It’s Truffle Season in Piedmont, Italy!
If you've got a thing for white truffles--or simply want to know more about the elusive fungi--why not head straight to the source? With its vineyard-lined slopes and historic hilltop villages crowned with medieval castles and towers, Italy's northern Piedmont region--and the historic town of Alba, in particular--is the place to go when truffle season kicks off this fall. We've rounded up the region's highlights for every truffle connoisseur or neophyte.
Hit up the annual truffle fair
The International White Truffle Fair, the biggest truffle festival in the world, kicks off the season in Alba and spans six weekends from mid-October to mid-November. In the town’s historic center, a large covered market hall is filled with vendors showcasing specialties of the region–cheeses, salumi, wines, fresh pastas and, of course, white truffles.
You’ll meet hundreds of truffle hunters who will proudly let you hold and smell their treasured fungi. While black truffles have an earthy flavor and pungent aroma, the white truffle of Alba is more delicate with notes of garlic, honey and butter. It’s also more perishable and once harvested should be eaten within a week. Hunting them is an art form, so expect to pay a pretty penny to take them with you (roughly $850+ per 100 gram). Once you’re ready to truly immerse yourself in the truffle hunting experience, we recommend you book a customized tour with Urbani Truffle, where you’ll visit factories, attend cooking classes and indulge in decadent truffle-inspired tasting menus.
JS Tip: Cooking classes, design workshops, art exhibitions and music performances are held in conjunction with the Truffle festival. Don’t miss this year’s much buzzed-about video installation by artist Marina Abramovic in the Coro della Maddalena, a Baroque choir chamber with jaw-dropping Trompe l’oeil frescoes.
Sample the region’s best wines
Along with truffle hunting, you’ll want to carve out time for a wine tour of the Piedmont region. In the undulating hills of the bassa Langa you’ll find the acclaimed Barolo and Barbaresco vineyards. Swing by L’Illuminata winery, with its breathtaking views of the countryside and next-level Barolos. Another must-visit is Roccheviberti owned by the Viberti family who have been producing prestigious reds for generations. For contemporary art lovers, check out the organic-focused Ceretto winery. Here, artists David Tremlett and Sol Lewitt have transformed a 1914 chapel into an eye-popping art installation painted in vibrant blues, reds, greens and yellows. It sits on 14 acres of Brunate vineyards and is considered one of the most fascinating environmental artworks in the country. JS Tip: Pick up your favorite wines to take home from the Enoteca Regionale del Barbaresco, which sells bottles from 100+ wineries.
Check out the bars and restaurants
There are hundreds of great wine bars in the area, including favorites like La Vite Turchese, in Barolo, or Voglia di Vino, in Alba. Sip a glass of bubbly Alta Langa D.O.C. or a sparkling Arneis and indulge in “apericena” – the Italian trend of turning the complimentary bites that accompany your drinks into a full cena (dinner).
If you’re looking for a more filling meal, you’ve got more than enough options (the Slow Food Movement, which champions the use of local produce and time-honored cooking techniques, has its headquarters in Bra and chefs in the area are staunch advocates). Bring your appetite to Ristorante al Castello (Monforte d’Alba), which turns out a standout truffle-inspired tasting menu by Alessandro Boglione, a rising chef in Italy.
Or, try the Michelin-starred Ristorante Ciau del Tornavento (Treiso), set in an elegant building from the 1930s. The views of the surrounding hills are stellar and the creative cuisine, with its focus on Langa cooking traditions, and legendary wine cellar, make it a must-stop for any foodie. Order the _Plin di Seirass cooked in hay with butter and breckland thyme or the Fassone_ rib eye.
A more casual alternative, Trattoria del Bercau, in Verduro, is a family-owned trattoria with a menu serving authentic dishes like carne cruda, vitello tonnato, fresh egg _tanjarin _pasta topped with generous shaves of truffle, Agnolotti del plin and braised meats.
Stay in the region’s top hotels
Set in the Langhe Unesco Heritage Site, Relais San Maurizio is a former 17th-century monastery with intimate rooms done up in antique furniture. What we love most are the indoor+outdoor pools and medical spa, with treatments like thalassotherapy administered in a former salt cave.
In the town of Borgomale, 15 minutes away from Alba, the rustic-chic Relais Montemarino is a historic stone farmhouse surrounded by orchards and a vineyard. The brick walled rooms look out onto manicured gardens, where every morning you’ll find a hearty organic spread of local cheeses, fruits and pastries.
For something even more intimate, there’s the 17th-century Palazzo Finati, a family run property with 8 simple but elegant rooms and frescoed ceilings. The best part about the hotel is its location, just a 10 minute walk to the historic center of Alba and the train station.
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