Tartufi.. here yet?

July 23, 2013 / Food & Wine
Umbria

In early July, Severino and Italo, local farmers and passionate tartufari, were speculating on the debut of this summer’s scorzone (black summer truffle).  Italo – a truffler for thirty years now – predicted July 8th as the hopeful day. “Cambia la luna,” he explained: hopefully, the rising moon would nudge the below-ground spores towards truffle maturation… finalmente. Severino (at 86, our oldest tartufaro) laments the short season: licensed tartufari can hunt the black summer truffle from June 1st until August 31st but non-stop rains and cool weather have stunted truffle growth. Although a fungus and therefore needing moisture, the truffle needs warmth, too.

Talking truffles

“Hopefully, we’ll find something soon”, young Marco added as he joined us. Truffle hunter for twelve years now – “si fa solo per passione” (you do this only for passion). Marco told me that a licensed tartufaro can sell up to 5 kilos per year but – like Italo and Severino – he brings home his “black gold” to his family. Off to check nearby truffle areas, Marco took me to his truck to meet Chicca (the favorite of his three truffle dogs).

Marco and his beloved Chicca

Last year in July, I remember elderly Giuseppe, hungrily munching a panino di mortadella after a successful morning, an orange-sized truffle in his other hand. Outside, he’d proudly introduced me to his mongrel truffle dog, the truffle about as big as her head! I remember shy Stefano’s quiet euphoria, too, after a stellar morning hunt yielded the prized tartufo bianco.

Satisfied truffle hunter with his small dog - with great nose!

This summer truffle season, dig into a plate of fettuccine al tartufo or bruschetta mounded with shaved truffle (if white truffle, you’re launched into paradiso)! And remember to put your nose close to that earthy goodness and inhale deeply.

White truffle is the most prized
November truffle hunt
TRUFFLES ON PASTA
Michele, proud of his truffle dogs
Shaving the delicacy of black truffle onto the pasta

Read some more by Anne about truffles.

Anne Robichaud

by Anne Robichaud

An authorized Umbrian tour guide, Anne and her husband Pino worked the land for many years in the 1970’s so rural life, rural people, rural cuisine are una passione for her. See Umbria from “the inside”: join her May 2017 ten-day tour centered on discovering Umbria, Anne’s Umbria.

See www.annesitaly.com for more on her Umbria tours. Do see www.stayassisi.com for news on the Assisi apartment – and Assisi countryside guest house – she and Pino now rent out.

Anne writes frequently on Umbria and other areas of Italy. Read about her annual U.S. Feb/Mar cooking classes and lectures, as well as her numerous Italy insights on her blog.

20 Responses to “Tartufi.. here yet?”

  1. mary jane cryan

    Great photos Anne…. Your friends will show off their prize truffles, their trained dogs…but will they show you where their hunting grounds are ?
    Here in N.Lazio the locals who gather porcini mushroom are very jealous of their secret places.

    Reply
  2. To give you an idea of how (and why) the truffle hunters guard their spots so jealously…my husband, Paolo, hunts truffles with his mentor and friend, Gaetano, who has been at it for decades and knows all the secret spots. Gaetano told us he was in the woods last week and realized that another truffle hunter – a man we all know! – was following him through the woods, trying to remain undetected, so that he could see where Gaetano’s dogs were digging. So sneaky! When you find a good spot, you don’t even want there to be tire tracks from your vehicle – there are that many other people vying for the next new “best spot.”

    Reply
  3. Linda Boccia

    In Piemonte nessuno dicera’ la zona per i tartufi dove si trovanno! E’ la stessa cosa per California. Ho un amico, il padrone d’un ristorante italiano, che lui me ha detto se tu vorresti accompagnarme a trovare i tartufi tu devi avere una benda.

    Reply
  4. Another marvelous story! I look forward to your articles, Anne – Always so interesting and SO descriptive – and I can practically smell those tartufi. Your photos are beautiful. Please put all in a book!

    Your fan,
    Marianna

    Reply
  5. Another terrific note, Anne. I love that you so often include introductions to interesting people. I will have to content myself with imagining the fragrance of those white truffles, which were such a highlight of dining in Umbria.

    Reply
  6. Ginny Siggia

    The story about the tartufari dogs begs the question: do they ever crave or eat the spoils of their hunt? (A very crass comparison comes to mind of my cat’s encounter with catmint. Ehhh … it gives her roughage.) In Italy, I bought gift jars of a basic truffle/olive mix for a few Euros for a few ounces. Not pure truffles, but my gourmet cook friends were ecstatic — not only for the culinary delight but also the stunning bargain: in the US they are astronomically more expensive!
    In Scotland I had a similar experience with street vendors selling stunning yellow marble. I fancied a necklace of chunky pieces, but when asked where it was from (hoping to find other vendors later in my trip), they replied coyly, “Oh, it’s hard to describe; we just know …” Not that I had my rock hammer with me, to poach (I actually have one), nor was I price-checking. Just wanted to know.

    Reply
  7. Madeline Margraves

    Anne, we will be in Assisi on the first week of October to see you. Please leave some truffles for us !
    Wonderful article as usual. Love those cute little truffle puppies
    Madeline

    Reply
  8. Pat Grappolini

    We were so lucky to have a taste of truffles on one of our trips to Italy – and it was wonderful!
    Not before or since, mind you, and we’ll miss the season, I think, with our upcoming trip in the fall – so sad!

    Reply
  9. Valerie

    I just returned from a 2 1/2 week trip to Assisi and one of the things I did was go truffle hunting. It was my third time going with this particular hunter and producer. What a great experience. We followed the dog “Emma” around and around while she sniffed out some truflles. Afterwards we went for a lovely lunch prepared with different truffle dishes – what a treat!! While in Italy I try to eat pasta with truffles (or eggs with truffles) as much as I can. I can’t get enough!! So if anyone is going to Umbria make sure you find a way to go truffle hunting, you won’t be disappointed!! Thank you Anne for writing about Truffles and everything Italy!!

    Reply
  10. Gull-britt Lundstrom

    Thank you Anne for make me remember all the nice things I have experienced in Italy!
    I remember a lovely pasta with truffles at a resturant named Pino!

    Reply
  11. sandra potter

    Hi Anne,
    A couple of years ago my husband and I decided to retire in Umbria or Tuscany. Since then I have enjoyed your articles which keep me connected to Italy. A lot of places and festivals you talk about we have experienced. Anne, you are a remarkable woman for having such a wealth of information. Keep sharing with all of us.

    Reply
  12. Joan Halperin

    That dog looks like he could be a cousin of my first dog, Birba Fiamma.
    Thanks for the update.
    Joan

    Reply
  13. Gwyneth Byrd

    Love the truffles article Anne! Great reading. Really sharing interesting aspects of Italy with people :) Keem em coming!

    Reply
    • Janet MacLeod

      I remember the delicious truffles on bruschetta and pasta. What a delight! Really interesting article on the people who find them. Would like to know how the dogs are trained too! A presto!
      Janet

      Reply
  14. Patrice

    How sad this is a dying art. Thank you for such an interesting article… and the photos are great. I can smell and taste that truffle bruschetta!

    Reply
  15. What a wonderful post, Anne! I love anything with truffles and the words/images of truffle hunting brought it to life for me. My favorite picture is the little dog in the car with the very large truffle. She earned her keep that day!

    Reply

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