Words by Michelle Fabio

The 78th International White Truffle Fair of Alba is being held this year from 4 October to 9 November to the delight of gourmet food and wine lovers everywhere. Tartufi bianchi from Alba are arguably the most famous and most desired in the world--one was sold for € 95,000 in 2005--and the wines and cheeses of the Langhe area in Piemonte are internationally loved as well.

This year's edition of the fair features a truffle market, product demonstrations, wine festival, Worldwide Truffle Auction, and the Albaromatica medicinal herbs fair. Other events include the Tournament of the Hundred Towers, Palio degli Asini (donkey race), and many musical, cultural, and artistic offerings.

But what is a truffle? It's technically a "tuber magnatum pico," but for tartufi lovers, they are so much more. Grown deep within the ground near the roots of hazel, poplar, beech, and oak trees, these edible fungi have a distinct smell that traditionally were sought out by female pigs, who are sexually aroused by the aroma. Hunters now use dogs to sniff out truffles, but the idea that truffles are aphrodisiacs continues--probably also increasing their popularity.

Although they come in various varieties including black, Chinese, and summer truffles, the white version found primarily in Alba are particularly valued by chefs and other foodies.

In the first two videos below, you can watch dogs hunting truffles in Alba as well as nearby Montecalvo, which also holds an annual festival to celebrate truffles. In the last video, you can get an idea of how much these truffles are valued around the world:

For more information, see the 78th Annual International White Truffle Fair of Alba (in English).

Happy truffle hunting!