WELCOME TO ALBA & THE WHITE TRUFFLE FESTIVAL
In 2016, Dan and I, as well as a few others, flew all the way to San Miniato for its white truffle festival! We had a blast. So much so that when we visited Italy with our family in November 2021, we added Alba to our itinerary for the sole purpose of visiting Alba’s legendary white truffle festival! For those unfamiliar, Alba is a small town in Northern Italy in the Piedmont region. Alba is located about 1 hour from Torino and 2 hours from Milan’s airport, where we flew in. Alba is a foodie town, complete with numerous Michelin starred restaurants, and its most well know for its white truffle festival – Fiera Internazionale Tartufo Bianco d’Alba. This year was the 91st festival and despite Covid, it was operating in full force. First person experiences were difficult to find online when I was planning our trip, so here is some helpful information for the truffle lovers our there.
WHEN & HOW TO ACCESS ALBA’S WHITE TRUFFLE FESTIVAL
Alba’s Truffle Festival in located in the very center of Alba in the Cortile della Maddalena. The festival is open every Saturday and Sunday from early October to early December from about 9:00 – 19:30. The festival is quite easy to find; there are signs all over town. In 2021, guests lined up at the entrance to the Cortile della Maddalena to first show proof of Covid vaccine (the “Green Pass” in Italy) and then to present pre-purchased tickets or buy tickets at the door (see below for more information on tickets). This entry process was easy, and we had no issues showing our CDC cards rather than the Italian Green Pass. Once inside the Cortile della Maddalena, the festival is yours to explore.
Note that since the festival is in the center of Alba, there is no close parking. And when we visited, the town was packed and traffic was extremely backed up due to the festival. If you are planning to attend and not staying in Alba, it may be best to take the train or bus into Alba rather than dealing with a car and parking. The train and bus stations are both about a 10 minute walk from the festival.
TICKETS TO ALBA’S WHITE TRUFFLE FESTIVAL
To access Alba’s White Truffle Festival, every visitor must purchase a ticket, and there are several different types of tickets. Before getting into the tickets, I recommend every tourist to visit the White Truffle Festival’s website and view at the schedule of events for the weekend you plan to visit. The most updated schedule comes out about a month in advance and will list numerous “experiences” for an extra fee. For example, there are wine tastings, lectures on the famous white truffle, dinners prepared by famous chefs, etc. These events have limited seating and if you want to attend, I recommend buying at least a month in advance to ensure your spot. They sell out! Tickets to any of these “experiences” include the €4,00 entrance fee into the festival. In any case, I’m getting ahead of myself…keep reading. Visiting the website will simply permit you to plan your time better, secure your spot at any experiences you want to attend, and not over purchase tickets!
If you do not purchase any “experience” admissions discussed above and below (the wine tasting, truffle lecture, etc.), entrance into the festival, a/k/a the “Truffle World Market,” is around €4.00 per person. Children under 15 and “disabled people” get in free. So do dogs! You can pre-purchase these tickets on the festival’s website or buy at the door. These entrance-only tickets did not come with anything except for a copy of the local paper highlighting the festival. With this €4,00 ticket you can enter and explore the Truffle World Market, shopping and buying food and/or drink to take away or indulge on site. I recommend this ticket to people who are not attending any special experiences and who are not drinking wine.
Now with the standard €4,00 admission ticket, there is an option to add on the wine tasting ticket for a total €13.50 (€12.50 if you buy online in advance in 2021). This €13,50 ticket allows you entry into the festival and comes with an unmarked wine glass and a handy necklace to carry your wine glass around your neck. You can taste wines from any of the producers at the festival selling wine, and then you get two tickets each good for a glass of wine in the wine bar set up on premises – one red of your choice and a second red or white of your choice. Don’t loose the tickets.
WHAT TO DO AT THE WHITE TRUFFLE FESTIVAL
The World Truffle Market & Wine Tasting. The one thing that almost all visitors to the White Truffle Festival do is the World Truffle Market & Wine Tasting (the €13,50 ticket!). The White Truffle Festival is set up with vendor stands outlining the Cortile della Maddalena with the World Truffle Market in the middle under a tent. On our visit, the part of the white truffle festival closest to the entrance was lined with numerous local wine producers selling wine and offering small samples to guests with the wine glasses (again, the €13,50 ticket). To sample wine, just pull out your glass and ask. Samples are unlimited and you are free to buy wine to take away. Prices were surprisingly reasonable.
The White Truffle Festival’s Grand Enoteca, or “wine bar,” appears after the wine vendors. The Grand Enoteca is, true to its name, a grand pop-up wine bar serving some of the best Piedmontese wines, lots of Barolo and the like. The Grand Enoteca is where you cash in your two tickets that come with the €13,50 wine tasting ticket. To cash in these tickets, tear them apart and then wait for one of the bar tenders to help you (there is occasionally a line). When approached by a bartender, you can choose a wine or ask for a recommendation. The bartenders all speak English and are happy to help. We asked for their recommendation both times.
On the opposite side of the wine merchants and the Grand Enoteca, there are numerous vendors selling local products, from hand made cutting boards to local jams and cheese made with truffles. There’s a bit of everything! Some vendors give away small samples, which usually lead to a purchase. All vendors I visited accepted credit card. That being said, I suggest keeping some Euros on hand.
In the middle of the World Truffle Market is the actual truffle market! Truffle hunters from around the area bring their truffles for sale under glass tables. Feel free to go up and look, and even buy if you want! If you are buying, please read up on the lifespan of a truffle, how to travel with it, etc. They are very fragile and not cheap. A few of these sellers will also be selling truffle-related food products, which are much more economical.
