Put simply, truffle hunting in Abruzzo is an enchanting adventure that has you gently treading across a drop dead gorgeous central Italian landscape, bedazzled by the seeing power of a doggie’s nose and eating like a king at the end of it!
Each Season Bears a Different Truffle Treasure
40% of Italian truffles are sourced from Abruzzo so there’s a very good reason to add it to your Top 10 list of things to do when in the region. A truffle hunt will never be a futile activity; across each of the 4 seasons and each of the 4 Abruzzesi provinces you are guaranteed to come back with one type of the 28 recognised truffle types in Abruzzo unless of course the soil is frozen solid on a mid-winter day.
Truffle Hunting in Roccascalegna
My last truffle hunt was as part of a group tour organised by Italian Cooking Holiday in the shadow of the famous medieval castle Roccascalegna. It’s famous for both its locality, sat up high on a limestone spur between the Chieti’s Majella mastiff and the sea, together with the infamous reign of terror imposed by one its barons. He forced all village brides to sleep with him on their wedding night till one stabbed him which of course has led to all sorts of ghost stories! Conde Naste recently put it at the top of their list of Italy’s best hilltop towns to visit.
We were introduced to our truffle hunter Franco and his shy dog Lara at L’Alveare Agriturismo, where we were to eat our treasures post hunting as part of a 4-course lunch or dinner. Chef Ezio Gentile acts as a translator in the summer and across the other 3 seasons, the local Roccascalegna guide plays host. It felt like we were participating in a little bit of magic as we weaved through oak, beech and hazelnut copses hunting an edible delight that was banned by the Catholic Church to be eaten on Saint Days in the Middle Ages. Lara the dog’s pace was comfortable as she uncovered what are regarded in Abruzzese cuisine as black diamonds. In exchange for finding each truffle find she was given a piece of hot dog sausage, dogs are partial to eating truffles too but a wurstel wins them over.
We returned to the L’Alveare Agriturismo to eat the summer truffles we had found, generously shaved by Cosimo (owner and cook) amongst a selection of absolutely delicious traditional antipasti dishes and then on some fresh home-made pasta that we had watched being made. Try and pace yourself as L’Alveare’s aromatic slow cooked lamb is superb!
Highly recommended and worth the €120 price tag per couple for the hunt and the 4-course lunch or dinner including wine. A minimum of 4 people are required per truffle hunt.
Truffle Hunting in Borrello
For individuals and couples who have a smattering of Italian and who don’t mind getting up at 6.00 am to hunt truffles and would like to buy some truffle products to take home, we would recommend visiting the best truffle producer in Italy, Vittoria Mosca at Rio Verde Tartufi.
Vittoria has become something of a local celebrity, almost more famous than Borrello’s waterfalls which are the highest in Italy. The area between Borrello and Castel di Sangro is famous for its high-quality white truffles and Vittoria supplies Italy’s greatest chefs including Niko Romito and Massimo Bottura, who adore not just the fresh truffles she and her husband source but also the products she carefully makes all by hand following in the footsteps of her mother who started the company.
Afterwards, you can visit Vincenzina at the wonderful trattoria Lo Shangrila da Vincenzina, listed by Gambero Rossa in their good eats of Abruzzo. This highly recommended local restaurant is one of the best for truffle tasting. Vittoria’s truffles are presented imaginatively in a number of dishes and there were also some of the finest traditional Abruzzese dishes I have tasted.
If you can’t face the early start, you can still enjoy a truffle tasting with Vittoria at the family house headquarters but after experiencing lunch we’d recommend asking Vittoria to arrange a tasting at Vincenzina’s.
The cost of an extensive 2-course truffle tasting lunch (antipasti and pasta) with Vittoria and Vincenzina is €25 per person including wine.