Truffles are some of the most prized gourmet delicacies in the world. Difficult to find, expensive to purchase and impossible to cultivate, the fungus fruits are favoured by the world’s top chefs for their unique and powerful flavours. As truffle season approaches, take a trip to truffle hunting paradise Tuscany, where white and black truffles grow underground and take centre stage in local cuisine.
The diamonds of the kitchen
Truffle season is highly anticipated by food connoisseurs around the world, but what makes the gourmet delicacy so special? Firstly, it’s the flavour. Often referred to as ‘diamonds of the kitchen’, truffles have a strong, distinctive taste that can’t be matched. A few shavings on top of pasta or even on eggs for breakfast, is enough to completely transform a dish. Truffles are also rare. They’re the fruits of a subterranean fungi which means they grow underground and are particularly hard to find. Making their discovery even more complex is the fact that they can only grow among the roots of specific tree varieties, such as hornbeam, oak and birch. There are many different types of truffles and each has its own harvest season. In Tuscany, autumn is the best time to find white truffles, while the black variety is more common in the New Year.
A guide to truffle hunting
Sourcing and picking truffles requires an excellent nose and expert knowledge of the countryside. In Tuscany, ‘truffle hunters’ have years of experience and inside knowledge of their ‘patch’. In many cases, top-secret maps of truffle-rich areas are passed down between generations. Hunters usually work with a highly-trained sniffer dog. Pigs were originally used to seek out the distinctive smell but since dogs are less likely to consume the treasured findings, canine companions are now the norm.
Local hunter Giulio Benuzzi and his dog Eda have been gathering truffles from the woods surrounding Florence for over a decade. The pair hosts fun yet educational truffle hunting experiences for guests of Hotel Savoy, during which participants can join them on a forest ‘hunt’ and purchase fresh truffles found during the trip.
Exploring Tuscany with Hotel Savoy
Autumn is a key period for gastronomy in Tuscany. Not only are truffles in season, the grape and olive harvests also take place. Autumn is a prime time in which to explore the Tuscan countryside and sample other local specialities like extra virgin olive oil and wine. With this in mind, Hotel Savoy has created a special package highlighting the best of the region’s seasonal produce. During a three-night stay, guests can enjoy experiences such as a white truffle hunt led by an expert Tuscan huntsman and his dog, followed by a three-course wine pairing dinner at Irene, featuring their freshly-picked truffles. Guests can also take part in food-related activities such as wine tastings and day trips to the region's finest wineries, cellars and farms.
Whether you’re a truffle expert or simply wish to sample the delicacy, make the most out of truffle season and enjoy a Tuscan dinner at Irene.