Saturday, November 21, 2009

Profume de Alba

We decided to go to Alba on Saturday. Saturday is the most important market day of the week and we heard that Alba has a very famous market. Our hotel receptionist was happy to explain us where to get on the Alba bus. The bus trip was a joy. Only a small part of the way we were on highway, most of the time the road took us thru little towns and up the mountain covered with vines in vivid autumn colors. An hour later we arrived on the bus station of no distinction with no map and no idea where to go. This was a moment when my limited Italian was squeezed out of me. I picked a typical Italian signora from the crowd and sheepishly asked her Dove mercato? Signora gave me a look. No Italian was necessary to understand: You don't know where the market is??!!!’ and pointed us to the direction where everybody was going.

The market was good but not great. I’m a market connoisseur, so everywhere I go I always visit the local market. This could not possibly be the famous market. There were some nice local specialties. We bought excellent dry porcini mushrooms; the selection of hazelnuts was impressive.

The wicker tricycles were cute, but otherwise there were nothing to write home about.

But from the market we could see where the historical center is and proceeded to go that way. That’s where the actions were.
The center was charming, old, and full of people shopping for absolutely spectacular selection of local wines, cheeses, salamis, pasta, chocolates, nuts and other delicacies.

The best Italian wines Barolo, Dolcetta d’Alba, Nebbiolo all grow in Piedmont and Alba restaurants and wine bars proudly present them in beautiful company of all the heavenly looking and smelling food.


and giant salami

and giant green onion

and wines

and more salami

and more cheeses

The star of this gastronomical show was the white truffle. The streets where perfumed with fragrant odors of one of the most expensive foods in the world.

White truffles can only be found in the woods around Alba and it hosts the world famous white truffle market.

There was something else in the air. It was recognizable right away though it didn’t have any physical materiality of mushroom or chocolate. The scent was coming from super expensive stores and restaurants full of wealthy tourists (and some locals too) from around the world. The discreet smell of money was not that discreet on the old streets of Alba.

In the evening on the main piazza near the church the live entertainment was provided for the crowd. The music group was performing traditional Italian songs. The source and inspiration for Italian opera becomes obvious just after a few minutes listening to them.

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