It’s Tuesday, May 22nd 2014. Cloudy sky forecasts showers. Central streets of Alba are closed to traffic and it’s a miracle I managed to find a parking place near corso Langhe. I walk to piazza Savona along the street decorated with pink balloons, passing by supporters waiting for the first cyclist. This day Alba is on the route of 12th stage of the Giro d’Italia 2014, the ITT (Individual Time Trials) Barbaresco – Barolo on the distance of 42,2 kilometers.
Springtime in Alba starts with Vinum – the event dedicated to new vintages of Langhe and Roero wines like Barolo, Barbaresco, Barbera d’Alba, Dolcetto, Langhe Nebbiolo, Alta Langa, Moscato d’Asti that takes place every year at the end of April and at the beginning of May (this time April 25th – May 4th). It’s time when narrow streets of old town fill with tourists and townspeople walking with a glass of wine and main squares transform into islands of wine and local food specialties tastings.
In the last weekend of Alba International White Truffle Fair (Fiera Internazionale del Tartufo Bianco d’Alba) weekly market in the center of Alba was immersed in sun. I filled my eyes with vivid colors of flowers, seasonal fruits and vegetables, enormous boletus (poricini) and definitely smaller white truffles. This time the autumn didn’t spoil wine producers, but truffle hunters had a lot of work, which was reflected in gray diamond price. A year ago you needed to spend 4-4,5 € per 1 g and the current price is around 2,5-3,5 €/ 1 g, not to mention about special promotions during the last day of the festival – “only” 2 €/1 g. Well, still it’s not a cheap product, but truffles like jewels must cost dearly.
Like every year in the first Sunday of October Alba organized Palio deli Asini (donkey race). Usually it takes part of Alba International White Truffle Fair program, but this time it anticipated the festival for one week. The capital of the Langhe was decorated with flags of nine borghi (suburbs in the past) that competed in donkey race and a colorful procession was marching on the town’s streets: knights on horses, ladies in medieval dresses, peasants, gli sbandieratori that were entertaining spectators with a spectacular flag flipping.
The beginning of autumn is in my opinion the best time to visit Langhe and Roero area. Yellow, orange and red grapevine leaves are changing image of the landscape, the sun is shining, and warm air encourages for walks. In vineyards winemakers follow the weather forecast to take strategic decision whether start harvesting or wait a couple of days to let grapes maturing better. Wine lovers organize special tours in the harvest time to take part in each phase of works observing how heavy and swollen juicy fruits change into a precious liquor.
This year springtime in Piedmont doesn’t spoil us. Winemakers and citizens complain for heavy rains, the sky is rather grey then blue and only juicy green of grass, bushes and trees, twittering birds and lizards running on the buildings’ walls announce the springtime. Despite the bad weather also Alba was flourishing at the end of April. During a long weekend (April 27th – May 1st) the town was hosting the 37th edition of Vinum, the event dedicated to new vintages of Langhe and Roero wines.
Truffles – in some evoke enthusiasm, others can’t understand why people lose their heads for this ugly looking and strange smelling fungus. But one is sure – this is not food for everyone. In this season prices of the precious white variety fluctuated between 4-4,5 € per 1 g, except last two weeks of Fair when the cost was 3,5 €/1 g. Nevertheless, Alba International White Truffle Fair (Fiera Internazionale del Tartufo Bianco d’Alba) proved to be a great success (I’ve read in local newspaper that the Tourist Information Center was visited by 24 424 people which was 6,22% more than last year at the same time).