The Rare Pearls of the Soil: Truffle Hunting in Tuscany
By Lady Kendal Jaggar
SAVINI TARTUFI – PALAIA – TOSCAN
Deep in the heart of the forest of Palaia, in the Tuscan soil, lies rare pearls known as truffles. The province’s enriched soil encases these hidden rare pearls with the hunt for the rare “Prized White Truffle – The Tuber Magnatum”. There are many woods and forests around the province of Tuscany offering the truffle hunting experience, from the regions of Florence, Pisa, Siena, Chanti, just a few to mention.
Awakening to the wonderful sun that glazed through my window, I was about to embark on a truffle hunting tour arranged by our host Sharon who had arranged everything ahead of my press trip to Florence. A full itinerary to capture my love for Tuscany.
I have never experienced “Truffle Hunting” in my life. I was quite happy to indulge in the luxury when visiting Harrods Food Hall to obtain luxury items for special occasions. Even as a travel journalist, I wasn’t a person who would look to go into the forests of Tuscany as my first choice, the province has so much to entice the tourist to its region without going into a forest hunting with dogs.
I had no preconception, nor did I do research before the trip as sometimes we can prejudge and not actually participate. As we do with cuisine, we use our eyes to determine rather than our palette.
Sharon gazed at my footwear and attire as if I had just stepped out of the global magazine for a day of shopping around the city of Florence, in the hunt for a truffle!
In Fact NO! I needed warm clothing, wellington boots or at least good footwear as I was going into the woods of Palaia, truffle hunting with dogs. Sharon advised it would be over an hour from Florence and the weather would be very different, it would be wet, with that awful drizzle rain and dense fog – “Great, really! Is this what I came to Tuscany to do?”
I was introduced to Lucas on our arrival, and he welcomed us to the Savini family, his admiration for the family excelled as he welcomed us into the Savini Museum, which doubles up also as a shop enabling us to takeaway the delights they produced.
Lucas explained exactly the role of a truffle hunter, and how instead of a wild boar (pig), they use highly trained dogs and how they would be his companion as they entered the woods or forest in their search for truffle. The superfine smell the dog has will lead his hunter to indulge the point where the truffle can be found amongst the plants, deep in the soil where it hides amongst the roots. The dog digs desperately to reveal the truffle by extracting it from the earth and removing the truffle from its mouth. The hunter’s response is without hesitation not to damage the delicate and fragrant truffle, and they reward their companions with a treat for their find.
Luca continued to share his knowledge that the Savini family has always had dealings with “truffles” explaining that it is has been handed down now to the fourth generation and even to this day the truffle hunting season continues with their passion from hunting, cleaning, packaging and delivering it across the world. Luciano and Cristiano are selected personally to ensure both the freshness and the life of the truffle when received and easy to use; its maximum freshness lasts only for five days.
Rocco will always have a legacy in his own right, he secured a year to always be remembered to his name in 2007. Rocco found a rare white giant truffle weighing a massive 1.497kg leaving the Savini family lost in expressions and emotions and its dedication to the truffle. The Savini family, who turned their job into a passion in 1920, awarded Rocco highly. For Giuseppe Savini, a farmer originally from a small village near Minato (Balconevisi) who’s daily hobby was to walk through the forests and woods with his loyal dog truffle hunting, the joyous find was the talk of his family and many townsfolk.
The selection of truffles available is determined by season. The white truffle is harvested from September to December. Marzuolo truffle from January to April and the black truffle can be found all year round.
The Savini family have 2 main credos:
First and foremost, they respect nature and the wood, along with the soil from which the truffle is extracted from, to the consumer, supplier & distributor.
Tradition, to keep the secrets on how they store the truffle, in traditional values of truffle hunting in honouring the best fruits of the woods for famed chefs. To keep the honour of the family and the four generations of the Savini family, entrusting them with closely guarded secrets, quietly whispering through the mouths and the ear to catch and hold, ensuring to pass on to future generations.
- Giuseppe Savini
- Zenlindo Savini
- Luciano Savini
My main objective was to try something different, experience a taste of the unknown, and leave an impression within my mindset. For the reader, as I started my experience with a less than excited footstep in this area, I personally decided to withhold a little on this article because in actual fact – I have been left with an overall respect for the Truffle hunter and his dog, also that of the highly respected Savini family for the dedication not just to previous generations but that of their future generations.
Traditional methods still maintained to the highest in its respect to continue to look after the wondrous land we had the pleasure to embrace. The Divine lunch that awaited us from our hunting experience, from homemade pasta with shavings of truffle, grated truffle over eggs to the finale of truffle ice cream.
My less than excited footsteps now have huge springs attached to the base – never underestimate the tour you frown upon, because you may be pleasantly surprised. I would express this – never leave Tuscany without doing this tour. This is a magnificent day – even when the rain is falling. Step out and free your mind to the empowerment that nature can offer you in the hunt for a rare pearl of the soil. Hence holding back on some details as I have to leave you with some excitement to visit and place the springs upon your soles.
For further enquiries contact:
Piazza D’Ascanio Loc. MONTANELLI
56036 FORCOLI (PISA)
Tel:- 39 0587628037 – +39 0587629339