A Nose For Italian Truffles
Venture into the undergrowth with Citalia’s field guide to truffle hunting in Italy. November is considered the ultimate month for a truffle-themed holiday, as this is when you’ll find the best truffles and most of the truffle fairs and sagre (food festivals).
What are truffles?
Truffles are rare edible mushrooms and a gourmet delicacy considered the diamond of the culinary world thanks to their distinctive smell and flavour. Truffles have been a part of the Italian cuisine since the Roman era. Wealthy noble families would feature truffles in unique regional recipes at their grand banquets. Even today, local dishes hero in on truffles. You’ll find tajarin al tartufo, white truffle shaved over long, thin ribbon pasta featuring on restaurant menus in Piedmont. In Tuscany, you’ll find the traditional recipe of carpaccio al tartufo, an uncooked marinated beef steak served with a salad of green leaves, shaved white truffle, pine nuts, and Parmigiano Reggiano. If you're visiting Rome, we recommend stopping by Tre Scalini Restaurant in Piazza Navona to try their signature gelato al tartufo - black truffle ice cream.
Where can you find Italian truffles?
Notoriously hard to find, you’ll find truffles growing exclusively underground close to the roots of trees, particularly oak, willow, hazelnut, poplar and linden trees. Truffles can grow between five and 30 centimetres underground, and they love humid, cold climates.
Wild truffles are found within quite a limited area of Italy - you’ll need to head to the forests of northern Piedmont, central Tuscany, Umbria (in Orvieto, Perugia and Norcia), and Le Marche (within Acqualagna and Pergola). The area where truffles are grown are known as tartufaia, and these are a closely-guarded secret, known only to the local people and established trifalau (truffle hunters).
How are truffles harvested?
Italian truffles are harvested using a wonderful traditional method. Unlike in France, who use pigs for their truffle hunting, the Italian trifalau use a team of dogs to help them to sniff out their distinctive smell. Truffles are almost impossible to find otherwise!
It’s not just any old dog that’s used. A particular dog breed, Lagotto Romagnolo, are trained to point at the truffle, so that they can be carefully extracted without any damage to this precious ingredient or the habitats they grow in. Truffles are at their best when they are at their freshest, so it’s best to consume them immediately after being removed from the earth. White truffles only tend to last three days, whereas some black truffles can keep for up to two weeks if stored carefully.
When is truffle season?
If you want to plan your Citalia holiday around foraging for and eating truffles, then you need to know your truffle season. Due to the different varieties available, there’s actually more than one season, which means truffle growing spans seven months of the year. White winter truffles: October to early January Black winter truffles: November to March White summer truffles: Mid-January to late April Black summer truffles: May to September The finest Italian truffles are harvested in the autumn months, from September to November.
Join a truffle hunt
There are plenty of truffle-based activities in Italy, so there's no need to start digging up tree roots. The grand Castel Monastero Resort, surrounded by the beautiful Tuscan and Chianti countryside, offers a fantastic hunting excursion during truffle season. Join a professional truffle hunter and a team of trained dogs as you explore the stunning fields and wooded areas in search for the area's greatest treasure. The experience includes a delicious truffle-based local lunch, and the opportunity to purchase the truffles you’ve found.