Truffle Hunting in Tuscany

Sunday, 28 June 2015
While on a Silversea cruise earlier this summer, I had the amazing opportunity to go hunting for truffles in the countryside of Tuscany. The experience was listed in the activities option on the cruise itinerary and while James, his family, and his family’s friends were touring another part of of the area, I went via bus with around 10 other cruise guests to an amazing village in the county.

We spent a few minutes listening to a well-versed truffle hunter (and part owner of the Savini family business) talk about the truffle hunting process. 

He introduced us to his dog (which is not an actual “full-bred” truffle hunting dog) that sniffs out the truffles. The dog is medium-sized with short, wiry, curly fur and obviously, a nose for truffles. Our guide explained that people also use pigs for truffle hunting but dogs are preferable because pigs will eat the truffles! Can you blame them?

As we all gathered back onto the bus, the truffle hunter and his dog jumped into a little red truck and sped off to the woods in front of us. Once there, the dog relieved himself (this is apparently part of the animal’s regular routine), sniffed around on a gravel trail for a few minutes and darted off. The truffle hunting adventure had begun!

Because I was one of the more nimble participants on this outing (Silverseas is a great cruise line for luxury travel and many of the guests are in their 60+), I kept close to the dog and hunter for the first search. We were literally running through the woods and jumping over fallen trees in order to keep up with the dog. He eventually stopped near a few tree roots and started digging. 

The guide explained that the hunter must stay close to the animal because it can start digging for a truffle and scratch it with his claws. A damaged truffle is not worth as much as one that comes out of the ground unscathed and has to be used for cooking rather than sent to market. 

In just 45 minutes, the hero – the dog – located four truffles the size of limes. The dog can only catch the scent of a truffle if it is becoming ripe. Of the four found on our excursion, two of them smelled more ripe than the others. The scent is a deep, heady smell that reminds me of damp, mossy woods. This is what the truffle looks like:

While it was fascinating and exhilarating to participate in the actual truffle hunt, the second part of the afternoon was just as amazing. We were treated to a three-course meal made with all things truffle and Italian red wine. It was hands down one of the best culinary experiences that I’ve ever had. I will post details on this place at the end of the article. If you are a serious foodie, put it on your bucket list! 

We started with a plate of appetizers. This included prosciutto infused with truffle oil and made with flakes of truffle, cheese made with truffle, freshly baked bread drizzled with truffle oil and even olives infused with truffle oil.

The next course (my favorite) was pasta made with bits of truffle, topped with a truffle cream sauce (including a bit of truffle butter) and fresh, shaved truffle on top.

They also served amazing little dishes of baked egg with fresh truffle shavings and truffle oil topped with a dash of truffle salt.

The Savini family truffle hunt and lunch is certainly one of the best culinary experiences out there. The only thing that compares (for me) was the cooking lesson I took in Uruguay. This was an authentic "farm" to table process that we were about to participate in and admire. 

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