Truly in love with Truffles – Dawn’s Story

I must confess before I came to Italy I had never tasted a fresh truffle.  One November evening, years ago, our foody friend, Giampaolo, suggested a trip to the mountains for dinner.  It was truffle season, and he had a friend who had a restaurant who had a cousin who had a friend who had just been truffle hunting the day before.  Ever eager for a new experience we jumped at the chance and into the car. When I enquired about the drive time, Giampaolo had shrugged, smiled and estimated about twenty minutes. An hour and a half later we pulled up outside what I thought was someone’s house. It was really, but they had opened their hearts and dining room to lovers of homegrown, home cooked food.  A family affair, the norm in these parts, Nonna busy cooking in the kitchen, daughter waiting tables and her husband looking serious about wine.

The delicate scent of truffles enveloped the room. The candles flickered and the fire roared, the atmosphere was warm and cosy. I could feel my cheeks glowing and my eyelids drooping……and the rich Amarone wine was going down a treat.

It was a truffle lovers paradise.  Course after course arrived, each one subtly flavoured with fine shavings of fresh truffle. I think there were six courses, but I confess to being in a dream-like state and can’t quite remember. The soup and pasta dishes were wonderful but my favourite…. poached egg with truffle slices scattered on top, so simple, so delicious.

Truffles are weight for weight, one of the most expensive foods on the planet. Luckily, however, a little goes a long way and in Le Marche you can indulge in them without pawning the family silver.

The white truffle is the finest – and the most expensive, tartufi bianchi, and can cost well over €3000 a kilo depending on quality and seasonal abundance. The black truffle comes at a more modest price. If you want to buy them fresh you have to be here between October and the end of December for the bianchi and between December and March for the neri pregiati.

A Few Facts

November is prime truffle time and truffles represent the greatest culinary treasure of the gastronomic area here in Le Marche.  For those who like a little adventure, it is possible to take part in a special truffle hunt with a professional truffle hunter, who finds these underground fungi with the help of his trained dogs.

You will get your shoes dirty following the dog and his master through the woods early in the morning and, if you are lucky enough, you will see the dog furiously digging and the truffle hunter extract the truffle carefully with a special tool. He then covers over the hole in order not to damage the natural spores, and scrapes off the earth from the truffle.

After that you are invited into the kitchen and with the help of a trained chef you can cook or simply taste the  traditional truffle dishes of Le Marche.

Ten Truffle Facts

1) Most truffles rarely grow in the same spot twice and are embedded under the soil, close to roots of holm oaks, chestnut trees, poplars, pines and hazelnut trees.

2) Truffles can be stored for several days in a paper bag in the refrigerator, but the strength of their flavour decreases rapidly with time.

3) Since Roman times truffles have been used in Europe as delicacies, medicines, and even aphrodisiacs.

4) Traditionally, pigs were used to hunt truffles but in Italy their use has been prohibited because of damage caused to the soil. Dogs have now replaced them as they are easier to train. The lagotto romagnolo is the official dog breed for truffle hunting in Italy.

5) Most of truffle hunters are serious about keeping their truffle finds and locations secret.

6) Truffles must be collected at the proper time otherwise they will have little taste. You can buy fresh white truffles in Le Marche between October and the end of December.

7) Truffle hunting can be arranged seasonally for white truffles from September to December.

8) During the last weekends of October Sant’Angelo in Vado in Le Marche hosts the Mostra Nazionale del Tartufo Bianco Pregiato, an excellent chance to taste white truffles and see the town at its best.

9) From the end of October to the first two weekends in November Acqualagna in Le Marche is transformed into Italy’s “truffle capital” as it hosts the annual Truffle Fair.

10) White truffles are perfect to enrich main courses and can be inserted into meats, under the skins of roasted fowl, or stuffings. They are generally served raw, shaved into flakes, adding flavour and fragrance to omelettes rice and fresh homemade pasta. 

If you enjoy new experiences and a wanderlust lifestyle come and visit us here in Le Marche……

For more information on Le Marche and fractional ownership opportunities with Appassionata’s Italian lifestyle brand go to www.appassionata.com , or contact Dawn directly at dc@appassionata.com

Acqualagna Truffle Town

Acqualagna is a town of some 4000 inhabitants settled between the two hills of Gola and Furlo in the province of Pesaro Urbino, in Le Marche. It is one of the most important centers for the production and commercialization of truffles or ‘tartufo’ in the whole of Italy and the annual festival is one of the most important in Italy.

The Furlo Gorge near Acqualagna The Furlo Gorge near Acqualagna images Creative Commons by Alicudi

The industry developed in this area thanks to a benign climate where the truffles can be harvested all the year round. As a result, Acqualagna produces almost two thirds of the entire national harvest. Exports play a big part with Germany, Belgium, Holland, France, USA and Canada the principal markets. Four basic types of truffle are harvested.

 

From January to March it’s the turn of the black truffle (Tuber Melanosporum Vitt ), while April/June sees the collection of the ‘summer’ black truffle (Tuber Aestivum Vittadini) and July to September the white Marzuolo truffle (Tuber Albidum Pico). The final three months of the year sees perhaps the most important period when the highly prized white truffle (Tuber Magnatum Pico) is harvested.

About Acqualagna

Like much of Le Marche, the territory of Acqualagna is full of historical remains of incredible interest. Do visit the Abbey of San Vicenzo known locally as the ‘Pietrapertusa’. It dates from the 9th century and was built by the Benedictine monks, then restored in 1271 by the Abbate Bonaventura.

The town sits along the Via Flaminia constructed in the third centiry BC and named after the consul Caio Flaminio. A little younger is the ‘Galleria‘ cut into the rocks by the Emperor Vespasian in 76 AD near Furlo.

Only in 1995 was a farm discovered dating from the same period. Together with the remains of the Roman municipality, ‘Pitinum Mergens’, it is possible to see close up how daily agricultural life must have been at the time. Do visit the dedicated museum.

Furlo Galleria

Artisan Stonemasons

The working of the local stone has remained in the local genes ever since the Furlo Gorge was constructed. Many important works we see today in Urbino originated here and these traditional skills have today transferred themselves to more contemporary designs and needs; kitchens, baths, stoves, fireplaces etc. Follow this link for more artisan crafts in the province of Pesaro Urbino.