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’.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.