Saturday, November 18

Truffle Hunting in Le Marche | In the Woods + Cultivated

This November we hosted a truffle hunting holiday to give our guests a unique and hands on truffle experience! In full discloser 2017 has not been a good year for truffles (due to our lack of rain this summer) pricing are reaching 6,000 Euro/kilo - KILO! We weren't expecting to find much in the woods but a good story to tell!

We kicked off the weekend with a five course feast (including roasted crispy pork belly & apples with mashed chestnuts), a hearty meal to ready us for the hunt!


The next afternoon we slipped on our mud boots and followed two handsome Italians and one keen dog deep into the woods to hunt for white truffles.

I don't think that sets the scene properly - without knowing where we were headed, our group of five wonderfully rowdy & wild American women split up immediately into two separate SUV's and were taken off road (and almost off the side of the mountain), about 6km DEEP into the woods to their secret location. So secret, in fact we had to take the group photo in a different location to not give away any telltale signs of where we were hunting!

Our guides, two certified Truffle Hunters, Michele & Lorenzo. The cousins are locals from Piobbico (one a neighbour, the other a friend) and were EXACTLY what the ladies had envisioned! They were charismatic & couldn't speak more than a word or two in English but it made it all that more charming! Every so often the dog would catch the scent of truffles and dig wildly, only to find nothing but a newly dug hole. It wasn't her fault, it's a bad year for everyone. We foraged further into the woods, laughing along the way, crossing the river and climbed hills - not a truffle was found but friendships were made...along with a few crushes on our version of George Clooney, the Truffle Hunter!

Back to their farmhouse we popped a bottle of Bianchello and lingered in the garden until Jason called, the kitchen was ready for their cooking class, bring the ladies home!

Slipping off the wellies and tying on their aprons the group prepared a four course dinner with produce from our farm! Jason shared local recipes neatly wrapped in technique, how to balance flavors and knife skills. Three of the four guests have been here before with a combined total of over 20+ visits & cooking classes between them!!

It was a long day that lasted long into the night (under the wifi-cherry tree!) kept warm with hearty red wine.

 After a good night's sleep we got an early start for the next adventure...


We climb the steep hill to Roberto's agritruismo Ca' Licozzo just as the fog is lifting out of our valley.   (Again, in full discloser; I was driving & stalled the car at least 3 times, it was a guests rental...) Rewarded at the top with sweeping views we were greeted by our kind friend & farmer Roberto. He beamed with pride as he gave the ladies a tour of his farm, cantina, butchers shop, guest rooms, the works! He then asked us to wait for just a moment, he quickly returned with a huge smile and curly haired friend. This time we were just feet from his farmhouse - no off-roading, no secret spots, just an orchard in his front yard. He actually had numerous orchards - each recreating a different environment with different species of trees & bushes in hopes of finding truffles buried under their roots.

Roberto explained to us in great detail (then I would translate & condense to cliff notes) what to look for - nature's indicators of truffles growing at the roots, explained the different seasons and why 10 years he started this truffle rich orchard.  He does it for passion, not profit. Then as if on cue - his herd of sheep roaming free passed by to say Ciao! It was straight out of a movie!! Roberto was unfazed, the ladies all whipped out their cameras & phones.  Now cue the dog -  Lola suddenly took off, dragging her owner behind - she's on to something. Sure enough - in the cultivated orchards of Roberto's  hillside paradise we found two white truffles!

Satisfied with our success we returned to the main house, sat on the picnic tables and gazed out at the mid morning view as Roberto prepared a platter of his homegrown/raised and homecured prosciutto, thinly sliced pancetta, lonzino and capacollo.

Before we headed back down the steep hill to our house, Roberto asked if we'd like to see the sheep again? Of course! He took us to the stable and called them in for lunch. The tiniest of the herd emerged for her special lunch - a bottle! Fed to her by our guests!! Truffles, sheep, meats & cheese - oh my! Another great day this was shaping up to be!

After a long nap we got dolled up (ok, not really it's still the countryside) and headed into town for the big international White Truffle Festival in Acqualagna. The tiny town hosts one of the biggest/well known festivals in Italy and it's just the next town over from us! We meandered the streets, perused the stalls selling truffled goods and found the perfect spot to sit, eat, drink & people watch while we enjoyed our white truffle dinner on plastic plates!

All the way down our long dirt road and deep in those woods memories were made this weekend that will last a lifetime! I'm grateful for it!

 (Photo missing of the five of us ladies taken by Jason on their last morning should go right here...I will hunt down a copy)

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