What better weekend getaway than Piemonte, Italy. Jutting hills, vineyards as far as the eye can see and ridiculously good food – all on the foot of the Swiss alps.
The debate had been between Tuscany or Piemonte – Piemonte coming out the winner thanks to an article claiming “Piemonte is Tuscany 20 years ago” and our travel dates colliding with the Alba International White Truffle festival.
Our trip was a Friday through Tuesday, flying in and out of Turin, Italy. We would rent a car. Couchsurf for the first half and Airbnb for the second. The only reservations on the agenda were two winery tours, a dinner at Osteria della Aie and a desire to visit the White Truffle Festival.
Arrival to Piemonte, Italy
Dalton and I arrived late on Friday night, picked up our car rental without a hitch (we booked through Indigo, which found a cheap deal as we’re both under 25) and after an hour with only a few moments of ‘which side of the road do we drive on’ confusion we arrived safely to Alba. After a quick meet and greet at Hemingway Cocktail Restaurant with our extremely friendly Couchsurfing host, Kuberan, we headed back to his place to get some rest.
Up bright and early we couldn’t believe our luck – sunshine and not a cloud in the sky. We headed into town to spend the day exploring the White Truffle festival and to figure out what was the big deal about these suckers.
After a lovely coffee, sandwich and our first stab at Italian at Il Caffe Della Peppina, we parked downtown and headed in to find the festival.
Top Tip – Free parking in Piazza Medford that is a short, easy walk to the center of Alba.
Alba was full of quaint, old world charm. The streets were full of vendors selling local wines, food, clothes and street performers playing accordions and flamenco guitar. We wandered the streets until finally finding the festival, located inside the Cortile della Maddalena.
Prior to arrival Dalton and I had done a bit of research on white truffles and the seemingly unanimous description of them is ‘dirty socks, but in a good way.’ We were quite unsure of what this even meant, however as we walked into the massive tent the aroma hit us like a brick wall – dirty socks. It was overwhelming, but interesting. Just bizarre.
As we headed in we saw truffles everywhere. Each booth had lines of them under cups, ones the size of golf balls costing at least €60. I tried a white truffle butter and the intoxicating flavour coated my entire mouth – so this was the flavor. If only I could put it in words.
We got a few glasses of wine, some bread and cheese and wandered around the booths. We ended up befriending Nic, the spokesperson for a tiny winery called Curto Marco. They produce less than 20,000 bottles a year and we knew we had to visit.
After a few hours we walked out of the tent a little tipsy, but completely drunk on the magical atmosphere.
Nothing sounded better than relaxing and soaking up our surroundings. So we followed the sounds of the street music and were delighted to find Vincafé, a cafe with outdoor tables where we got a glass of wine and enjoyed the moment and the music.
Osteria della Aie – The Best Dinner Ever.
Before we arrived, Kuberan, our Couchsurfing host, had gone completely out of his way to make us reservations to ensure we had a fabulous time. The one I was the most excited for was our dinner at Osteria della Aie. In the town of Castellinaldo it is a five-course restaurant (which I quickly learned is the norm in Italy) that serves magnums of local wine – all you can drink. In preparation for the night we agreed to take a cab out – nobody needed to drive after this dinner.
The restaurant was darling. Candle lit, cozy and intimate. After smelling the truffles all day – Dalton and I decided it was time to really try them. Typically they are served shaved over a pasta with butter – something very simple to allow the strong flavoured truffle to be the star of the dish. After a few starters (one being a baked onion covered in cheese sauce that still makes my mouth water every time it crosses my mind – which is often) the main event arrive. Our truffle.
Our waitress brought out a single truffle on a small silver platter to the table. It was weighed on a small scale and the weight was then wrote in sharpie on the back of Dalton’s hand. Next came our dishes – mine a butter pasta and Dalton’s a simple risotto with egg. The waitress then took the truffle and shaved slices of it over the risotto. The joke is with every shave your dish costs €5 more.
The pasta was amazing. The risotto was amazing. The truffles were intoxicating. The wine was delicious.
The following courses came (frog legs, quail, lamb, cheese, dessert and grappa), but every bite after the pasta was a struggle. There was simply no more room in my stomach.
We all but rolled out of the restaurant, having made new Swiss and Italian friends at the nearby tables. After a few minutes in the cab I was fast asleep, my body could take no more of the charm, truffles and intoxicating atmosphere of Piemonte.