Discover the best things to do in Alba Italy! Here is a short guide to visit Alba city and its surroundings! Find out what to do in Alba Piedmont: nature, villages, fairytale castles, food and wine!
Alba in Piedmont is a town in the province of Cuneo, one of the most important cities of the Langhe. It is located about 50 km from Turin and stands on the bank of the Tànaro river, on a vast basin that embraces hills, vineyards and breathtaking landscapes.
The area was already inhabited in the Neolithic period, as shown by the findings. In the villages, iron and bronze were worked. Agriculture and animal husbandry were practised.
This town is the heart of Piedmont, a small but very characteristic area.
What to see in Alba Italy? Getting there is easy and you can enjoy an excellent climate, events and entertainment all year round. This makes it possible to visit Alba city and its surroundings both in winter and summer, with the whole family or on your own.
The city has been recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its wine-growing landscapes in the Langhe, Roero and Monferrato.
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Why you should visit Alba Italy
Today the city is a place where you can admire not only a long and precious history but also castles, archaeological sites, walk in the vineyards and relax in a quiet environment where the air is clean and the food and wine excellent.
Alba city is famous throughout the world for its truffle. In fact, the alba truffle festival takes place here every year, allowing visitors to discover the prized Alba white truffle.
However, the region is also one of the best in the world for wine production. Few people know that on 20 April 1964, the first Nutella jar was made in Alba, which became a worldwide success.
Better known as the capital of the Langhe, it marks a territory in lower Piedmont that is mainly hilly and bordered by rivers. Among the towns in this area, below 600 metres, the most famous is Alba.
This is also known as the “City of 100 Towers” because in medieval times the area was lined with a dense defence system: it was over two metres high and very thick, with a series of moats and towers. The city still has several entrance gates, which in those days were the only means of access through the payment of a toll.
This is why there are so many defensive towers, the whole of Alba was one of the essential nuclei of the area and of territorial expansion. In fact, no less than 6 castles, 7 campariums, a multitude of churches and monasteries and 6 hospitals were built, despite its limited territory.
What to see in Alba Piedmont: a city of history & hidden antiquities
Alba has got an ancient history. The origins of the town date back to pre-Roman times, but the area became important for trade in later times.
However, the general layout that is still distinctive today was created in the Middle Ages. Military conflicts always marked Alba, which had to defend itself with difficulty, then came the plague, but the 18th century was the time of culture and art.
With the French Revolution, it was one of the first cities to support the republic, although this period brought only destruction to the town, which had to rise again with great difficulty.
Under Fascism, Alba city experienced a new splendour: the Alba Truffle Fair was created and it was declared an independent Republic. Its troubled history makes Alba extremely interesting to visit today because all the events, all the periods, have left an indelible mark.
Visit Alba city in one day
Visiting Alba offers the chance to walk through an open-air museum of history and hidden antiquities.
Among the best things to see in Alba there are the cathedrals, the walled area, the underground Alba, the narrow streets of the historic centre, the historical and religious monuments.
It is possible to stay on site and visit Alba in one day. The city is on a more human scale and small in size, although it has a lot to offer to those who want to stay a few days to find out more about what to do in Alba city and its surroundings.
Here are the top 10 things to see in Alba:
1. San Lorenzo Cathedral
One of the things to see in Alba is definitely the Cathedral of San Lorenzo, the city’s main religious building. It is located in Piazza Risorgimento and dates back to 1486, built at the behest of the Bishop of Alba, Andrea Novelli. The original structure has been renovated several times due to the signs of time and raids. The last restoration dates back to 2009 when a new presbytery was built.
The style of the Cathedral is Gothic, built with very characteristic red bricks. The interior is the most striking with its three naves and especially the colourful workings that range in the colour scale making it a work of art. Inside there are many works of art by the sculptor Antonio Carloni.
2. Santa Maria Maddalena Church
The Church of Santa Maria Maddalena was commissioned by Carlo Giacinto della Rovere in the 18th century and has a typically Piedmontese baroque style. It was built by Bernardo Antonio Vittone and is certainly notable for its façade. The latter has a large wooden portal with crossed arrows, symbol of Blessed Margaret of Savoy.
On the other hand, the interior is highly decorated with eight columns and a dome. The church stands in Via Vittorio Emanuele and was a Dominican Monastery during the 18th century. Pilgrims used to rest here during their visits to the remains of Blessed Margaret. The walnut portal has 18 panels telling the whole story, a true text on the world.
3. Church of San Domenico
This church is located in the small town square near Via Calissano and dates back to the 13th century. Some restoration work has been done, but it is certainly a historical gem of great value. During the 1970s, maintenance and restoration work was carried out at the behest of the Albeisa family. Despite its age, the church is still used for mass, albeit rarely. Exhibitions and concerts are also organised.
4. Town Hall
The Town Hall of Alba in Piedmont is located in Piazza Risorgimento, and was built on previous Roman buildings. Inside there are many frescoes dating back to the Church of San Domenico, one of the most beautiful being a Pietà from the 1300s. In the Sala del Consiglio Comunale there are many paintings with religious themes.
5. The Towers
Alba is the “city of a hundred towers” because there are a series of towers that once, together with the city walls, represented the defensive part of the city. Today they are not actually “one hundred” because some have been lost over time. If you are wondering what to see in Alba Italy, you really can’t miss these! The most important towers are three and are located in Piazza Duomo. These are the ones that have been best preserved: Torre Bonino, Torre Astesiano and Torre Sineo, dating back to the 12th century.
