th century.
On the same square there is also the City Hall (Palazzo Comunale), the historic seat of the city government since the Middle Ages, and in turn, erected in the area of the Roman forum.
A few steps away, you reach Pertinace Square (Piazza Pertinace), the square dedicated to a citizen of Alba who, for a few months, was Roman emperor (it seems that they took away his position when they realized that Pertinace was too honest, incorruptible and therefore not very suitable for the role…). On this square, there are two very interesting medieval buildings: the Riva tower-house with refined decorations and Marro Palace (Palazzo Marro), a fortified house with high defensive walls, decorated only in the upper part with marvellous arches. During the nineteenth-century reconstruction of the square, it was discovered that the Marro house was built on the remains of a Roman Temple dedicated to Jupiter, Juno and Minerva, today partially visible right in front of the facade of the fortress-house.
If you go a little bit deeper into the narrow and winding streets, further evidence of the city’s medieval past, you will find nearby the ideal place where to undertake the second part of your exploration of Alba: the food and wine experience! It’s called the Tavern of the Dreamers (Osteria dei Sognatori), it’s small, cute and conveys authenticity at first sight. We found it by chance. Walking around during lunchtime, I happened to see two large trays full of delicious fresh pasta coming out of a pasta factory, crossing the street and entering this restaurant. Yes, this is the place where we want to eat! Traditional Piedmontese dishes – carne cruda (raw meat), acciughe al verde (senza aglio) (green anchovies (without garlic)), vitello tonnato (veal with tuna sauce), fiore di zucchina in pastella (zucchini flowers in batter), tajarin al ragù (tajarin pasta with meat sauce), plin burro e salvia (plin ravioli with butter and sage), pesche con amaretti al cioccolato (peaches with chocolate macaroons) – cooked as they once were and with genuine ingredients that made to go back to when I was a child and was having family lunches with my grandmother, mother and aunt in the kitchen: same flavours, same authenticity.
For the afternoon nap, as usual, we connect to the Big Benches App and go to explore the less travelled routes: here we are at the Turquoise Big Bench in Scaparone. What a beautiful colour! Truly original! From here the view relaxes the senses and we rest in meditation, observation and … seeing that there is no one else around, we also close our eyes for a very short moment!!!
Recharged and relaxed, we are ready to put the icing on the cake of this beautiful experience in the Langhe. In 20 minutes, we are in Barbaresco, a small town of less than a thousand inhabitants that gave its name to the famous, prized – and superlative! – wine from Nebbiolo grapes. We immediately head towards the historical-cultural attraction of the town: The Medieval Tower. A tower probably built between the 11th and 12th centuries with a defensive and sighting function in mind. From the panoramic terrace, at a height of 36 meters, you can enjoy a wonderful 360° view and we discover that you can choose to have your civil wedding celebrated here: a pity, not having known it at the time!
We go down and finally allow ourselves a healthy wine tasting – of Barbaresco, of course! – in one of the most beautiful locations: the Boffa Carlo winery (Cantina Boffa Carlo). It has a terrace set up with tables, chairs and white umbrellas…. and a breath-taking view! Tasting the excellent Barbaresco with the panorama that presents itself before us is like taking an entire journey: it is relaxing, regenerating, it is pure luxury!
Allow yourself too, and you will remember it for a very long time!
Cathedral of Saint Lawrence (Duomo of Alba)
Address: Piazza Rossetti, 4A, 12051 Alba CN
City Hall (Palazzo Comunale) of Alba
Address: Piazza Risorgimento, 12051 Alba CN
Riva Tower-House (Casa-torre Riva)
Marro Tower-House and the Roman Temple (Casa-torre Marro e Tempio Romano)
Tavern of the Dreamers (Osteria dei Sognatori)
Address: Via Macrino, 8, 12051 Alba CN
Phone: +39 0173 34043
Hours: Thu – Tue: 12pm – 2pm / 7.30pm – 10.30pm; Wed: 7.30pm – 10.30pm
Where to Stay in Alba
TURQUOISE BIG BENCH OF SCAPARONE
Medieval Tower of Barbaresco
Address: Via Torino, 67, 12050 Barbaresco CN
Telephone: +39 333 904 0135
Hours: Mon – Thu: 10am – 7pm / Fri – Sun: 10am – 10pm
Tickets: Full – 5€, Reduced – 4€, Free – children 12 years old and under