Truffle Hunting in Alba

Truffle Hunting in Alba

Alba’s International White Truffle Fair


It’s white truffle season, and when I realized we had a long weekend due to All Saints Day, I knew I wanted to go to Alba to go truffle hunting. I knew it was white truffle season – and those are the good ones – and every since my first trip to Alba in 2019, I have wanted to return during this season.

I booked a train and a truffle hunting tour and didn’t even realize it was actually the international white truffle fair happening this weekend. White truffles are only in season in the late fall and winter, but black truffles can be found year-round. I couldn’t have had better timing — that is, except when it came to my train.

Despite triple checking the time of departure and the platform number, I ended up on the wrong train from Turin to Alba. Go figure. Days later, I’m still not sure how that could have possibly happened. When I eventually backtracked to Turin, the next train to Alba left from the same platform and everything. This time, I asked about 3 different people to confirm it was the train to Alba (I’ll be forever paranoid now). Nonetheless, I arrived and was immediately reminded how much I love Alba.

The town of Alba

Alba is a UNESCO World Heritage Site so you know it’s incredibly charming. The first time I visited was in 2019 when my sister and I stayed at a nearby vineyard for a few days. Alba is a great location to stay if you want to do some serious wine tours. Located in the Piedmont region, Alba is right next to two of my all-time favorite wine regions, Barolo and Barbaresco, where Nebbiolo is the key grape variatel. Yes, I’ve visited Tuscany as well and I still stand by that I prefer Piedmont (but I do still love a Sangiovese!). 

Apart from the incredible surrounding areas, the town itself is a maze of cobbled streets, quaint architecture, old churches, and some of the best restaurants. You could probably walk the entire town in a few hours, making it the perfect day trip from Milan. This time around, I found streets packed with people. Markets were set up all over the town and banners were flying in celebration of the International White Truffle Festival. 

TRUFFLING HUNTING

The best place for truffling hunting is right on the outskirts of Alba in the municipality of La Morra. Among the many Nebbiolo vineyards, there are wooded areas packed with oak and hazlenut trees which are the preferred root systems on which truffles grow. That fact was the first thing I learned from the experience: truffles always grow on the roots of a tree. Of course, since tree roots can spread out, that doesn’t make it any easier to find them. Perhaps my favorite fact that I learned while truffle hunting is that truffles can also sometimes be found on the roots of rose bushes and if the roses are red or pink, the interior of the truffle will be pink! Pink truffles! I’m obsessed.

The weather was absolutely perfect for truffle hunting – sunny and warm, but not too hot. We were lead by two truffle experts who owned the property and their truffle hunting dog. The dog was about 10 years old. All of the dogs that are trained to hunt truffles typically go through six (six!) years of training in order to be good at it. And I mean they’re really good at it. The dogs can discern between the scents of white and black truffles, and they can tell if what they’re smelling is actually a truffle or just a lingering aroma from a truffle that had recently been dug up by someone else.

Going into the experience, I didn’t really know if we’d actually find any. It was so lovely being outside that I went into it content whether we found any or not. Twenty minutes in, however, the dog starts digging and one of the expert hunters has to run to stop the dog from causing any harm to the truffle. If the dog digs too much, there is a risk that the dog will ruin the truffle (they’re very delicate). The first one we found was a black truffle and we passed it around, sniffing it greedily. 

Not five minutes later, the dog starts digging again. This time, we found a huge white truffle. The hunters were delighted. When we asked how much a white truffle of this size would cost, the hunter estimated about 200 euro. Not a bad return on a pleasant walk in nice weather! As the trek came to the end, we found one more tiny white truffle before calling it a day. Before leaving, I made sure to purchase the first truffle we found – the small black one – for 15 euro. I tucked the little truffle away in my purse, wrapped in a paper towel, and headed back to town.

TAGLIOLINI WITH BLACK TRUFFLES

I returned back to Alba for dinner before catching a late train home to Milan. The energy had gotten even wilder as evening approached. More people were out and the markets were incredibly active. Street performers and musicians were everywhere. I settled in at an outdoor table at a restaurant on a busy street to enjoy the people watching. Naturally, the entire menu had a focus on truffles. I already knew I’d be ordering the tagliolini with black truffles and with it, a glass of Barolo. Tagliolini with black truffles is the quintessential truffle pasta dish of the area. You’ll see it on a menu as “tagliolini al tartufo”. It’s a simple dish – just tagliolini, a very thin pasta similar to spaghetti, shaved truffles, and a sauce made of truffle-infused butter and Parmesan. Find my recipe for Tagliolini with Black Truffles here

Of course, I ended up having this dish about four times in one weekend to make the most of the truffle I found and brought home. Good thing it never gets old! 

As I was enjoying my pasta and wine, I started hearing drums in the distance. Then trumpets. Then I start to see a parade heading right down the street I was eating on. Little did I know when I chose this restaurant that I’d have VIP seating for the white truffle fair’s historic parade. 

Interested in going truffle hunting as well? I booked with Alba Truffle Hunting Tours and definitely recommend them! Go all out and book the joint Barolo wine tour. You won’t regret it!

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Sydney Isaacs
Sydney Isaacs

Sydney is a 29-year old American living between France and Italy. She has a WSET Level 2 certification in wine, along with a degree in environmental engineering and an MBA. She loves exploring local farmer’s markets, haunting her favorite wine bar, and discovering new restaurants.

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