Everyone has a favourite type of food and Italian cuisine tops an incredible number of lists. Italian cuisine’s diversity and variety is staggering, with over four hundred cheeses and almost as many sausages. The hallmarks of Italian food are the rich flavours, enticing aromas, and the careful yet simple blending of ingredients.
Each region of the country can lay claim to its own unique contribution to Italian cooking. Northern Italy is the home of risotto and polenta. Southern Italy gives us pizza and the practice of cooking with olive oil. Parma is the home of Parmesan Cheese and prosciutto. The only place to find the world’s best white truffles is in the city of Alba in the Piedmont area.
White truffles are basically fairly ugly little mushrooms, which are found at the base of trees in the area by trained pigs and dogs. Their tastes and uniqueness has made them one of the most expensive foods in the world with prices easily reaching several hundred Euros per kilo. Macau businessman Stanley Ho has twice set records by paying over €381,000 for a single kilo of the delicacy.
The height of the truffle season is from mid-October through to mid-November. Every Saturday and Sunday during that time, the city of Alba hosts the Alba International White Truffle Fair. The fair plays hosts to chefs from around the world, food buffs and random visitors all of who are looking to experience one of the most exclusive, aromatic and even decadent foods in the world.
Many are familiar with recipes that feature carefully shaved bits of white truffle over grilled vegetables or risotto. But it is at the Alba International White Truffle Fair that the possibilities of the truffle are truly demonstrated.
Visitors to the fair are greeted straight away with a glass of wine, before even entering the fair. Once inside kiosks surround them, displaying everything from truffle pastes and butters, to truffle encrusted cheeses, to truffle oils. Farmers offer up their truffles which are displayed under glass and resting on satin or velvet cushions.
The celebration of the truffle is not restricted to the convention centre. The shops and restaurants in the town join in with special truffle items and dishes developed especially to incorporate the star of the festival.
Alba also offers the perfect finishing touch to the truffle experience. The Ferrero Chocolate Factory, whose pleasing aroma serves as a guide and sits just outside the crowded fair area and serves up the perfect dessert.
Even though “authentic” Italian restaurants can be found in nearly every part of the world, to discover the real reason the cuisine is one of the world’s favourites, one has to go to the source. The Alba International White Truffle Fair allows the casual traveller to experience one of the most unique taste treats in the world. Including Alba and the fair is a very pleasant experience. It may even serve as a catalyst for visiting a site like Gate-Away.com to purchase a house or apartment and becoming at least a part-time resident. Because while it is possible to experience the Alba International White Truffle Fair in a weekend, sampling the 400 cheeses, 300 sausages, countless sauces and cooking methods is a much longer, and very satisfying endeavour.