Although it is not the provincial capital, the rich and elegant town of Alba, on the shores of the River Tanaro, is unquestionably the de facto capital of the world-famous Langhe Hills.
The well-deserved successes that, over the last 70 years, have projected this town onto the international stage, thanks to products such as Nutella, whose aroma often invades the streets of the centre, have, nonetheless not altered its tranquil rhythms of provincial life.
Alba is also known throughout the world for its unique Alba White Truffle, a particularly rare, climate sensitive and uncultivable fungus that grows underground in exclusively uncontaminated environments. The Alba World Truffle Market is held in the courtyard of the Church of Santa Maria Maddalena, where the aroma of truffles accumulates under a small glass dome. Every year, a grand charity auction takes place in the Grinzane Cavour Castle between October and November, the best time of year for appreciating this great delicacy.
What to visit in Alba:
The Cathedral of San Lorenzo, the Patron Saint of Alba, is situated in the square of Piazza Risorgimento, also known as Piazza Duomo. Its facade, dating from 1878, bears symbols of the four evangelists, Matthew’s winged angel, Mark’s lion, Luke’s ox and John’s eagle, since the combination of the initials of each figure, A for Angelo (Angel), L for Leone (Lion ), B for Bue (Ox), and A for Aquila (Eagle), makes up the name of the city, ALBA.
The Beppe Fenoglio Study Centre on the left of the Cathedral is hosted by a building that incorporate the Fenoglio family’s butcher’s shop and house, where the great neorealist writer, partisan and translator used to tap on the keys of his typewriter, in the middle of the night, immersed in a cloud of smoke. Today, thanks to the intense educational and promotional activities of the Study Centre, it is possible to retrace the life of Beppe Fenoglio over three entire floors of the house.
Following the street of Via Maestra from the square of Piazza Risorgimento, you will find yourself surrounded by towers that preserve their original heights, stretching south towards Via Vittorio Emanuele II, better known as Via Maestra, which, in turn, leads to Piazza Michele Ferrero, the square named, in 2015, to the father of Nutella. Travelling this route by foot without letting yourself get distracted will take little more than 10 minutes, but you could easily spend an entire afternoon admiring its medieval and late medieval architecture, getting lost in its side streets, and stopping, here and there, for a glass of wine or a spot of shopping.