The scientific name of this subterranean fungus is Tuber Magnatum Pico , better known as the White truffle of Alba, from the name of the ancient city, Alba Pompeia, which also gave birth to the Roman Emperor Pertinax.
This truffle, known in the local dialect as "trifola" and rated by all the experts as the very best, is found in a restricted hilly area of the "Langhe" and in part of the Monferrato district.In ancient times, it was thought that the truffles derived from bolts of lightning that fell close to the trees. In actual fact, they grow spontaneously only under certain trees, in particular oaks, willows, limes, poplars and cherry trees.
Gathering truffles is an art based on an indivisible "duo": man's experience in identifying the most suitable trees and the infallible scent of his dog who, having identified the precise point, digs furiously to reveal the precious fragrant prize.For centuries, the "tools of the trade" of the "trifolao" as truffle gatherers are known in Piedmont, have been a pair of tough, mud-proof boots, a stick,also useful for grubbing in brambles and shrubs, a small spade to dig around the truffle without damaging it, a jacket with lots of deep pockets to hold the truffles gathered and the pieces of bread usually bestowed on his faithful companion each time it finds a truffle.
Truffle gatherers usually set off as twilight falls, mainly to avoid revealing the most suitable places to "competitors". The world of the truffle has much in common with the hard life of the country, today completely changed for the better, and for which the possibility of finding truffles to be sold at the market in Alba and which ended up mainly on the tables of the nobility and kings represented a rare occasion to earn money and secure subsistence.
The Capital of the "Langhe" can claim the merit of having been the first to recognise the value of this extraordinary subterranean fungus more than a century ago. A path that has kept step with the international success of the great wines of Alba: Barolo and Barbaresco. In this short history of the truffle, due mention must be made of Giacomo Morra, hotelier and restaurant owner of the Hotel Savona who, as early as the 1930s, baptised the Tuber Magnatum Pico with the name White Truffle of Alba and who played a major role in securing its fame all over the world.
Each year, a fragrant gift of this land is donated to famous people all over the world, an idea that has been crowned with great success and which has transformed the truffle into an eloquent messenger of the area. The splendid truffle weighing 2 kilo and 520 grams sent to the President of the United States Harry Truman in 1951 remains a memorable, unbroken record.
The first person to receive the gift of a truffle in 1949 was the mythical "Gilda", the unforgettable actress Rita Hayworth. She was to be followed each year by a series of great figures stretching from Marilyn Monroe (1954), to General De Gaulle (1961), the astronauts of the Nasa and contemporaries such as the President of Fiat Gianni Agnelli, Antonio di Pietro, Pippo Baudo and many others.