Alba is a city of towers, the culinary capital of the Langhe, famous for its truffles, and – well – sort of a pain to get to. Here’s what you need to know and a few pleasant surprises the moment you step off the train.
Andiamo! Let’s Get You There.
I’m guessing your primary objective for venturing outside of Milano or Torino is for a hearty wine tour, home base: Centro Storico in Alba. I suppose you’ll be drinking plenty of vino but the thought of trekking around in a car rental while under the influence let alone navigating around the hilly, twisty & often street sign-less landscape of Piemonte means one thing: taking the train. On a map, it seems pretty simple: a relatively straight-forward 150 km jaunt from Milano to Alba (via Asti), except one thing: there’s no express train at this time between Asti & Alba. There used to be a direct tunnel; apparently, it collapsed, which means you’ll need to head further west, stopping in Torino first. So, to start your adventure, set aside a good 3 1/2 hours and consider this:
1. Book a ticket from Milano Centrale to Alba, first stop: Torino Porto Nuovo (appx 1 hr 50 min).
Hint: If you’re using a credit card at an automatic teller, find out what your PIN number is (yes, you have one; you just don’t use it often – if ever – in the States). Call your bank. You’ll need this to “free the code” & purchase your ticket. Sad & frustrated were many tourists who did not know their credit card’s pin code & not paying through a live teller at the main ticket office).
2. From Torino (Porto Nuovo), look for the train headed through Cavallermaggiore (appx. 30 min).
Hint: Cavallermaggiore’s just one town along one of many lines; it’s not necessarily a final destination. Ask an attendant or look at a map showing which line runs through this blip of a town. You’ll want the train going to the end of this line through Cavallermaggiore.
3. Get off at Cavallermaggiore and look for the training headed in the opposite direction towards Alba.
Hint: As with all trains in Italy, the window for transferring is typically short. Your ticket may not indicate which platform this is and the info. in Cavallermaggiore can be limited. While you’re likely to be dropped off in the center platform, the train to Alba (marked in LED on the cars itself) may already be sitting on the other platform. We loitered around for 15 minutes before we finally noticed this & barely made the train with 2 minutes to spare. Better get going!
Congratulazioni, You Made It!
Now, head right for the Centro Storico, grab a glass of vino with a plate of prosciutto crudo e melone there or in a nearby piazza where al fresco dining abounds.
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