Life's pleasures of living in Italy
The World of Truffles – a Unique Experience
One of the joys of living in Italy is that we are constantly learning new things. Over the past couple of months due to an enquiry regarding our property Casa Marzana (which we are trying to sell) we have been learning a great deal about truffles. Our PP (Prospective Purchaser) was interested in starting a truffle farm on our land and arranged to have soil tests done to assess its suitability for growing truffles. We became very involved with the process and certainly more knowledgeable. However, as much as we enjoyed surveying our property with the agronomist and observing how the soil samples were taken and seeing him continually shaking his head, it was not to be. Our soil, thick and full of clay is great for growing lush green grass- every cow’s delight, but it definitely is not suitable for growing truffles.
The friendly agronomist and his truffle expert companion suggested taking the PP to visit an existing truffle farm so that he could see for himself what a truffle farm is like and the type of soil required to grow the relevant trees. As a translator was required, we were also invited along. At this time in the process our knowledge of truffles was limited to knowing of them and that they are generally white or black in colour and require a host tree. We had until now only experienced products containing truffles but had never seen, handled or tasted a fresh truffle.
We knew that people go truffle hunting and that having a good truffle dog is an absolute must in order to find them, but until now we thought people just went hunting in the woods with the dog and were unaware of the existence of truffle farms. Generally, the host trees which produce the various black, beige/white and white truffles in the soil at their base, are a variety of species of oak, hazelnut as well as species of poplar tree, which is the host for the very precious white truffle; difficult to grow commercially and usually found in Piemonte. As a result, truffle plantations are generally very tranquil areas looking somewhat like ordered woods with less of the normal untidy undergrowth.
Having visited the truffle plantation with PP and finally seen a small black truffle (April is not the truffle season) found by the delightful truffle dog Lara, we then tasted some finely chopped truffle which was gently fried in abundant olive oil and placed upon some warmed pizza bread (delicious). Interestingly it is also possible to freeze and store truffles.
A few days later we found ourselves setting off with PP from Polinago, which is located in the Emilian part of Emilia Romagna, to drive to the Romagna area of our region and the small town of Predappio Alta nestled in the hills outside the main city of Forlì, approximately 30 kilometres from the Adriatic coast. Descending from the Apennines we crossed the pianura (plains) with its many orchards and vineyards, passed Bologna and headed for the rolling hills outside Forlì about half an hour from the east coast of Italy; here we headed for the small town of Predappio and Predappio Alta. In the over forty years of my love affair with Italy, this was an area I had never visited.
In Predappio we met up with a serious truffle farmer, and after a cappuccino and delicious cake, which was required as we had set off at 6.30am. We then drove to his property 10 minutes away near Predappio Alta, where we were greeted by a small, rotund yappy dog who immediately set off the 15 or so truffle hunting dogs in various kennels behind the house. These dogs were every combination of black and white, large and small and each of them was delighted to see us, probably in the hope that they would be taken out for a run to look for truffles.
It was interesting to learn that various species of truffles can be grown throughout most of the year however, March and April are generally not the times when truffles grow. Nevertheless, our accompanying dog managed to find several small, early, immature black truffles when she was showing us how she works., the rest of the time she joyfully ran around enjoying the brilliant sunshine and freedom. We had a wonderful couple of hours walking around the property with the owner explaining the various types of trees which produce mainly black truffles. Although he concentrates of producing the ‘pregiato’ black truffle (pregiato in Italian means highest quality, value).
After our walk we drove to the nearby village of Predappio Alta for lunch. Our host had brought with him some of his own ‘tartufi neri pregiati’ (special black truffles) to be used for our special lunch. We received a very warm welcome to the La Vёcia Cantêna d’la Prè – Ca’ de Sanzvés from the owner Ricky (Riccardo).
While Barbara, his partner and the chef, set about preparing our lunch. Ricky took us down a set of steep wooden stairs to view the wine museum located below street level. The building was originally the premises of the old Cantine Soli winery which was built over three floors in order to exploit as much as possible the morphology of the land. The upper floor is now the restaurant and the lower two floors were once used for wine production and aging. The cellar also regularly holds art exhibitions and wine tastings.
Once back in the restaurant our taste buds went on a gastronomic tour of various dishes using truffles. We commenced with an antipasto of small crunchy slices of bread topped with sliced truffles and what seemed lightly melted cheese, but was butter, water and a little cream lightly whisked and mixed with finely sliced truffles. This was followed by hand-made ravioli filled with finely mashed potato and ricotta and dressed with finely sliced truffles lightly cooked in a little butter; then out came platters of red piadina (a local bread) which had been made with Sangiovese wine and covered with a sharp tasting cheese aged in a grotto and then grated but not melted; next came platters of rich, golden scrambled eggs covered with more finely sliced black truffles and finally roast rabbit accompanied with tasty potatoes roasted with garlic and rosemary. This was all washed down with plenty of the local Sangiovese red wine. There was no room for dessert, but a short black coffee helped us to digest.
After this amazing introduction to the black truffle of Romagna we promised that we would definitely be back!
Why not come and stay at Cherry House B&B and let us arrange for you a special experience - a day tour to Predappio looking for truffles followed by truffle lunch and wine tasting. Contact us at email@example.com
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