It’s that time again. It’s harvest season in Italy. There are festivals and events taking place all over the peninsula. The 3,500 Italian grape varieties are the most popular harvest, but festivals celebrate many other regional foods, including olives, chestnuts, and even olive oil.
Fiera Internazionale del Tartufo Bianco is an international white truffle festival that takes place in Alba, Piemontese, during October and November. It showcases what foodies consider to be the culinary equivalent to gold: the white truffle.
Italian truffles are not the same as the American chocolate confection. They are a fungus that is revered in Italy. They are found in restaurants, shops, and on tours. What is the truth behind trufflemania? How can you get involved in this celebration? Continue reading for a beginner’s guide on truffles in Italy.
What exactly is a truffle?
The tartufo, or truffle in Italian, is a fungus. It is specifically from the genus Tuber. In fact, the name “truffle” comes from the Latin tuber meaning “hump” and “swelling”. It is a highly prized food because of its intense, enticing smells. Most famously found in France and Italy, truffles come in two varieties: white, which is rarer and more aromatic, and black, which is slightly less common and less aromatic. An Italian white Alba truffle, weighing 1.51 kgs, was sold for $160,000 a few years back. It is not clear what the Hong Kong retail investor who purchased it with more than three pounds of truffle did with it.
Truffles have been wooing civilizations all over the globe long before Godiva was invented. These delicious delicacies were enjoyed by ancient Egyptians, who ate them with goose fat. The Greek and Roman philosophers also considered them magical. Although truffles were not often mentioned in medieval times, they had regained their place on the culinary throne by the second millennium. The French even managed to cultivate them by the late 1800s. The Industrial Revolution and the destruction of land and population that followed the World Wars II saw the end of truffle fields. Truffles can now be found mostly in the wild, with the assistance of animals. French truffle dogs are often bred with pigs or hounds, while Italian truffle dogs are usually bred with local hunting breeds such as the Lagotto Romagnolo.
Where can I buy authentic Italian truffles?
We can’t praise Italian truffles enough as one of our favorite fall foods in Italy. There are so many ways to taste them, including truffle hunting trips, local truffle dishes and taking home a piece of the experience. There are many truffles scattered throughout Italy, but how can you tell if you are getting the real deal? Here are some key facts to help you get started.
These facts are a guide to Italian truffles. They have been broken down into different varieties. It can be used to find out if truffles will be in season at your destination, to identify if a dish is made with local varieties, or to impress fellow travelers.
Italian White Truffle: The most aromatic and expensive of truffles, white truffles are abundant in Piedmont, which is home to the International White Truffle Festival, held each year to celebrate the delicious delicacy. The white truffle’s season is short and it can be found from October through December. Perhaps the most well-known dish made with white truffles is tajarin, a local egg pasta. For a Piemontese-style Piemontese meal of tajarinai tartufi, Piemontese meat, and a bottle Bruno Ceretto’s Barolo, if you are in Alba during the truffle season, make sure to stop at La Piola.
Italian Black Truffle: also called the Perigord truffle. Umbria is home to the most coveted black truffles. Urbani Truffles, the most famous truffle company in the world, is located there. Urbani’s headquarters is in Scheggino, and they also have a fun museum which offers truffle tours. Are you not planning to visit Umbria anytime soon? Urbani also has New York offices and a truffle laboratory. They also offer truffle products for sale on their website. If you want to know more about Umbria, check out our blog.
Italian summer truffle is in season from March through November. This black truffle can be found all over central Italy, from Tuscany up to Le Marche. Visitors can join truffle hunts during this long season and enjoy shaved truffles on every dish possible. Black truffles can be topped with beef carpaccio, or sprinkled on local pasta at Cortona’s Trattoria Toscana and Il Cipresso in Loro Ciuffenna. Avoid the ubiquitous truffle shop – these souvenirs, which are often made from cheap imitations of real truffles such as Urbani and other high quality products, are not as authentic as the ones you will find in Rome’s streets.
Fresh truffles can be difficult to find and require a lot of knowledge. It is best to order fresh truffles during fall when they are available at special prices. Truffle oil is another wonderful way to bring a little bit of the magic aroma home.