The city of Alba is a beautiful town in northeastern Italy that is so picturesque it could easily resemble an illustration from a storybook. The historic center of Alba is surrounded by miles of rolling green hills where vineyards flourish and majestic mountains rise up further in the distance. Whether you enjoy celebrating, eating, taking in culture, adventuring, or participating in wine tastings, the enchanting city of Alba is a fabulous place to visit.
FESTIVALS AND EVENTS IN ALBA
Festivals and celebratory events in Alba are fairly varied as the city celebrates everything from international film festivals, wine festivals, music festivals and food festivals to celebrations rooted in history.
Alba offers what some consider to be the best selections of white truffles in the world, so it seems only fitting that the city host the International Alba White Truffle Fair in October and November. During this event, all things truffle are celebrated and vendors typically sell the fungi itself as well as local dishes made to enhance the unique flavor of the truffle. Additionally, the fair features numerous events such as cooking shows, wine tastings with local food pairings, and educational events for children. This event is widely attended by locals and travelers, and it is not uncommon to see Italian and international celebrities in the crowd here.
An exciting event for early spring that usually occurs around the second half of March is the Alba Film Festival. The intent of the multi-day gathering is to highlight Italian and international films, both new and old, categorized by theme and acting. Each edition of the festival has a unique program focusing on specific motifs. Though the festival is still young compared to others in Italy, its scope and offerings have established the Alba Film Festival as a significant event for cinema lovers and members of the film industry.
On the weekends during the months of April and May, a fabulous wine and food festival called Vinum takes place. This is one of the best area events for wine lovers and connoisseurs showcasing local wines from the Langhe, Roero, and Monferrato areas. During the event, the historical city center of Alba is transformed with stands offering tastes of locally produced wines as well as excellent small bites from the area. From Barolo to Moscato, this event is the perfect gateway to Alba’s wine and culinary treasures.
Since 2005, Alba has hosted Feste Fiorite during the last weekend of May. Held in Piazza Risorgimento, the city’s main square, the event features a medieval market with locally produced culinary specialties in addition to concerts, dance shows, and theater productions.
During the summer, the streets of Alba are filled with wonderful music as part of the Alba Music Festival. Taking place over the course of two weeks in May and June and three weeks between the end of July and beginning of August, the festival consists of over 50 classical music concerts featuring orchestras, soloists, and other musicians from all over the world. The event is a collaborative effort between the city and numerous international institutions such as St. Mary’s College in Maryland and Stanford University. The concerts are held in unique venues throughout Alba such as the Cathedral and the Church of San Giuseppe.
Occurring on the first weekend of October is the Palio degli Asini, a donkey race held in Piazza Cagnasso each year. This traditional race dates back to the early twentieth century and was born out of the rivalry between Alba and neighboring Asti. During the race, the different districts of the town compete for the title of champion. Like the Palio di Siena, the Palio degli Asini features a procession in historical costume, however the event is also more lighthearted due to the comedic interactions between the jockeys and the sometimes-stubborn donkeys. Over the years, the race itself has been supplemented with additional events including theater shows and historical reenactments. The event is great fun for locals and visitors alike who enthusiastically cheer on the donkeys.
Weather permitting, one of the most charming activities in Alba is to set aside time to leisurely stroll the city. As you wander, stop at a quaint little café for a quick espresso then take in the enchanting ambiance of this adorable town, including its historic towers.
As you make your way through Alba, consider periodically stopping at some of the city’s historical churches. A few of the religious landmarks not to be missed here include the Cathedral of San Lorenzo, the Church of San Domenico, and the Church of San Giovanni Battista. Each is beautiful in its own right and has an enchanting history behind its exterior structure and interior art.
In one of the parks of the city center, you will discover a unique exhibition organized by the Federico Eusebio Museum of Archeology and Natural Sciences. The park hosts a reproduction of a Neolithic hut similar to one unearthed in Alba’s city center as well as a simulation of an archeological dig, which may be a fun activity for younger travelers and their families.
Just as attractive as Alba’s historic city center is the picturesque countryside. While exploring the countryside, do not miss the chance to visit the historic Castle of Grinzane Cavour, a UNESCO World Heritage site with a museum outlining its fascinating history as well as an enoteca, a wine shop that showcases locally produced wines allowing visitors to taste and purchase the best wines in the area. If you like history and have a particular interest in castles, the surrounding hill country is home to several more, including the Castle of Roddi, the Castle of Serralunga d’Alba and the Castle of Monticello d’Alba.
Another highlight of the countryside is the Barolo Chapel, a colorful twentieth century chapel that stands out against the green backdrop of the Langhe hills.
Alba’s prized white truffle can be harvested during certain months of the year from the end of September through the end of January. If you find yourself in Alba during this time, consider planning a unique truffle hunting experience in the woods of the Langhe Area with an expert truffle hunter and his trusty dog. This is one of the best ways to learn more about Alba’s extra special fungus and discover its delightfully tasty secrets.
The Federico Eusebio Museum of Archaeology and Natural Science is the perfect way to spend some time indoors. This museum is home to roughly two thousand artifacts from the Neolithic and Roman Eras. Take your time browsing these amazing archaeological finds and be sure not to miss the zoology and geology areas.
In the heart of the city, the Palazzo Comunale hosts several important works of art. The main artistic draws of this historical city hall structure are artist Macrino d’Alba’s sixteenth century portrait of the Virgin, and artist Mattia Preti’s Concertino. Meanwhile, the Palazzo Mostre e Congressi regularly hosts the city’s art exhibits and other special cultural shows and events.
For a unique dive into Alba’s history, visit Alba Underground. Travelers have the opportunity to descend underneath the streets of the current city to discover historical remains of the Roman city as well as Alba’s literal medieval roots.
One of the must-see remaining medieval towers in Alba is part of the famed Marro House. Standing a statuesque five stories high, the building is thought to have been built around the 13th or 14th century. Renovations through the years have exposed medieval characteristics and stonework that shows evidence of a Roman temple. The Marro House has an interesting floorplan and stunning views of the city. This beautiful building is in pristine shape and should not be missed when exploring Alba.
If visiting the city of Alba on a sunny Saturday, do not miss the opportunity to visit the market. Once a week on Saturday, the Alba market opens to the public. The event is attended by farmers, merchants, and vinters hoping to attract shoppers to their booths. As you and the family wander this open-air market, expect to find a wide variety of delicious foods including homemade bread, cheese, cured meats, truffles, wine, and so much more.
Wandering the streets of Alba is a fantastic way to spend time with the kids. A walk through some of the busier streets in the city center is a wonderful way to soak up the local culture while also being an upscale culinary experience.
Many shops and street vendors sell foods that are celebrated in this region, such as a delicious hazelnut chocolates called gianduiotti, roasted hazelnuts, and more. White truffles can usually be found here as well, but are generally offered at a much higher purchase price.
Perhaps the children could eat their way through Alba, all by visiting one delightfully busy street market.
UNIQUE IN ALBA
It is possible that Alba’s biggest draw for visitors lies just outside the heart of the city, atop the gently rolling green hills. The largely rural area that surrounds the city is estimated to be home to numerous vineyards and nearly 300 fabulous wineries. This northeastern land of wine, referred to as the Langhe area, is simply gorgeous in almost any weather.
As beautiful as the land and vineyards are, the wine that they produce is some of the most coveted in the world. When visiting Alba, the wine becomes part of the full dining experience and is often an ingredient in first and second courses, desserts, and as a standalone complement to the meal.
During your stay in Alba spend a day or two visiting the various wineries to admire the vineyards, learn about the wine making process, and then blissfully sample some of the finest wines in all of Italy.
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