The lush green hills of Tuscany produce not only outstanding olive oil and excellent wine appreciated by connoisseurs worldwide. Precious truffles are one of the region’s treasures. If you are looking for ideas on what to do in Tuscany truffle hunting could be a great Italian experience.
Dubbed as “diamonds of the kitchen” Italian truffles can cost up to $4000 per kilo which make them one of the most expensive cooking ingredients known to man. The region of Piedmont is famous for the white truffle, Tuber Magnum, however, many gourmands say that the lesser-known white truffle from the area of Crete Senesi and Pisa in Tuscany is just as good and is better value for money.
Different types of this highly prized tuber are harvested throughout the year. The white truffle comes out in winter, its smaller and milder cousin, the bianchetti truffle, is found in spring, and the black truffle – in summer. They all grow around tree roots, mainly oaks, chestnuts, hazel or beech trees, and can hide as deep as one meter below the surface.
Truffles are hunted by a trifolau and a trained dog. It takes around four years to train the canine and some of them are better at it than others. Some decades ago pigs were used to sniff the truffles in the woods, however, they seemed to have a soft spot for the delicacy and often gobbled up the precious tuber before their owner could grab it.
Trifolau are always very secretive about their finds and locations and often go on a truffle hunt at night or before dawn. However, many of them are happy to share the nuts and bolts of their trade with tourists and organise truffle hunting tours.
If you are not into an early morning foraging adventure you can visit one of a few truffle fairs in Tuscany. The San Miniato Truffle Fair (La Sagra del Tartufo Bianco) is held in the medieval hill town of San Miniato, 25% of Italy’s white truffles are harvested, in November. A smaller, more intimate fair, is organised in San Giovanni d’Asso, near Siena every also in November. There you can pick up a truffle of any type and size, as well as taste a wide variety of dishes cooked with the fragrant tuber, from pasta to ice cream. Or simply go around the stands and inhale the divine pungent aroma of this precious treat. It is an interesting experience when wondering what to do in Tuscany.
Photos by: Wei-Duan Woo, Michela Simoncini, Alessandro Giannini.