Though truffles can be unearthed in Tuscany all year round, the most luxurious, the white truffle, or tartufo bianco, is now in season, giving visitors to the region the opportunity to partake in the traditional pastime of hunting for these culinary treasures.
Italians have hunted for truffles for hundreds of years, and traditionally used female pigs to help hunt for them, though they were in fact more of a hindrance, eating the truffles before they came anywhere close to the kitchen. Today, dogs specially bred for the task, lagotti, help hunters seek out the truffles, with it taking around four years for a lagotto to become a fully-trained and seasoned truffle hunter.
There are several professional truffle hunters who offer ‘truffle hunting tours’, where you will be guided through woodlands, accompanied by dogs, in search of white truffles. Our fantastic hotel, Asilo Masi, in the heart of Tuscany a short drive from Pisa, offers an excellent truffle hunting holiday package, where alongside your stay you’ll also enjoy a guided truffle hunting session with expert operators Savini, with prices starting from €650 for two people.
During the hunt, you’ll learn that truffles are found most often growing around the roots of oak, chestnut, hazel and beech trees, and can be buried up to a metre below ground, making the help of the dogs extremely useful. When the dog indicates a possible find, the truffle hunter will gently dig into the ground with a narrow spade to bring up the truffle without damaging it, before filling up the hole to allow truffles to regrow there.
If you’re fortunate enough to unearth a white truffle, it is best to consume it as soon as possible. White truffles are traditionally served finely sliced or grated over plain pasta or baked or fried eggs, adding a new dimension of flavour to simple ingredients. Italians will advise, however, against actually cooking the truffle, as this is seen to lessen the flavour. If you’d like to learn more about cooking this fine delicacy, Asilo Masi and Savini also offer with their truffle hunting experience a fantastic truffle cookery lesson, where you’ll learn how to best prepare the truffle as well as sample its delicious flavours alongside wines and coffee.
If you’re also planning on staying in one of our luxury hotels, Tuscany has plenty to offer. Chic Retreats has 49 fantastic boutique hotels to choose from for a memorable stay in Tuscany, from villas surrounded by olive groves to grand townhouses in the heart of Florence.
Image: Mortazavifar, Creative Commons