From the most to the least expensive, Italian truffles have a unique aroma and taste. And if you are a truffle lover, today we will talk about how to find truffles in Italy!
The truffle is an underground fungus, i.e. it grows spontaneously in the ground near trees. It is a relatively rare mushroom, and is therefore one of the most precious Italian foods.
Finding Italian truffles is a very popular and fascinating activity. But it is not for everyone. Hunting for truffles requires a licence and a lot of experience by the truffle hunter, to avoid damaging the truffle beds and to respect the ecosystem. Moreover, truffle season must be taken into account. In Italy it often differs from region to region, but the best period tends to be autumn, the reference season for Italian truffle.
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In this article, I will tell you all the interesting facts about truffles, but above all how to find truffles in Italy.
Where to find truffles in Italy?
With regard to truffles Italy is an area of exceptional agri-food interest, boasting a fertile soil that is distinguished by its composition and microclimate.
But precisely what are Italian truffles? Where can you find truffles in Italy? There are many regions. Certainly, the point to consider when finding truffles is the Apennine mountains, as it hosts favourable pedoclimatic conditions for truffle growth.
The most important region where to find Italian truffles is undoubtedly Piedmont, in particular the area around Alba. Not to forget the areas around Acqualagna in Le Marche for white truffles, and Bagnoli Irpino for Italian black truffles, in Campania. However, there are further regions, including Tuscany, especially the municipality of San Miniato, Emilia Romagna, Lazio, Umbria, Molise and Calabria.
In nature, there are many species of truffles, but not all of them are valuable and edible. In fact, in Italy the law only allows the collection and marketing of nine species of truffle.
To distinguish them, the most common method is used, manual organoleptic analysis. Flavour, scent, appearance and maturation period are the parameters taken into account. Each species differs from the other in these peculiarities, demonstrating the complexity of wild truffles.
Where to find Italian black truffles
Prized Black Truffles are the most expensive of all Italian black truffles. They are also known as the Norcia Truffles. In fact, they grow in the woods of Umbria and are harvested from mid-November to mid-March. They have got a particular flavour, tending towards the sweetish. This is why they are also called “Sweet Truffles“.
Among black truffles, we also find the Black Winter Truffle. Geographically, it grows almost all over Italy, in particular along the slopes of the Apennines such as Piedmont, Emilia Romagna, Tuscany and Umbria. It is harvested from mid-November to the end of March. Obviously, it is less expensive than the Prized Black Truffle, but it cooks well, so it is used in many recipes.
If there is the Black Winter Truffle, there is also the Black Summer Truffle, whose harvest period starts in May and ends in August. Where do you find truffles in Italy? Summer Truffles can be found in almost all regions. But they can also be found beyond the borders of the Italian peninsula, for example in France and Spain.
The Uncinato Truffle is the typical autumn truffle and is a very popular variety. It is harvested from the beginning of October to the end of December and prefers shady areas, not directly exposed to the sun. This is why it can be found in mountain environments, where the soil is humid. Similar soil and climate characteristics reign in the areas of Piedmont, Emilia Romagna, Lazio, Campania and Molise.
Where do white truffles grow?
Let us now turn to the White Truffle, by far the most precious of all Italian truffles. To be used raw, it is appreciated by great connoisseurs and chefs. White Truffles are rare, as they require certain soil characteristics, which in Italy are only found in Southern Piedmont, Tuscany, Marche and Umbria. Nicknamed the “king of truffles“, white Italian truffle is harvested from the beginning of October to the end of December.
White Truffle Bianchetto, also known as “Tartufo Marzuolo”, is a less precious and less expensive variety of white truffle. It can be found from mid-January to mid-April and is characterised by a rather strong, but distinct aroma. In this case, finding truffles is easy in Emilia Romagna, Tuscany, Umbria, Marche, Lazio, Campania and Molise.
Less common Italian truffles: where do you find them?
