Each year, as the summer begins to end, the air starts to cool and the colours of a new season start to show, some of Italy’s most highly prized delicacies are searched for and plucked from the Italian countryside. Truffles, or tartufo as they are known by the locals, are among the world’s most luxurious foods, with chefs and food connoisseurs clamouring to get their hands on these wild, earthy, flavoursome and aromatic delicacies. For the people of Piedmont, Tuscany, Umbria and Le Marche, where they are commonly found, truffles are an important part of culinary life. Join us as we explore Italy’s beautiful truffle towns and discover the influential role that truffles play in their culture.
The Piedmontese hills of Langhe, Roero and Monferrato are rich with the world famous tartufo bianco – more commonly known as white truffles – undoubtedly the most fragrant and flavourful form of truffle, with its white-brown colouring and smooth surface covering delicious hints of fermented cheese and garlic. It’s no surprise, then, that the people of Piedmont are known for celebrating their highly prized export. The Alba truffle fair is the world’s largest celebration of white truffles, with people coming from all over the globe to try some of the freshly picked delicacies.
Piedmont is an area where classic recipes have been perfected through countless generations, and where locally sourced produce plays an important role. The arrival of autumn (or fall, as our American amici say) means that mouthwatering truffles and sweet-tasting hazelnuts – another of Piedmont’s famous exports – will certainly be on the menu.
The rolling hills of Tuscany may be commonly associated with sun baked summers, colourful poppy fields and some of the best food in the world – incredible wines, olive oils and balsamic vinegars to name just a few – but when autumn comes around, it’s time for the area’s truffles to take centre stage.
The gorgeous medieval towns of Volterra and Palaia are known to host wonderful white truffle festivals in truly idyllic settings, but if you’re looking to treat your tastebuds in true Italian style, head to the hilltop town of San Miniato. Set halfway between Pisa and Florence, this historic town offers breathtaking views over the gorgeous greenery of Tuscany. It’s the perfect place to unwind while you try an authentic Tuscan truffle dish, such as truffled rabbit, ravioli with truffle ricotta cheese, and the classic tagliolini al tartufo.
Umbria, affectionately known as the green heart of Italy, is a region known for its beautiful landscape as much as for its sumptuous food. It’s a land that’s home to dense forests, ancient villages, and the shimmering Lake Trasimeno, where the people are dedicated to doing things the traditional way.
The local cuisine relies on Etruscan heritage and local produce, and as it is home to Italy’s delicious black truffles – including the much sought after Black Perigord – it’s no surprise that truffles are a key ingredient in many local dishes. These black truffles, which have a taste and smell reminiscent of the earth, fruit, and chocolate, are used in everything from starters such as crostini al tartufo to antipasti plates, where the truffles are served alongside rich, seasoned cheeses and smoky cured meats. In fact, one of the most popular Umbrian pasta dishes is strangozzi served with grated black truffles.
If you want to combine a taste of Italian coastal life with an amazing truffle tasting trip, you’d do well to head towards Le Marche. Stretching along the Adriatic coast, with hill towns to rival those of Tuscany and Umbria, beautiful white pebble beaches to relax on and the awe-inspiring mountain ranges of Monti Sibillini to admire, Le Marche is a feast for the eyes as much as for the stomach.
The area surrounding the commune of Acqualagna at one time supplied Italy with almost two thirds of its white truffles, which means there should be no shortage of flavoursome treats to try, including truffle butter, truffle sauce, pasta dishes – including Maccheroncini di Campofilone with truffle – and crescia di Pasqua a pannatone, a fresh bread with salt, egg and truffle.