Just reading the word Tuscany brings up all sorts of things in one’s mind – red wine, charming villages and breathtaking scenery to start. And if you read “truffle hunt in Tuscany”, it takes that image of Tuscany and elevates it to a whole different level.
Cate and Anne are two of my closest and dearest college friends and after years of talking about it, we finally traveled to Italy together. I planned the trip to show them Italy the way I want them to see it…yes I can be bossy. Never having been on a truffle hunt myself, I figured it would be a “really fun thing to do”. As we drove along the dirt road to get to the hamlet where we would meet our truffle hunter, we knew this just wasn’t going to be any ordinary day.
Take one (very handsome) Italian guy, two adorable dogs and three very fun (if I do say so myself) American gals and we experienced an unforgettable day under the Tuscan sun.
The three of us felt like we were dropped smack dab in the middle of a movie scene. The meeting spot was a beautiful restaurant in a small Tuscan village 45 minutes south of Florence. When Jacopo, the tartufaio (truffle hunter) came out to introduce himself, the three of us gasped, then looked at each other because we all thought the same thing. Not to objectify an extremely handsome man, but it took us back to our college days when good looking guys were a daily topic of conversation. And here we were, three middle aged American women doing a double take. Jacopo was dreamy, his two dogs Pia and Ufo were sweet and well behaved, the bluebird sky was dripping with sunshine and the Tuscan countryside looked like a painting. We had to pinch ourselves.
We sat down and were offered a coffee and Jacopo who was as nice and down to earth as can be, began our primer on truffles. Truffle hunters need to pass a test to get licensed. He told us truffles are found at the root of oak and poplar trees where grass doesn’t grow. And it takes five moons for a truffle to develop to a decent size. Since this was April, we would be looking for summer black truffles versus white truffles which appear in the fall. White truffles, the king of truffles, command the highest prices. In 2017, the prices were the highest ever due to the lack of rain and the going rate was over $3100 per pound! For a fungus!
Pia and Ufo are working dogs. Ufo is a five year old male Portugese Water Dog and Pia, a three year old female is a San Miniato, specifically bred to hunt for truffles. Which meant as much we wanted to play with them and give them some love, we had to wait until the hunt was over. Do you know how hard it is to limit your puppy love with two happy dogs running through the fields of Tuscany??
We were ready to get started.
Jacopo assured us we would not leave the beautiful fields empty handed. The dogs are trained to follow the scent of the truffle, to find them and not to dig them up. As we walked down the path, Pia suddenly took off and we hurried to catch up with her. Pia knew exactly what she was looking for…and success! She found the first one of the morning!
We continued on our hunt/walk with Jacopo, a naturalist and bee keeper, as he pointed out the various trees, plants and birds and described his life as a truffle hunter and bee keeper in this stunning part of Italy. Cinghale (wild boar) often times get to the truffles first and we saw the remnants of their tracks. They, as well as snakes and certain plants are dangers to the dogs and Jacopo watches Ufo and Pia closely and they are often on leash. By the end of the morning, Pia found three truffles!
Anne, Cate and I kept saying to each other, we can’t believe we are doing this.
Our time with Jacapo was coming to an end. But what does one do after a truffle hunt in Tuscany? Eat truffles of course! Complete with wine pairings. We started with bruschetta slathered with unsalted butter, shaved truffles and a glass of Prosecco . Next was an antipasto of the most amazing buratta with truffles and a local Tuscan Chardonnay. The pasta course was fresh tagliatelle with truffles paired with a Chianti Classico. And the main course was an amazing sliced steak, tagliata, with…wait for it…truffles! Pouring was a Super Tuscan. Luscious desserts (without truffles) followed…
I never considered myself a real truffle lover – I liked them but I’m not someone who swooned when they saw it on a menu. This Tuscan experience has changed that forever.
Truffle hunting was a bucket list item for sure. But to say it was “checked off the list” doesn’t begin to describe the emotion and the joy of the experience. My heart beats faster with adventures like this and it feeds my soul. It’s a sense of joy, delight, pleasure and sheer happiness. What more could one ask for than best friends, a beautiful countryside and a true Italian adventure!
I’m not just enthusiastic about travel—I live travel, each and every day. From plotting out my clients’ next great escape, to logging airmiles on my own adventures (I always have a suitcase packed and at the ready!), travel drives me in everything I do.
I’ve learned a few things along the way, and I’d love to share them with you. Learn a bit more about my journey to founding my own travel agency—it involves quite a few glasses of Italian wine!
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