Illusive white and black truffles hide in small quantities throughout Italy’s vibrant topography. The decadent morsels populate rolling hills, speckle the soil along grand cliffs, and inhabit the plentiful forests. Nature’s bounty bursts throughout the Italian peninsula, and the prized truffle is one of the country’s most sought-after locally-grown foraged goods. Below is everything you need to know about Italian truffles and truffle hunting tours in Italy.
Truffles are, essentially, specific mushroom varieties that grow underneath trees and below the ground. Truffles are incredibly difficult to locate, however, their strong aroma makes it easier for dogs to seek them out. Truffle hunting in Italy is a foraging process that involves trained dogs accompanying Italian truffle hunters to sniff out the cherished mushrooms buried deep beneath the forest floor. A variety of dog breeds are typically chosen to uncover truffles in Italy as they do not harm or disturb the root structure of surrounding trees where truffles can continue to grow.
There are five prominent types of dog breeds that are used for truffle hunting:
1. Lagotto Romagnolo
2. Springer Spaniel
5. Belgian Malinois
When visiting Italy, you can join truffle hunters and their trusted canine companions on truffle hunting tours in viridian forests veiling the Italian peninsula.
The cherished truffle has had a history of reverence. Ancient Greeks believed its growth resulted from Zeus’ thunderbolt, giving it a god-like characteristic, and the Romans thought them to have aphrodisiacal qualities. Truffle hunting became popularized in the 18th century, and the rarity of black and white truffles increases their value and prestige around the world.
The variety of truffles in the Italian wild can reach more than 100 different species, with the list below showcasing the main, treasured truffles that you will hunt on truffle tours and try in dishes prepared by Italian chefs and gourmets.
1. Black Winter Truffle
Visitors of Italy may confuse this truffle with the iconic Black Truffle as it looks similar, however, it maintains a less pungent aroma with a pleasant and smooth flavor. Hunters traverse the landscape in search of the truffle between January and March.
Where to find Black Winter truffles: Umbria | Piedmont | Emilia Romagna | Tuscany | Lazio | Abruzzo | Molise
2. Tartufo Moscato
Tartufo Moscato has a black rind with a spicy, intense aroma that is similar to Muscat wine. Hunting season lasts from February to March, making a visit during these months the ideal time to taste its distinct flavor.
Where to find Moscato truffles: Piedmont | Tuscany | Umbria | Le Marche
3. Tartufo Bianchetto
The smooth, beige exterior of Tartufo Bianchetto gives it the appearance of white truffles, but the Marzuolo does not ripen the same way and it has a distinct, but not intense, scent of sharp garlic. It is best harvested between February to April.
Where to find Bianchetto truffles: Emilia Romagna | Tuscany | Umbria | Marche | Lazio | Campania | Molise
4. Tartufo Nero Liscio
This rare species of black truffle has an aroma similar to white truffles but with a more robust, garlicky flavor that lingers when used in specific Italian dishes. It is best picked between August and September.
Where to find Nero Liscio truffles: Piedmont
5. Tartufo Estivo o Scorzone (Summer Truffle)
This common black truffle has a rounded shape with brown and black skin and presents fruity notes similar to that of the burgundy truffle. Its delicate scent and familiar shape are similar to porcini mushrooms. You can typically tuck into the ripest truffles in July.
Where to find Summer truffles: Tuscany | Piedmont
6. Tartufo Nero di Fragno (Winter Scorzone)
The dark flesh makes the Winter Scorzone reminiscent of the burgundy truffle but with an intense aroma of hazelnut. They are harvested from September to late December but can sometimes be harvested until late January.
Where to find Winter Scorzone truffles: Umbria | Piedmont | Emilia Romagna | Tuscany | Lazio | Abruzzo | Molise
7. Black Truffle
The black truffle is the second-most commercially valuable truffle species known locally as Tartufo Nero Pregiato or Tartufo di Norcia. It is round with a dark brown body and black-brown skin and emits an aroma reminiscent of undergrowth, strawberries, and wet soil. The black truffle typically grows with oak, hazel, or hornbeam trees between November to mid-March.
Where to find Black truffles: Piedmont | Marche | Molise
8. White Truffle
The white Piedmont Truffle is one of the rarest Italian truffle species, and it is an expensive luxury referred to as “White Diamond.” Their irregular shape features a beige surface that ages to brown, and it provides a musky scent filled with garlic, honey, and butter. They grow symbiotically with oak, hazel, willow, beech, and poplar trees between September and November.
Where to find White truffles: Piedmont | Tuscany | Umbria | Lazio
Whether you wish to visit Italy to partake in truffle hunting tours on the emerald hills of Umbria or indulge in the rich flavors of Bologna cuisine, find the inspiration for the perfect custom-tailored Italy Food and Wine Tour. If you wish to learn more about Italy’s breathtaking regions and culinary traditions, feel free to explore our Italy Travel Guide. Our Zicasso trip specialists are happy to help you should you wish to complete a Trip Request or call us on 1-888-265-9707.