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Truffle – a valuable and appreciated speciality

Each year from September to December the heart of every truffle lover beats faster. It is one of the most valuable and highly sought after edible fungi. It is also called “the diamond of the kitchen” and can be found underground in some selected regions in Tuscany.

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The first description of a truffle (tuberum) we have, was made by Pliny the Elder during the first century A.D.. Jumping ahead to the Modern Age, into the 1475 Platina Treaty titled "De Honesta Voluptate" we find a first reference to the truffle hunting; instead, during the XVI century, as reported in Messiburgo and Scappi works, the underground fungus became part of aristocrats and upper class meals.

Some seventeenth-century accounts, 0.66lbs was worth to 0.56oz of gold. During the first half of the XIX century, the French writer Alexander Dumas praised truffle highly and someone as judge Anthelme Brillat-Savarin credit it with aphrodisiac properties; also in this century, the white truffle renown increased and even the well-known Artusi, during the fight between black and white truffle supporters, sided with the second ones.

During 1900, in some Italian region like Piedmont, Marche, Umbria and Tuscany, truffle hunting had a great distribution. Nowadays, Tuscany offers many optimal situations for the development and fructification of truffle, notably the prized white truffle (Tuber magnatum pico). There are about 3500 pickers, 9 tartufai (typical Tuscan name given to truffle hunter) clubs and 6 different geographic places of origin and its business is valued at 12 millions euro per year.

Looking at these data, experts wish a guarantee of origin for Tuscan truffle. Although in the literature on the subject there have been many accounts about the use of the sow for the truffle hunting, nowadays this hunting in the productive truffle beds, which is allowed by law only from September to December, is done exclusively with specially trained dogs and with the aid of an instrument we generally call vanghetto (tool with a wooden handle attached to a metal part in the shape of a small).

Truffle beds, that is to say areas where this underground fungus grows, can be identified, specially as black truffles are concerned, by the absence of grass. Moreover, truffle beds facing south are used to ripen earlier, following by the ones facing east, west and north. There are five main areas for the truffle's diffusion in Tuscany: Casentino area, the hills of San Miniato, Valtiberina, the Crete Senesi area and Mugello. The tuber magnatum pico in Mugello, with its strong and pleasant scent, has different sizes and shapes, it can weight more than a 1Kg and its selling price hovers around 2200,00 euro per kg and it can come up to 5000,00 euro per kg.

To celebrate this prized food, in Mugello many market fair are organized in different seasons, as those at Villa Pecori in Borgo San Lorenzo, in Barberno di Mugello, in Scarperia and even an International Tuscan Truffle Auction in the Cafaggiolo Castle that was of the de' Medici family. There are many and different recipes using truffles, all of them are tasty and dainty; before using truffle on canapés, home-made pasta or meat, you have to carefully remove all the soil with a toothbrush.

From End September to December Villa Tina proposes to people who loves truffle a special package which includes a White Truffle dinner and an absorbing truffle hunt with good trained dogs in the old-century park of the Villa where Monsignor Giovanni della Casa was born.


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