Special Experiences and Moments. Special events and moments really set the Alba White Truffle Festival apart from the San Miniato festival. These “experiences” and “moments” are those events that you find online and buy tickets for in advance online (which tickets include admission to the World Truffle Market). And as I mentioned, these do sell out so buy early if there is something you definitely want to experience. Events are held in the main building in Cortile della Maddalena or in classrooms in the building surrounding the Cortile. We attended a Wine Tasting Experience, and it took place indoors just behind the Grand Enoteca. The cost was €28 euro per person and included an hour long lecture and a tasting of 3 wines. It was worth the extra money, especially since it included the €4,00 entrance fee. Also, if you buy tickets to an experience or moment online, since standard admission is included, there is an option to add on the “wine tasting” to your ticket when you check out.
In sum, our Wine Experience was quite fun and I am glad that we did it. I also wanted to do a 1 hour lecture on the white truffle, but it sold out a few weeks before we visited. I recommend these experiences and moments if you have the time and money, they add a lot to the white truffle festival experience.
WHAT TO EAT AT THE WHITE TRUFFLE FESTIVAL
Contrary to our experience at the San Miniato White Truffle Festival, there is not a lot of food for sale at the Alba White Truffle Festival. In fact, there is only one real vendor – a pop-up restaurant in the back of La Grande Enoteca. The menu is small, with a variety of local dishes, plus one or two dishes with the famous white truffle. Due to the late truffle harvest in 2021 (an anomaly), truffle dishes were incredibly expensive, so I saved those meals for a proper restaurant. We tried the local meat and cheese plate, which was reasonable and quite good!
Aside from the Grand Enoteca pop-up restaurant, the only food available are to-go things, such as the below truffle chips, and samples. Common products for sale are jams, cookies and other biscuits, chocolate and chocolate products, truffle-infused meats, and truffle-infused cheeses! Many of these vendors will give away small samples, or you can buy something and either take it away or eat on site. And on a sample note, Verbier, the Swiss ski resort town, had a booth complete with live a St. Bernard and free cheese fondue! The portions were generous.
Oh and one other note for the Grand Enoteca restaurant, you can purchase full bottles of wine from the Grand Enoteca wine bar their pop-up restaurant. Dan and I purchased a Barolo to drink at the festival. Dan decided to carry it around in his wine pouch… Funny Danny!
WHAT TO BUY AT THE WHITE TRUFFLE FESTIVAL
In my opinion, the best thing to buy at a truffle festival are truffle based products. Sauces, salts, and honey made with truffle are almost always on offer and reasonable. I suggest bringing ziplock bags in which to pack such food goods en route home, as these homemade goods are not always packaged the best and some leakage may occur (as much as I love truffles, I do not want my entire suit case smelling like same for the next year!). Meat and cheese infused with truffle are also popular products. However, if you are traveling from the US, you cannot take home meats or cheeses that are not vacuum-sealed.
In addition to truffle infused goods, chocolate made with hazelnut is also popular in Alba, as that is a local speciality (Nutella is from here!). Chocolate was easy to find throughout the festival and Alba. And, I think everyone in our party purchased a handcrafted cutting board from these lovely gentlemen in the below video. Prices started at €35,00 per board with a name engraved!
THE BEST TIME TO GO TO ALBA’S WHITE TRUFFLE FESTIVAL
From my review of the White Truffle Festival’s website, it seems like every weekend has something fun and interesting happening. The foodie moments and truffle experiences take place every weekend, with slightly different themes. The early weekends of the White Truffle Festival will likely enjoy the best weather and there are fun “opening” events, too. That being said, white truffles won’t necessarily be ready in early October! We visited in mid-November and the white truffles were just starting to be found for the festival! 2021 was a very late year for truffles due to weather, but it resulted in the price of truffles on dishes in local restaurants being SUPER expensive (€55/plate). As such, I think it’s hard to predict the best time to go. I suggest picking a weekend that works best with your schedule and hoping for good weather and plentiful truffles. Note that the festival is not open on Friday!
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE ALBA &SAN MINIATO FESTIVALS
Alba’s White Truffle Festival is certainly professional and legit, attracting some of the best in the food world and producing amazing white truffles. That being said, unless you are really in the industry, we found the San Miniato festival to be more casual and fun, and easier to navigate for tourists. The San Miniato festival also seemed more local, with producers bringing in lots of home made things to sell at the festival. This would likely not happen in Alba – it was much more serious and commercial. Alba did have clearer information online and, as I mentioned, excellent foodie moments and wine pairings. You can’t go wrong with either festival. I think San Miniato is more economical and better for your average tourist, but Alba is a highlight for those in the know or wanting a swanky experience.
STEAL OUR TRIP
Fiera Internazionale Tartufo Bianco d’Alba: The official Alba White Truffle Festival website. Change the language from Italian to English. Tickets can be purchased via this site, but information is not updated until close to the festival’s opening. I contacted the festival via this website with questions and someone promptly responded! Prices change year to year, and the ones quoted by this post are from the 2021 festival.
ON A BUDGET
You can visit Alba’s White Truffle Festival on a budget, but you will likely skip some of the more upscale experiences and moments. Restaurants in Alba are generally expensive, especially during this time. If you are truly on a budget and don’t have a preference for Alba, go to the San Miniato White Truffle Festival. I would also suggesting taking the train to San Miniato from Florence or elsewhere in Tuscany to avoid paying high prices in San Miniato’s limited lodging. I wrote about it here, here, and here.