i-ItalyNY - 2014-06 - page 58

satisfied. It welcomes guests,
true, but it’s reluctant to admit it.
Alba deserves the gold medal,
militarily speaking, for being
the first city to free itself,
thanks to the partisans, during
the delirium of the Second
WorldWar, a story told
magisterially by Beppe Fenoglio,
the city’s native son and one of
the great Italian writers of the
latter half of the nineteenth
century. His books contain all
the cantankerous humanity of
these places. He, better than
anyone, knew his city and its
Now foreigners from around the
world come to Alba on the scent
of its truffles, wines, hazelnuts.
They are led here by the nose—
and the palate. Clearly they’re
not wrong to do so, but once
they’ve come here, I see them
look past the shop windows,
and down the streets in search
of something more than just a
food stand. Like all of us, they’re
looking for beauty.
And I, who haven’t found my
real place in Alba yet? I’ve seen
that beauty on clear mornings
when a wedge of sky between
the bells of the cathedral
and town hall seems to bless
whover’s standing here below.
And I’ve seen it on foggy winter
nights, when the cold weather
clears streets and Alba seems
alone, alone but for the river,
that river by its side.
by Gianmaria Testa
Cities with rivers are
never alone. Alba feels the
silent slap of the Tanaro on its
sides. Sometimes, in summer,
the river’s bare. Other times
it’s majestic, swollen with
water that has traveled down
mountains that face the sea.
But the city doesn’t extend
beyond the river. The Tanaro is
a border, and cities that bear
a border inside them are sad.
Besides, if Alba did cross over
the Tanaro, half of it would be
in the hills of Langhe and half
in the rest of the world. So the
city lies entirely on the river’s
right shore, its foundations
set deep in the soft rock of the
earth it belongs to and which it
To an outsider, Alba is soothing,
geographically speaking. The
roughness of the hills suddenly
drops off, as if the immense
force driving the land upward
had suddenly remembered
to leave room for a place less
difficult to live in, a spit of
earth that requires less sweat
and elbow grease, with a river
beside it. The people of the
Langhe don’t say “Let’s go
Alba,” they say “Let’s go
Alba.” Coming down from the
surrounding hills that’s exactly
the impression you get—you
don’t feel like you’re arriving
somewhere, you feel like you’re
entering inside a place, a kind of
welcoming room.
Alba was built to welcome
people. To Piazza Savona and
Piazza del Duomo. To Via
Maestra and Via Cavour. Under
the Crocefisso di Sacchetto
in San Domenico. To its bars,
trattorie and ristoranti. Alba
welcomes people because, as a
strip of flatland below the hills
market in Alba is a respite for
normal and frenetic swarm of
humanity that meets up, as if
for a date.
I still haven’t found my place in
Alba, one of my favorite places,
nor do I know whether people
will see me as living here, but
I’m not from here and the city
seems to be seriously self-
with a river running by it, that’s
its job.
The day of the week it does the
most welcoming is Saturday,
market day. People come from
all over, speaking foreign
tongues and strange dialects.
They come down into Alba for
a look around. They stroll. They
chat. For many, the Saturday
Now foreigners fromaround
theworld come toAlba on the
scent of its truffles, wines,
hazelnuts. But they, like all of us,
are also looking for beauty.
June-July 2014
Photo:Archivio -EnteTuriasmoAlbaBraLangheRoero
Gianmaria Testa
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