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Exploring the Tradition of Truffle Hunting in Tuscany

Tuscany is renowned for its culinary culture, from cheeses and breads to an endless flow of exceptional wines. Yet the jewel in the crown of this famous region is surely the truffle. With its distinctive earthy aroma, this celebrated fungus can add a unique twist to any dish.

As well as sealing their place in the epicurean encyclopaedia, truffles are notable for their rarity and big-ticket prices. In fact, a 3.3-pound Tuscan white truffle once exchanged hands for a staggering $330,000 (around £272,000)!

If you fancy finding a truffle of your own, then you’d better get hunting. In this article, we dive into the tradition of truffle hunting in Tuscany, exploring the history, methods and best ways to get involved.

An Italian truffle is dug from the ground using a hand tool.

Image: Ultimate Driving Tours

What is truffle hunting?

To say that truffles are rare is a bit of an understatement. They grow naturally in central Europe – famously Italy, France and Croatia – and are found underground near the roots of trees such as oak and linden.

Despite 21st-century technology, attempts to recreate truffle growing conditions remain costly and time-consuming, so the best way to acquire these natural delights is to get outside in the woodland and search for them.

This is often done with an accompanying animal (as discussed below) and usually at night, when the truffle aroma is at its strongest.

A hilltop town in a lush green valley in Italy.

Image: Ultimate Driving Tours

Where is the best truffle hunting in Tuscany?

Italy is famous for its white truffles. It is often said that the Piedmont region – specifically the city of Alba – boasts the finest white truffles in the world, although many argue that the truffles of Tuscany have a better flavour and offer greater value for money.

Tuscany, particularly around the areas of Siena and Pisa, is therefore one of the best areas to hunt for truffles, as you can find some exquisite truffles in a less commercialised environment. It is said that Mugello – a beautiful area in the north of the region, quite close to Florence – is one of the best truffle hunting grounds.

However, the precise locations tend to be very closely guarded, as professional hunters – known as trifolau – prefer to keep quiet for obvious reasons. Luckily, Tuscany is one of Italy’s most spectacular regions with some incredible luxury hotels and castles, so taking a trip here to hunt for truffles is always a worthwhile experience, even if you walk away with nothing.

A close up shot of a man holding an Italian truffle in one hand.

Image: Ultimate Driving Tours

What kind of truffles are found in Tuscany?

Tuscany is home to many different types of mouth-watering truffles, which can be found at various stages of the year.

The king of all truffles is the rare white truffle – tartufo bianco – which is prized for its pungent earthy aroma. This can most certainly be found in Tuscany if you know where to look and have luck on your side. Don’t confuse this for the tartufo marzuolo, with a similar colour but softer flavour.

However, you are more likely to stumble across a black summer truffle (tartufo scorzone), with a softer aroma. The black truffle may lack the prestige, but it is more robust and easier to cook with. You may also find a black winter truffle (tartufo brumale), which is another common truffle with a very strong flavour.

Two men crouch and inspect the forest floor for hidden truffles.

Image: Ultimate Driving Tours

When is truffle hunting season in Italy? What should I wear when truffle hunting?

Truffles can be found in Italy almost all year round, although you can time your visit to increase your chances of finding certain truffle types.

For example, the strong tartufo brumale can be found from January to March, with the softer tartufo marzuolo also growing around this time (mid-January to April). Meanwhile, the tartufo scorzone can be found from the start of June until the end of November.

As for the treasured tartufo bianco, these are found in Tuscany from September through to November.

The best season to go is therefore autumn, where you may find some of those prized white truffles. In this season, Tuscany tends to remain quite mild, so some light clothing will suffice – although bring a rain jacket as the weather can be a little damp at times.

A fluffy dog awaits instructions on a truffle mission in a leafy forest.

Image: Ultimate Driving Tours

Truffle dogs and truffle pigs: do they still use pigs to hunt for truffles in Tuscany?

In the past, truffle foraging was often accompanied by truffle hunting pigs, who are naturally attracted to the scent. However, the truffle pig had a tendency to eat the truffles when they were found, which proved problematic for the truffle foragers. After all, an expensive white truffle is no good when it is inside a pig.

Today it is more common and certainly more sensible to use a specially trained dog to hunt the goods. These dogs can be trained to follow the scent, although are not compelled to eat the prizes.

Finely shaved white truffles adorn a delicate meal on an Ultimate Driving Tours luxury holiday.

Image: Ultimate Driving Tours

The best dishes to eat with Tuscan truffles

For all their superlatives, truffles are ugly things. This is not a problem, because the sole reason we love them is for their flavours and aromas.

Truffles go very well with pretty much any other foods, from French fries to ice cream. Of course, a fresh truffle is the perfect complement to some of Italy’s famed pizza and pasta dishes.

If in doubt, use the pungent aroma of fresh white truffle shaved over a creamy mushroom linguine or parmesan risotto – these are perfect dishes for sharing a romantic moment with your loved one.

Guests enjoy an intimate meal under a pergola on a luxury driving tour.

Image: Ultimate Driving Tours

Searching for the greatest food and wine holiday in Tuscany with truffle hunting?

The best and most memorable way to truly experience the excitement of finding fresh truffles is by joining us on a truffle hunting excursion in Tuscany.

As part of our Tuscan Supercar Driving Tour, guests can enjoy a day in the Tuscan countryside hunting for truffles with a professional trifolau, before relaxing with wine tasting and lunch sampling the truffles you found. You can find out more about this delicious experience by speaking to our team today.

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