Italy is famous for its food, and when you holiday there, you will discover the lush landscapes are bountiful with food ripe for cooking with. Yet some of its most prized food does not bathe in the Mediterranean sun, and is found underground and needs to be hunted by dogs. What is it? Truffles!
Hunting for truffles depends on the conditions, so be aware that the best times for finding white truffles is late summer up to October, and for black truffles beginning in February up to April. Make sure to dress for a country walk with sturdy shoes that have a good grip. Many of our luxury villas, Italy
, are in places where truffle hunting is not far away so keep an eye out for prime truffle hunting ground!
What are truffles?
Truffles are the fruits of an underground fungus that typically grows around the roots of trees like oak, beech, birch, hazel, pine and poplar. They look like knobbly, rough-skinned potatoes and grow a few inches underground. They are difficult to find, hence why they are expensive.
Truffles also have a unique strong smell and pigs and dogs can be trained to seek them out. Pigs especially are excellent truffle hunters, but they love to eat them too, so dogs have more recently taken over the role of hunting for truffles.
Truffles have long been considered to be mysterious, with Greeks believing truffles grew where lightning bolts from Zeus struck the ground. Ancient Romans loving them for their apparent aphrodisiac properties.
It wasnt until the 1700s that truffles and hunting for them started to become popular in Italy. The edible diamonds were adored by nobles across Europe, as they added a touch of class to banquet tables. Today chefs all over the world use truffles for their strong flavour.
Truffle hunting in Italy
In certain regions of Italy like Tuscany you will often find truffle dishes at the local restaurants, and you can buy truffle oil in the shops. San Miniato between Florence and Pisa is a hilltop village which celebrates the white truffle harvest every autumn, and the aroma of the truffles can be smelt in the streets. From sausages to cheese, San Miniato has everything a truffle lover could want.
In San Giovanni dAsso in the heart of the southern Sienese landscape you will find white truffles, and in October and November market stalls are laden with truffles and truffle infused delicacies. The area around the village is also one of the best locations for truffle hunting in Tuscany and you can team up with a local trifolaio and his dogs to seek out the hidden treasure.
To the east of Tuscany in Le Marche, located between the Apennine Mountains and Adriatic coastline you can spend hours truffle hunting in the woods. The truffles thrive in this area all year round and so no matter what time of year you visit, you could be lucky enough to find some!
If you are staying in Northern Italy, near our Lake Garda villas you can enjoy foraging for the local white truffles in the Langhe area, and spend lunch eating truffle treats with a glass of red wine. The town of Alba has a white truffle festival in October and November which has been an annual event for nearly a century.
Italian truffles are one of the most prized food treasures in the world, due to their short and localised seasons, cultivation difficulties and overall scarcity. Their unique and earthy flavour enriches so many dishes from pasta to cheese, and youll no doubt be very happy if you find one on a truffle hunting excursion!
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