White truffles are the most expensive food in the world. If you ask your friends about them chances are someone will be able to recount their eyewatering expense. Few will have sniffed its heady, floral, garlic aroma (notably free of the muskiness that characterises its black truffle cousin), nor will they have sampled that delicate unmistakable honey-meets-spiced-earth taste that should never ever be cooked or shaved onto super-hot food that sucks and kills its spirit.
White Truffle Festival
Poggio Umbricchio is one of the rare places in northern Abruzzo where you can find this enigmatic truffle and it hosts a white truffle festival, Tuber Magnatum the first weekend of November (2-3 November 2018). The town’s amazingly hospitable local truffle hunters invite the world to sample affordably their white truffles through a range of dishes over 2 courses whilst visiting this stunning fortified medieval town, affording breath-taking crow’s nest views over the Gran Sasso Mountains to soften even the hardest heart. Accompanying the super food is an artisan food market and live music.
The town’s history is fascinating. A former Roman settlement and outpost along Rome’s trade route for Abruzzo and Le Marche (now the SS22), Poggio Umbricchio aligned itself to Venice along with its neighbours to become the smallest republic in Italy. Many Abruzzese compare it to the famous Medici town of Santo Stefano di Sessanio in L’Aquila, impeccably kept but without the Medici town’s artisan shops and bars. Only a handful of its hardcore residents stay in the snowy months, most are snowbirds that return to their second homes in Pescara, Teramo, Rome or even the USA, but the town’s passionate & welcoming community, the fresh and enchanting views, gastronomic and climbing events pulls its residents to readily return with the start of Spring.
O Km Food
The pasta that is served at the White Truffle Festival is made from locally grown organic Senatore Cappelli wheat grown on the slopes of the Gran Sasso which is milled at the town’s own water mill, Mulino de Giorgis. The flour is then taken to Teramo’s acclaimed pasta-maker Verrigni who makes Harrods’ own brand pasta using a gold die, a pasta legendary for its porosity, crunchiness and perfume, to work its magic and create delicious 0 km pasta for the truffle festival.
At the beginning of September we joined one of the local truffle hunters Enzo, a fireman in his day job, for a truffle hunt around Poggio Umbricchio followed by a lunch that spanned a whole day such was his and the small town’s hospitality. We’d met him some 8 years earlier at a vigil of the Santa Casa a Loreto, when they celebrate their patron saint the Loreto Madonna and the occasion the house in Nazareth flew up to Loreto in Le Marche. He fed us unforgettable white truffle bruschetta as we sat warming ourselves by the November fire.
Enzo invited us to see the town in the light and go truffle hunting with him and his dogs Trudi and Farafalina much to the delight of my truffle loving little boy who adored the experience whilst blackberrying, eating cob nuts and collecting hazelnuts along the way. After our successful hunt through his family’s copses, we returned to his house where he prepared 3 delicious truffle dishes and we learnt to our surprise how potatoes are often paired with white truffle dishes. This was followed by a barbecue that made a local abandoned dog that the town cared for very happy! I’ve had many special days in Abruzzo but this was one of the best.
Find out more about the White Truffle Festival,Tuber Magnatum
The official Poggio Umbricchio website