12th March 2015 will always be a date to remember for the Cavanagh-Hobbs family. Henceforth it will forever be known as ‘Truffle Day’ or more precisely ‘Giorno del Tartufo’, for it was the day they first discovered this rare ‘black diamond’ beneath their land in Montefiore dell ‘Aso, Italy.
Having moved to the breathtaking region of Le Marche, similarly beauty-blessed neighbour of Tuscany, from the UK eight years ago to found fractional ownership company Appassionata, Michael Hobbs and his wife Dawn Cavanagh-Hobbs wanted to truly immerse themselves in Italian life. Not content with simply renovating stunning rustic and urban properties, the family also purchased a ‘tartufaia’ or truffle plantation in 2010, a site of 7 acres that had had 1,240 trees inoculated with the Tuber Melanosporum fungus – or the Perigord Black Truffle.
Yet, as is the case with all truffle plantations, the Cavanagh-Hobbs family were in for a long wait. Notoriously difficult to farm and calling for a great deal of time and patience, truffles take between seven and twelve years to emerge, if they do at all, hence their status as a culinary delicacy, expensive to produce and purchase. Yet, having periodically searched the land with locally trained dogs over the years, it seems that this was the year the family would stumble upon their very own ‘black gold’.
Michael Hobbs, Founder of luxury property company Appassionata, explains more about their exciting discovery,
“The Appassionata Tartufaia is a magical place, generating an aura and energy that is hard to quantify, it makes you tingle. I have always felt that there was activity underground and the developing brules (burnt brown circles) that formed around the trees were an indication of mycorrhizal activity. We have been working hard while waiting for the truffles to appear and occasionally checked for truffles but it was during our last walk of this season that we found our first ever truffles.
“We didn’t have high expectations of finding them and were really just going through the motions but after 10 minutes of the dogs going from tree to tree, the young dog Balou got excited and started digging at the base of one of the trees near to the fence line. The handler pulled her back to inspect and carefully dug around the disturbed soil and hey presto we had found our very first truffle!”
Like all treasure-troves, the tartufaia, or truffle plantation, soon began to spill forth its jewels, as more and more truffles of varying shapes and sizes were literally unearthed from the dusty soil beneath. With the largest a behemoth weighing some 79g, the joy on the family’s faces could not be hidden as all their hard work was seen to pay off – at long last! With an eventual haul of 370g of black truffles in one small area, covering half a dozen trees, the prospects for the future of the site looks very bright indeed.
Yet March 2015 has not only been a landmark truffle time for this Le Marche family, their discovery also times perfectly with uncovering of the very first cultivated truffle on British soil. Just two days before the Montefiore discovery, Paul Thomas unearthed the start of a batch of the UK’s first ever commercially-produced truffles, in Leicestershire, paving the way for a new, growing industry that could prove highly lucrative. In turn, this could also prove true for the Cavanagh-Hobbs family who plan to develop their truffle sideline by selling both the raw article and investigating the creation of a range of authentic truffle-infused products, potentially utilising locally-produced olive oil and cheeses.
Michael Hobbs explains how he feels their recent discovery helps highlight the region’s gastronomic delights,
“Le Marche really is a foodie’s paradise. Freshly-produced oil from the finest olives ripened under seemingly endless sunny skies, wild game and smoky sausage, fresh seafood, not to mention the wonderful local wines that grace the region, are all part of the distinctive cucina tipica that puts Le Marche on the map and is drawing more and more attention worldwide. At Appassionata we are proud to be a part of this ongoing tradition, producing our very own olive oil, wine, lavender crop – and now truffles too!”
And as the Cavanagh-Hobbs family celebrated by eating the first truffle found, carefully slicing it over a frittata alongside some local salami and 30-month old parmigiana, rounding it off with their very own Marche Rosso, a 2013 Montepulciano, they looked forward to welcoming new owners of their latest project Casa Tre Archi to the gastronomic wonders of the region, including their newly treasured truffles!
Casa Tre Archi from Appassionata is a beautifully unique property of three bedrooms and three bathrooms, built into the ancient town walls of Le Marche’s Petritoli. Featuring a turret wall as part of the lounge, the townhouse also boasts a stunning roof terrace with standout views across the rolling hills of Le Marche and has been renovated to the very highest of standards.
A luxurious yet homely property, Casa Tre Archi enjoys sea views, beamed ceilings and traditional terracotta-tiled floors and is close to a range of local shops and restaurants and a short drive from beautiful sandy beaches. The property is offered as part of a fractional ownership scheme and shares of 1/10th of the property providing five weeks’ exclusive use annually, are available from £65,000.
For more information, contact Appassionata on +39 33154 13225 or visit www.appassionata.com