Nutella, white truffles & Barolo wine – the culinary secrets of Alba

If while scrolling down the annual list compiled by Forbes magazine it is not surprising to see that Microsoft’s founder Bill Gates regained the title of the richest man in the world, curiosity is aroused that the first Italian classified is Michele Ferrero.

The Ferrero family built its empire on chocolate. Its best-known product, Nutella, has become an icon all over the world.

Pietro FerreroThe story begins in Alba, a small town near Turin in the region of Piedmont in 1942. Ferrero still has its largest plant here. Pietro Ferrero opens a workshop and begins to experiment and invent delicacies.

Times are tough and with the war it is impossible to find even the simplest ingredients. But Pietro Ferrero is not discouraged and has a brilliant idea, which is to take advantage of one of the territory’s wealthiest products: hazelnuts.

And so, the gianduia or giandujot paste made with hazelnuts begins to take form in the backroom of the pastry shop. It is the first version of what would become one of the most famous confectionery specialties worldwide: Nutella.

It is not only Ferrero who has made Alba famous. Alba can boast of other Italian specialties such as the white truffle and the famous Barolo wine.

Alba’s White Truffle is a prized mushroom and a symbol of culinary sophistication of this land. During the autumn season, Alba holds its yearly International Fair of the White Truffle, which is the most important worldwide event dedicated to the truffle. The 84th edition will be held from October 11-November 16, 2014, during the weekend.

Alba and its wonderful surroundingsIt is a real celebration of the senses amongst smells and tastes of not only truffles but also of wines, meats, cheeses and all of the gastronomic specialties of the place. The truffle is in fact considered a real and true “environmental guard”. It does not tolerate pollution and whatever else is harmful to nature.

The nature surrounding Alba is a generous one. Towards the south, the Langhe hills draw a path that encloses the most valuable vineyards in Piedmont. This is Barolo’s kingdom, “king of wines and the wine of kings”, but there are also other important wines like Nebbiolo, Dolcetto and Barbera.

Within a few kilometres, all of the area’s most popular villages, from the same Barolo to La Morra, from Monforte to Serralunga d’Alba, meet and continue on towards ancient castles and medieval towers immersed in the endless expanses of vineyards and cultivated fields. 

Ferrero company in AlbaReturning to Alba, it is impossible not to be captured by the scent of chocolate wrapped around the town in a soft and reassuring cloud. Ferrero lives in this magical balance built on understatement that not even Forbes’ ranking was able to disturb.

The Ferrero name never appears in the tabloids. No scandals, no scoops. It is perhaps for this reason and not just for the bit of sweetness that they spread all over the world that the Ferrero’s are unique characters.

It seems that when the editors of Forbes called the Alba office to communicate the victory of the classification of the richest, the comment given was: “Not bad”.