Alba – Tartufo, Wine, and Beautiful Women
The heavy sweater is perfect tonight. The days are still rather warm but in the evening the air cools considerably. The air is filled with the perfume of tartufo. This is the season. I have always loved tartufo and during my years in Senigallia I had the opportunity to visit a very unusual restaurant. It opens in October and closes in May. The owner has decided that he will only serve the locals so he closes for the entire tourist season. In month of October he only serves plates with tartufo. The Marche have the red tartufo, it is great but does not have the same intensity of white tartufo. Still, I was hooked, risotto with tartufo, tagliattelle with tartufo, omelets with tartufo, and mushrooms with tartufo!
When I talk with most Americans about tartufo they talk about France and pigs, but the true home of white tartufo is Alba. The Italians use tartufo dogs, not pigs, to find their tartufo. This is such an important event that there are 3 weeks of festivities around the fair of tartufo. The international market for tartufo has its base in the fair of tartufo in Alba. “I trifolao”, or “those who search for tartufo” for us non Torinesi, survivors of nights deep in valleys and secret caverns present their white gold on the tables of the markets of the fair. These treasures of the earth are ready to excite our senses and accentuate the flavors of typical piemontese cuisine.
The week before the fair of tartufo there is the contest of “La Bela Trifolera”. We have been doing some window-shopping in the city center while we wait for the local beauties to show their stuff. The parade continues through the antique city center. The air has a bite to it and every once in awhile a shiver runs down my side. Alba is a beautiful city, the buildings near the castle are hanging the banners from the 1600s when Alba was the most powerful town in the region. You can see the influence of the kingdom of Genova with whom the Albesi had a close commercial and military relationship.
We decide to walk to dinner, taking in the remnants of Roman architecture from 100 BC. The wealth of this medieval town is evident in the rich architecture spanning 700 years, the castles, the churches with breathtaking affresco, and the exclusive shopping. The annual fair of tartufo does not start until next week but the restaurants are all serving local specialties. We choose a small osteria in piazza Savona. The waiter brings us the menu’ however we immediately let him know that we want whatever they feel is best.
“Tajarin”, a local pasta, with a delicate mushroom sauce and grated tartufo followed by “Coniglio all’Arneis”, rabbit in an Arneis sauce. We choose, to accompany this delicate, yet savory meal, a 1997 Barbaresco. We have eaten too much, fortunately the hotel is just down the street in Corso Asti; we need our rest. The weekend holds visits to the wineries of Barbaresco, Barolo, Barbera and Roero Arneis and next week the Fair of Tartufo. This is the way to visit Piemonte, late September and early October in Alba, the fair of tartufo and visits to the wineries, life is tough…
Tags: Alba Piemonte Art and Culture Renaissance Travel Italy