Distinctively earthy, aromatic, and oh-so-delicious, truffles are the prized and pricey gems of the Italian kitchen.
As delightful as it is to indulge in fresh truffles – be they white or black, shaved or grated – hunting for these subterranean diamonds of the earth heightens their mystery and gastronomic appeal.
Truffle hunting in Tuscany happens in nature
Sandra Rosy Lotti, a celebrated Tuscan chef, cookbook author, and food writer, offers a popular truffle-hunting excursion and lunch in the province of Pisa, one of Italy’s most important regions for truffles. The hunt is part of the weeklong course at her Toscana Saporita Cooking School (the name translates to “Tasty Tuscany”), located by Lake Massaciuccoli in the nearby province of Lucca.
Lotti partners with Savini Tartufi, a leading three-generation, family-run truffle producer in the town of Forcoli, to showcase Tuscan truffles.
Accompanied by Lotti, a professional truffle hunter, and the hunter’s specially trained dogs, participants scour wooded areas on foot for the fragrant fungi. Without the dogs’ truffle-sniffing and digging abilities, the search would be fruitless, for truffles grow unseen on tree roots, anywhere from 2 to 12 inches below ground.
Truffle hunting involves serendipity, and success can be elusive.
Nevertheless, truffles are a guarantee back at Savini Tarfufi at the three-course lunch with wine pairings. A recent menu included bite-sized bruschetta with assorted truffle toppings, pasta and sauce with truffle butter and shaved white truffles, and a baked egg with truffle butter.
Whether found in the ground or accenting your plate, truffles offer a true Tuscan experience.
What’s appealing to the over-50 luxury traveler?
- Sandra Rosy Lotti, an expert in Tuscan regional cuisine, offers a truffle hunt and lunch with Savini Tarfufi, a premier truffle producer, either as part of her week-long cooking program at Toscana Saporita Cooking School or as a stand-alone event.
- Learning about and experiencing truffles, one of Italy’s great and rare delicacies, at their source with truffle professionals (people and dogs) is a singular culinary adventure.
- The class combines time spent in the great outdoors and at the dining table.
- Truffle hunting in Tuscany is an outdoor activity conducted on foot in the forest, so dress accordingly. Participants walk on lightly groomed trails through rolling, natural terrain. Paying attention to footing is important, given the likelihood of exposed tree roots, downed branches, fallen leaves, wet ground, etc. In addition, the truffle hunt is unplanned. Following truffles’ scent, dogs can veer off a path unexpectedly and in erratic directions.
- Finding truffles is, in essence, the luck of the draw. Outcomes depend on the weather, season, and if other truffle hunters have recently traversed the same grounds and gathered the treasures themselves.
IF YOU GO
For more ideas on enjoying truffles in Tuscany, see Mary Gilbert’s article on theroadstraveled.com
Photo credits: All photos by Mary Gilbert.
Disclosure: Toscana Saporita Cooking School provided a media discount to the author.
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