Mysterious, unique and illusive, truffles are the snow leopards of the culinary world. These highly coveted morsels are really fungi that enjoy a synergetic relationship with the trees that host them. Unfortunately, little is known about the formative, below-ground years of the truffle, making it impossible to grow in an artificial setting – and impossible to find in the wild without dogs or pigs to hunt it down. Despite these disheartening facts, truffle-hunters needn’t fear – there are places all around Italy, Croatia and France for you to get to the root of this enigmatic food.
In the world of truffles, the white variety is one of the rarest – and Alba is just the place to find them. This Italian city boasts the White Truffle Festival, a celebration that has been going on for over 80 years, which features donkey races and a parade. If you decide to stay after the festivities are over, you can go on a truffle hunt or have a four-course lunch at a local restaurant.
Croatia, home to three black varieties that can be harvested year-round, was where Giancarlo Zigante discovered the largest white truffle in 1999. Although this isn’t a common occurrence, connoisseurs remain hopeful and, like Captain Ahab searching for his white whale, Istria attracts thousands of hunters each year in the hopes of finding their mushroom Moby Dick. Even those with a less intense interest will find something to do – there are activities that range from private tastings to guided excursions.
Black truffles need love too – if you’re going to give them the attention they deserve, it has to be in Vaucluse. This area is known for the black variety, which is frequently sold at markets such as the Richerenches Truffle Market. Come for the markets, stay for the cooking classes and guided tastings!
Truffles may be small and they may be shy, but they are one of the most remarkable foods out there. A foodstuff this one-of-a-kind deserves to be experienced first-hand – next time you decide to go on holiday, don’t forget to do the truffle shuffle to Italy, France or Croatia.