Besides being the king of the kitchen, what is a truffle exactly? It’s a sort of spontaneous underground mushroom: its value is due to the fact that you can’t cultivate it so you must search for it in the forests (thanks to the dogs’ nose) and it must be strictly picked up by hand. There are different types of truffles and among the thirteen ones that you can pick up in Italy the most precious one is with no doubt the Tuber Magnatum, the white truffle. So we can’t help starting our roundup with the “International Trade-Fair of the White Truffles of Alba” (Cuneo) that’s going to be held from the 5th to the 24th November this year. An exhibition hall will be dedicated to this product and the whole historical centre will be a huge outdoor market where you can find the rare truffles and you can see how they can be used to make the sauces, the cheese, the salami as well as other typical products and specialities from Piedmont. When you stroll around the village searching for different tasty products you’ll be able to see the cathedral next to the city hall in the elegant Piazza Risorgimento and you will glimpse the Medieval towers in the nearby streets. The shops, the boutique and the good restaurants won’t be missing too.
Festivals from Piedmont and sandials
The other trade-fairs that are held in this region are quite popular too. There are the National fairs of Moncalvo, Montechiaro (both in the province of Asti), Murisengo, San Sebastiano Curone, Trisobbio (in the province of Alessandria) and Rivalba (Turin). There are also thirteen regional fairs among which the one of Montiglio Monferrato (Asti), a nice village where you can taste the local specialities and see the old agricultural activities around the stalls on the first two Sundays in October (from the 6th to the 13th this year). You can eat outdoor and taste the typical dish with the truffles and you can also have a big lunch organized by the Pro Loco. The entire historical centre deserves a visit since it is perched on a hill overlooking the Versa Valley where there are three castles, four Romanic parish churches, mainly the church of San Lorenzo dating back to the 12th century, other churches and the noble palaces and it is also the famous village of the sundials: there are more than fifty on the houses’ walls or in the courtyards, they have been restored or the local artists made them.
The best of good food from Marche
Truffles can also be found in other regions of Italy so let’s go to Marche to get to know Acqualagna (Pesaro-Urbino), the capital city of truffles: two thirds of the whole National production is based in this area covered in forests and woods. The “National Truffles Trade-Fair” will be held on the 27th of October and on the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 9th, 10th November this year. During this event the main square will display the different stands while the Palatartufo will welcome 200thousand visitors. After you have visited the village and tasted the specialities you can go to the Canyon of Furlo, carved by the river Candigliano, it’s a natural reserve that features an important landscape because of the presence of the wolves, the royal eagles, the hawks as well as some particular plants and an ancient Roman tunnel. To reach the canyon you pass by the abbey of San Vincenzo al Furlo, built in the Middle Ages on the findings of a Pagan temple which is featured by a particular elevated presbytery that you can reach through a stone staircase set in the middle. There’s a kiosk near the church where you can stop for a tasty break and eat the very good “cresce” (similar to piadina), typical from Marche.
Views from Campania and plenty of typical dishes
Let’s go to Bagnoli Irpino (Avellino) in Campania, it’s one of the fifty places that belong to the National Association of the Cities of Truffles that promotes this product, the territories where this product grows, the trade fairs and the festivals related to this precious mushroom. This little village is well known for the production of chestnuts and the black truffles to which the market-exhibition at the last week-end of October is dedicated. It’s an unmissable appointment where you can visit more than 200 stands, you can see the shows and the craft exhibitions: you must absolutely eat the pasta with the black truffles and the “Sacco del brigante” (the bandit’s bag), a dish of meat and black truffles and you can also drink the liqueur made from truffles. After visiting the stalls and the village you can go on an excursion to the lake Laceno where you can enjoy the peaceful mountain views (around 1.000 metres of altitude), you can hike along the tracks, go mountain biking or horse-riding (there’s a riding school and there are also some tracks for the beginners).
The truffles you don’t expect: Calabria and Sardinia
Let’s end our journey with a curiosity: maybe many of you don’t know that truffles can also be found in Calabria and in Sardinia. The forests of the National Park of Pollino are rich in truffles and there are many associations related to truffles in Castrovillari, Morano and Saracena, a tiny village in the province of Cosenza that really deserves to be visited because of its network of narrow streets that recall the Middle-East landscapes (according to the tradition this village was founded by the Saracens), filled with external staircases that connect the houses and the streets. The Summer black truffle is quite widespread in Sardinia too (it’s called scorzone) but you can also find the white one that looks like the most precious white one and you can also find the Winter rare one which is widespread mainly in the Sarcidano area and in the Upper Marmilla. The festival of truffles is held each year between June and July in Laconi (Oristano), a wonderful tiny village with two-thousand inhabitants surrounded by the forests. You don’t have to miss a visit at the archaeological museum of the prehistorical statues which is held in the ancient Aymerich palace: there are 40 monoliths (some of them are huge) dating back to the 3rd and 4th millennium B.C..