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The dogs returning with a  truffle | © Donna Sozio
The dogs returning with a truffle | © Donna Sozio
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How to Hunt for Black Truffles in Umbria, Italy

Picture of Donna Sozio
Updated: 18 August 2017
Black summer truffles: morsels of deliciousness that make their appearance from May to August in the rolling hills of Umbria. If the thought of freshly shaved truffles and rustic Italian cuisine makes your mouth water, keep reading. We tell you exactly how to hunt these tiny gems.
Black summer truffles
Black summer truffles | © Donna Sozio

What is black truffle hunting?

An age-old tradition passed down through generations, in Umbria black summer truffle hunting is still a way of life for many. Hunters and their highly trained dogs (not many people use pigs anymore) set off in search what Italians call ‘the black diamond of the kitchen’.

Dogs delivering black summer truffles
Dogs delivering black summer truffles | © Donna Sozio

As part of your holiday deep in the heart of Umbria, why not choose to discover more about one of Italy’s long-standing traditions? You can accompany a truffle hunter and watch as his dogs, with their sensitive sense of smell, sniff out the exact terrain home to the delectable fungi.

A truffle hunter smelling the soil
A truffle hunter smelling the soil | © Donna Sozio

A few clues as to the ideal habitat for truffle growth are scorched areas where no plants grow, or where there are small groves of pine trees and shrubs. The dogs quickly pick up the scent, dig up, and deliver (in return for a treat, of course) all the decadent black summer truffles you can handle. Within the hour, you may have up to ten or more.

Sniffing out and digging up a black truffle
Sniffing out and digging up a black truffle | © Donna Sozio

Book with a tour operator

Some tour operators take up to sixteen guests, which lessens the authenticity of the experience; you don’t want to feel like this is a heavily commercialised aspect of Italian life. Instead, opt for a tour with less people. Such tours provide an intimate setting in which you can really get to know your English-speaking guide and the truffle hunter, who will spend time showing you his techniques.

Black Summer Truffle Hunting
The dogs returning with a truffle | © Donna Sozio

Nestled between the stunning medieval hill town of Orvieto and the Tuscan border, an excellent place to enjoy a spot of truffle hunting is at Poggiovalle’s Country House and Farm. Explore its countryside estate, which is spread over 100 hectares of rolling hills and features views of the majestic medieval hilltop citadels, olive groves, and restored Italian villages.

The best black truffle dishes

One of the rewards of truffle hunting is getting the opportunity to prepare and enjoy a delectable brunch with what you’ve found. Poggiovalle’s menu features an antipasto misto: a trio of mozzarella-filled black truffle-like breaded balls, mini toasts with creamy butter and truffle with Spanish anchovies, farm fresh cheese with truffle honey, and burrata topped with (yes, again) black truffles.

Black Summer Truffle Hunting
Antipasto al tartufo | © Donna Sozio

Another favorite is thick Tuscan pici loaded with shaved black summer truffles, which can be followed up by an Umbrian specialty – stracciatella omelet with truffles. It may sound overly simple, but it’s a divine second course.

Black Summer Truffle Hunting
Tuscan pici pasta with fresh black summer truffles | © Donna Sozio

Of course, a mandoline slicer and extra black truffle are within arm’s reach on the table. Can one ever have too many truffles? That is the question. If you answered no, visit Umbria in the fall and try your luck at hunting the ever elusive white truffle.