Hunting for authentic experiences

If there has been one aspect of travel planning that has emerged across segments this year, be it the digital savvy millennials or the modern family travelling to unravel new experiences or incentive travel on the lookout for new inspirations – it is this: authentic moments.

Real experiences that you can get your hands on is increasingly becoming the new x-factor, the north star of our industry. There are a dozen industry studies pointing to this fact, how ‘a meaningful’ authentic experience can lead us to the untapped, open new seasons, encourage more getaways, unlock new destinations – just look at Ras Al Khaimah and its surge towards the magic number of one million visitors in 2018 and how this rising emirate has positioned itself around the new but enigmatic positioning of ‘authentic travel experiences’.

We had a chance to visit a destination that is hot on the list of Unesco creative cities network. A region in north of Italy that has been traditionally known for food, cuisines and gastronomic experiences themed around hazelnut, cheese and truffles: we are talking about the region of Piedmont and its capital Alba.

Did you know that one of the most famous greetings of our times, a box of Ferrero Rocher chocolates, started its journey from Alba? The biggest truffle factories that make the world a happier place all located in this blessed land of good taste.

Why aren’t more consultants digging into this – inspiring vacations around food and explorations of food related experience? We went on a truffle hunting expedition with one of the most experienced truffle hunters in Piedmont, Giovanni Monchiero. The man is a fourth-generation truffle hunter and his ancestors were the pioneers of this rare art. If the white truffle is the crown of a gourmet gastronomic experience (it is literally one of the most expensive ingredients you will ever use), then hunting for truffles is definitely an experience to boast about.

An authentic and experiential itinerary in Alba can be designed around going on an expedition with a truffle hunter, it is a family-friendly activity and a thrilling experience. You are part of a real hunt, accompanied by an expert and translator, with trained dogs that smell out the truffles hidden underground. An adrenaline filled outdoor experience can only be rewarded with a sit-down meal at a local restaurant, that presents the most delicious local cuisine topped by the freshly picked truffles.

The taste of white truffles in Alba is as fulfilling as visiting any of the iconic landmarks of the world. An evening of shopping for the most authentic truffle condiments at the city centre is yet another eye-opening experience. The passion around this seasonal food runs thick in this part of the world. A visit to local hazelnut shop is yet another authentic experience – for it packs a memorable agenda: chat with the plantation owner, a personalised tour of the processing plant that turns the hazelnut from the farms into the various forms that we love – from spreads and cakes to coated with chocolate and salty snacks. It cannot be anything but a very delicious and a unique experience for your travelling groups.

Piedmont is waiting to be explored, each of the villages hold a strong draw with this sumptuous spread of local produce and then there are truffles – black and white and others in between. Food is just the beginning of this alpine adventure and the road to unravelling hundreds of such authentic travel gems is what 2019 should be about.

Read more about gastronomy and food tourism in TTN’s next issue but for now, wishing you a year of discovery ahead."