6. Underground Alba
In the historic centre of Alba, there is an underground city that is definitely worth discovering. Amphitheatre, Roman forum, theatre are some of the most beautiful and characteristic places to explore. Basically, the medieval city that developed did so on the remains of the Roman one, but in the belly of Alba city there are still over two thousand years of history that are still detailed and significant.
7. Fenoglio House
In the house where Beppe Fenoglio lived there is a Study Centre that collects all his works, an interweaving of art, history and literature. Much of this is the work of the photographer Aldo Agnelli, who has taken some precious shots that make it possible not only to reconstruct Fenoglio’s life but also the history of the town.
8. Caffè Calissano
The city’s main café, located in Piazza del Duomo, was founded by Luigi Calissano in the 19th century. Customers of this café have included Cesare Pavese, Pinot Gallizio, Beppe Fenoglio to name a few. What you see today is the result of a careful restoration, but inside there are still 17th-century frescoes.
9. Caleria Vacquer Paderi Children’s Hospital
In 1895, Luigi Vaquer Paderi created this children’s hospital to care for children of all nationalities. A project in memory of his wife. At the time, such a gesture was absolutely innovative, especially for a small town like Alba. In the hospital’s archives, you can read all the stories of the children who passed through until 1915.
10. Other churches in Alba worth visiting
Among the most recent churches of the 20th century, there are the Temple of San Paolo of 1925 by the architect Giuseppe Gallo with a cast bronze portal and works by Cassino that deserve attention. The Church of Cristo Re of 1956 by Dellapiana, the Sanctuary of Nostra Signora della Moretta of 1905 built thanks to the Giuseppini fathers of Asti. Also of great beauty are the Church of San Giuseppe and the San Lazzaro Hospital, which once housed lepers and the sick.
Visiting Alba and its surroundings
There is a wide choice of what to see in Alba city, but it is also possible to visit the surroundings, which are very picturesque. You can think of dedicating a couple of days to admire the city and the surrounding neighbourhoods.
One of the most fun activities you can do in the Langhe is to go hunting for the Giant Benches, which are scattered almost everywhere. These benches are carefully designed, but have enormous shapes. Nothing could be more fun than relaxing and admiring the landscape on one of them, taking a souvenir photo.
Neive: medieval village among the most beautiful in Italy
Neive has been elected one of the most beautiful villages in Italy. Among the Western Langhe, it boasts an old-world charm with small stone houses, a modern area and a beautiful stream: the Tinella. The town has Roman origins and is very famous for its fortified medieval castle. Today it offers tourists the “Torre del Monastero”, a huge ancient construction that stands out in the heart of the town.
Barbaresco is particularly famous for being the land where Barbaresco wine is produced. What else is there to see in and around Alba Italy? This area is in fact a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Of Celtic origin, it is home to the two largest local wineries: Gaja and the Produttori del Barbaresco. It is well worth a visit and especially a wine cellar tour.
La Morra and the Barolo Chapel
La Morra is located in the Langhe in the province of Cuneo and offers wonderful views over the Piedmont countryside. However, its main feature is the Cappella del Barolo, the most colourful church in Italy. Once a shelter for farm workers, today it is set in a vineyard and is one of the most popular places in the area.
Barolo: the Falletti Castle and the WiMu wine museum
Barolo has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is known worldwide for its wine production. It is worth a visit for the amazing landscape but also for Castello Falletti, which is located in the centre of the town and houses the incredible WiMu wine museum. Nothing beats a wine cellar tour and a wine tasting.
Grinzane Cavour Castle
This fortification in the province of Cuneo has retained its former glory. It dates back to the 13th century and is very famous because every year in November it hosts the World Alba White Truffle Auction. All proceeds are donated to hospitals and other important charities. The castle houses the Piedmontese regional wine shop and a wine museum.
Diano d’Alba and Serralunga d’Alba
Diano d’Alba is very famous for being home to Giordano winery and for the Church of San Giovanni Battista.
Serralunga d’Alba is a small municipality with extremely fascinating fortifications. In addition to the castle, the Dongione deserves attention as it is one of the most unique places in Italy.
If you are wondering what to see, Alba also offers enchanting views over the surrounding areas. Nature walks are also of great importance: they can be enjoyed by bike or on foot, covering the entire route from one area to another.
What to eat in Alba in Piedmont
Alba is not only famous for its history but also for its food & wine.
It is no coincidence that Alba is the town of white truffle, the most precious of all. It is impossible to visit the region and not have a tasting on site or try local specialities such as tajarin and raw meat all’albese.
The small restaurants offer a range of typical dishes to taste and discover. Alba city and the surrounding area also offer many starred restaurants, because the raw materials are excellent.
A special mention goes to the Piedmontese hazelnut PGI, which is used to make fine sweets and chocolate, not just the more famous Nutella.
A visit to the local wineries that produce world-famous and appreciated wines such as Barolo, Barbaresco, Dolcetto d’Alba and Nebbiolo is a must. It is no coincidence that in 2017 Alba also received an important award as “Creative City for Gastronomy”.
Now that you know what to see in Alba Italy and its surroundings, take a look at all the food & wine experiences and travel ideas we have selected for you. You can always customise your itinerary with our local Experts!