Alba, Italy: 'Shrooms with a view
Summer fizzled out in rain and cold in much of Italy, with some warmer days of late—bummer weather to some, but to others, it means one thing: Truffles!
Once a year, in October, Alba becomes World Truffle HQ, as the world's most important white truffle market opens for business. International buyers flock to this city in the Piedmont, home to the Associazione Nazionale Città del Tartufo, a sort of truffle union that reps nearly two dozen towns known for heavy harvests of the delicacy.
At the Fiera Internazionale del Tartufo Bianco—celebrating its 80th year in 2010—prices are high and competition between vendors is fierce, especially leading up to the annual auction and Truffle of the Year award.
But if you're not in the 'shroom biz, October in Alba is way more fun. The town turns into a monthlong party: Thousands converge to taste regional delicacies like Gianduja chocolate and Moscato d'Alba wine, and to take in events like a Palio where they race donkeys instead of horses.
And the Roman city itself is worth a look, for sights like its 12th-century belltower and ruins of its fortified gate.