The subterrean fungus sniffed out by pigs or dogs makes even the most seasoned foodies swoon. In Tuscany they grow plentifully in the countryside making October and November some of the best eating months here. All at a fraction of the price the kind of portion one could only dream of in New York or London. Here are five spots to sample the gourmet gems:
1. Festa del Tartufo e Delle Castagne (Truffle and Chestnut festival) Montaione, Florence
Held at Villa Serena, this annual event on the last Sunday of October has rows of vendors providing tastings of the local specialities (along with just-harvested olive oil, honey, and wine). If you can’t make it, there is also a truffle market every first and second weekend in Scarperia; don’t miss the tagliolini with tartufo sampling.
2. San Miniato
In Tuscany there is quite a bit of debate on whether black or white truffles are more tasty, but the white version does get more attention and is considered the most valuable of the lot. At this truffle festival, held the last three weeks of November, you can try the white ones for yourself along with delicious porcini mushrooms and the famous San Miniato artichoke. A more intimate affair is the one held in San Giovanni d’ Asso, a gem of a village in the Southern Siena region.
3. Il Rossellino, Pienza
From mid-October to the end of November, I tend to gorge myself with truffles and porcini (plus a good dose of Brunello), and one of my very favorite truffle dishes is served at my hometown, Pienza’s, Il Rossellino, a tiny restaurant run by a husband and wife who make some of the best food in our valley. I always order the tagliolini with white truffles—the dish is delicate, buttery, and I dream about it for the rest of the year.Piazza di Spagna, 4; 39-0578-749-064.
4. Truffle hunting
Watching a dog hunt down a prized truffle is one of the most entertaining of sights, but it’s a serious business. If the pooch gobbles down the goods before his handler can grab it, they might lose up to 1,000 bucks in a bite. Most hotels can organize a trip for you to watch the chase, or book a trip with an outfitter such as Truffle Hunter or Select Italy, which offers truffle hunts in its program of activities.
5. Osteria Le Logge, Siena
Housed in an ex-pharmacy right off the Campo, this institution has an excellent selection of autumnal treats, especially when it comes to its truffle options. Just be sure to get a table on the ground floor; it is much more atmospheric than the dining room on second floor. Via del Porrione, 33; 39-0577-48013.