A further, but less common, type is the Muscat Truffle. Similar to the Winter Truffle, it is a type of it. In fact, it is also called Brumale Truffle and is harvested from November to March. Its development requires a specific habitat, namely soils rich in hummus. We can find wild truffles of this type in the usual Apennine mountains of the peninsula.
The Ordinary Black Truffle is also very similar to the Brumale type, but differs in that it has a strong phenolic smell and a slightly bitter taste. This is why it has little commercial value. The Ordinary Black Truffle is also known as the Bagnoli Truffle. In fact, it is found in Campania, but not only there. In addition to the Apennine mountains, this Italian truffle can also be found in Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia. The truffle season is from September to January.
We conclude with the Smooth Black Truffle. This type of truffle is less well known than others, but has excellent aromatic characteristics. It is harvested from September to December and shares its habitat with the White Truffle. Consequently, it matures in similar soils, but prefers the plains. It can be found in many regions of Northern and Central Italy.
How and where can you find truffles in Italy?
Wild truffles have the peculiarity of living in symbiosis with the roots of certain tree plants. But more than a peculiarity it is an “obligation”, because only in this way truffles are able to develop.
The tree plants with which they enter into symbiosis differ according to the type of truffle. For example, white truffles have a symbiotic relationship with white willow, lime, hazel and oak. Black truffles develop at the foot of the willow, the rockrose and also near the hazel and the linden tree.
In both cases, the soil is poor in phosphorus and nitrogen, which is favourable for truffle growth. However, in the case of white truffles, the most fertile soil is aerated, with a calcareous, clayey or sandy origin. Black truffles also prefer calcareous areas, but with a high debris content and a compact subsoil.
Consequently, to the question where to find truffles in Italy, the answer is simple. The places of greatest interest are wooded areas, which are lacking in herbaceous plants.
In their life cycle, wild truffles take about six months to mature. It is advisable to pick them at this point in the cycle, for reasons of taste and quality, but also because it is only when they are ripe that the reproductive phase begins, which allows truffle beds to be maintained.
A study in progress: truffle farming
In nature, wild truffles grow spontaneously. However, truffle can even be cultivated. Truffle farming refers to the set of cultivation and management techniques adopted for the production of truffles. It is currently at an experimental stage in Italy and France. Its spread is probably a consequence of the decrease in natural availability, due both to human causes, such as deforestation and pollution, and to climatic causes, due to the increase in temperature.
How to find truffles in Italy
Truffle hunting requires passion and technique. It is not for everyone, as a special pass is required. This is obtained after passing an exam, aimed at ascertaining knowledge of the species and types of truffle, how to find truffles, and state and regional legislation.
Not only that, but the assistance of a good four-legged friend is necessary to understand how to find truffles. You should know that all quadrupeds can be trained with the aim of finding truffles. But, of course, several factors such as age and breed may influence the outcome of training.
Traditionally, truffles were collected by pigs. The disadvantage of this method is the tendency of the pig, which is greedy for truffles, to swallow the “found treasure”. In addition, finding truffles in this way is forbidden by law, as it causes environmental damage.
In Italy today only properly trained dogs with a particularly developed sense of smell are used to find truffles. The most suitable breeds for this purpose are the Lagotto Romagnolo, the German Bracco and the Pointer.
While hunting for truffles, the spade is also very important because it is the tool used to extract the truffle. It is also important for the truffle hunter to put back the removed soil afterwards, to allow the next truffle to form.
Truffle hunting is prohibited at night, from one hour after sunset to one hour before sunrise. In addition, it is prohibited for all truffle species from 1 May to 31 May and from 1 September to 20 September.
Finding truffles with local Experts!
With Italia Delight you can! After learning where to find truffles in Italy, through various activities you have the chance to enjoy a unique adventure experience:
- Truffle hunting in Piedmont
- Hunting for truffles in Tuscany
- Truffle hunting in Umbria
- Hunting for truffles near Rome
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