I love the autumn, if it wasn’t for its weather! But despite the short dark days, autumn in Le Marche means beautiful colours (have you noticed our new header image?) and..even more food, of course! Last year with Mamma Graziella we learned how to bake from the grapes must, a very autumnal food.
This year we go on a hunt, instead..a truffle hunt.
My fellow bloggers Elke and Isabelle enjoyed a whole day surrounded with truffles in Acqualagna, the “capital of truffles”, and they have experienced a lot!
First, they visited a truffle factory on site. When we speak about truffles, we should remember that, of course, the big and most prestigious truffles are sold directly to restaurants and to private individuals. All others are offered to the factories and processed into all sorts of truffle products: truffle spreads, pickled truffles, truffle risotto mixes, truffle honey (delicious with cheese!), Etc.
The truffle hunters, who sometimes look daring and adventurous, come by and offer their treasures. If they are found to be good, the factory buys them and the processing begins: with toothbrushes and nail brushes, the truffles are scrupulously cleaned. And then processed in large cauldrons to the final products.
So, next stop was a local deli shop where the products from the factories can be tasted. WARNING! The truffle oil, which you can buy very cheap at discount stores, is usually made synthetically! The manufacturers in Acqualagna do not work with synthetic products, and they should be proud of it!
After the little taste buds in the shop, it is time of a full lunch with truffles. There are a few on-site restaurants and so far, we have been able to recommend everyone we visited. The Osteria Braceria Plinc in the centre, which was housed in an old mill, is for example very good. There were appetizers, pasta dishes and main courses with truffles. A pasta dish with truffles was available from about 15€, I would say..not bad at all!
After the meal, the truffle hunting started! The truffle hunter is a key figure in the hunting, but his dog is any less. The dog that accompanied Elke and Isabelle was named “Babbo”, and it was already very eager to be off the leash and to start the truffle hunt. Babbo was a kind of hunting dog, but the hunter thought that basically all dog breeds would be suitable for truffle hunting. You just have to see that the dog is intelligent, has a good nose and is playful, so it makes the search fun. In fact, more experienced truffle dogs would even pass on their skills to the younger dogs when hunting with them. It takes two years to train a good truffle dog and so good dogs are sometimes stolen or poisoned because the competition is high.
As soon as Babbo was free to go, it began to zigzag, its nose always close to the ground. And it was not long before he found the first truffles. Carefully, the hunter dug it out of the ground. Actually, dogs have the advantage over truffle pigs that they do not want to eat the truffles themselves. But Babbo made an exception: his master had a lot of trouble keeping him from eating the truffle.
Here is a video recorded by Elke of the truffle hunter and “Babbo”:
The black truffles can now be “grown” quite well – you need a piece of woodland with properly created soil, a special moisture of the soil with water veins and corresponding plants such as oaks or willows, and truffles grow particularly well. The expensive white truffles are not that good, but you can find also here in this area the first attempts to grow them. Nevertheless, the dog is really necessary: it can smell when the truffle is “ripe”.
Elke was not new in Acqualagna, indeed she enjoyed some other restaurants and attraction, as the truffle museum, here. The small town of 4500 inhabitants lives from truffles, and it has the right to it! Here you can find all three types of truffles: the simple black summer truffle, the exquisite black truffle (tartufo nero pregiato) and the king of truffles , the precious white truffle. Therefore, truffles are found almost year-round in the area.
However, you will find the white truffle only in winter, which is why there are also various truffle fairs and festivals in the area. In Acqualagna marketsquare, which looks completely sleepy in the summer, crowd of people gathers outside even on cooler winter evenings just for its majesty the truffle. Of course you can find food stalls, local restaurants and other deli shops that sell truffles, but not only that. You can find also many other delicacies!
There are also truffle centres and truffle fairs in other parts of the Marche, such as Amandola, Pergola or Sant’Angelo in Vado. In Acqualagna, the truffle fair is usually held on several weekends from late October to mid-November.
For the truffle hunting there are several providers with varying programs and very different prices. Here is a small selection, suggested by Elke (should we call her a real expert on truffle?):
- Ristorante Lampino in Acqualagna: The tour was very good, with English translator and very tasty little truffle dishes served at the hunter’s house. On the website I see truffle tours for 60 € for up to 15 people, without degustation.
- The last exciting truffle tour we booked through “Acqualagna Tartufi“. It cost 50 € per group, no matter how many people are present, including factory tour and excursion with truffle hunters, but exclusive lunches. A big tasting costs another 5-7 € p.p. more.
- Marcheholidays also offers truffle tours as a tour operator, but I find the prices a bit peppery. They offer complete packages with lunch, wine, translator and truffle search for 80 EUR per person.
- Or simply search the Internet for the keywords Marche + Truffle + Hunt, there are even more providers.