Alba's Tartufo

October and November are tartufo (truffle) season in Piemonte in northwest Italia. I was studying Italian in Torino in early October last year and joined a few classmates one weekend. We took a train from Torino to Alba, famous for its truffle festivals.

After strolling past wine shops, coffee shops, and cafes on Alba’s narrow streets, we entered the tartufo festival full of exhibits featuring truffles, wines, and foods made with truffles and other ingredients such as cheeses, olive oils, salts, salsas, and pastas. 

There are two kinds of tartufo, white (bianco) and black (nero). Bianco tartufo are expensive, costing several hundred Euros for samples the size of a golf ball. Nero tartufo are more affordable, about 20 euros for samples.

Truffle spores attach themselves to the roots of local trees in the spring and grow through the summer. In the fall, farmers take their dogs or pigs into forests and hunt them. When the animals smell truffles buried under ground, they will dig for them. Farmers will stop the animals before they can eat them, although sometimes the animals are fast enough to enjoy the tasty treats they uncovered.

Festival vendors of bianco and nero tartufo display them under glass cups. To sample the aroma, a hostess will raise a glass with slits in a plastic cover and press it close to your nose for you to sniff. The scent is fragrant, with tones of fruits such as pear, melon, and honey; subtle, but memorable. 

I purchased several truffle treats and brought them back to Monterey, CA with me. I will always remember that interesting weekend we spent in Alba sampling tartufo.