Alba: Gateway to the Langhe

Alba truffles and mushrooms

Alba is the capital of the Langhe, a land dedicated to wine and, for the last century, to the tartufo bianco (white truffle), a precious tuber valued since ancient times and used in the Middle Ages as a coin of exchange among the noble families of Piedmont. Alba first became well known after World War II, when the town’s Ferrero pastry company began manufacturing Nutella (a creamy spread made from cocoa and hazelnuts).

After pizza, Nutella is perhaps one of the most widely recognized Italian products in the world, with fan clubs located in countries as diverse as Japan and Russia.

Photo: archive of the Rivetto wiinery
Photo: archive of the Rivetto wiinery

Alba’s Nutella fame, however, comes second only to the renowned Order of the Knights of the Wine and Truffles of Alba, an association established by its twenty-one founding members in 1967 to preserve the town’s culinary and oenological traditions.

Perhaps it was Alba’s pre-Indo-European name that would foretell its foremost position in history. The Grand Master of the Order, its most important representative, enjoys a stature that not even the kings of Savoy could match.

Today, there are delegations of the Order in all of the major cities of Italy, as well as America and Asia. In only a few years the organization has been responsible for a series of initiatives that have brought even greater prestige to the Langhe, a region already highly regarded for its pleasant landscape (which changes with every season), numerous hilltop castles surrounded by orderly avenues of vineyards, fine wine, and a cuisine suited for the most elegant of tables, especially in the fall, when truffles ennoble otherwise ordinary dishes.

The Order has done everything possible to enhance Alba’s natural beauty and spread its reputation. For instance, the organization set up a Regional Piedmont Wine Collection in the medieval castle of the Count of Cavour at Grinzane, where choice wines are subject to the strict control of the National Order of Wine Tasters. The knights also organized the Itinerary of the Wines of Alba, which can be found in cellars where wine is sold and in restaurants where the Order guarantees the quality of Alba’s traditional cuisine.

Where to stay in Alba

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Photo: archive of the Rivetto wiinery
Photo: archive of the Rivetto wiinery