Truffles in Italy – White Alba Truffles & Italian Black Truffles

The truffle is a fruit of the earth that has been well known since ancient times.  There is evidence of the presence of the truffles in the diets of the Sumerian people and at the time of the patriarch Jacob, around 1700 – 1600 B.C.

Anecdotal evidence shows that the truffle, known in Latin simply as a “Tuber”, was particularly appreciated by the Ancient Romans who almost certainly learnt about the culinary uses of this mushroom from the Etruscans.

Tagliatelle with trufflesThe Roman poet Juvenal attributed the origins of this precious mushroom to a lightning bolt thrown by Jupiter near an oak tree (considered to be sacred to the father of the Gods).  As Jupiter was also famous for his prodigious sexual activities, aphrodisiacal properties have also long been attributed to the truffle.

In the Middle Ages, scientists defined its aroma as a kind of “fifth essence” that produced an ecstatic effect on human beings.  Thus the truffle was seen as a sublime synthesis of the satisfaction of the senses representing the essence of a superior pleasure.

In the 1700s, the Piedmont truffle was considered to be a very valuable item in every Royal Court.  Looking for truffles became a palace amusement which guests and foreign ambassadors staying in Turin were invited to witness.

It is possible that this led to the custom of using an elegant animal such as a dog for the search.  Between the end of the XVII and the beginning of the XVIII century, the Italian monarchs Vittorio Amedeo II and Carlo Emanuele III took part in regular truffle hunts.

Italy is one of the biggest producers and exporters of truffles and all the species of truffle used in cooking can be found here: the White Truffle, the Scorzone, the Winter Scorzone, the Marzuolo and the Black Winter Truffle. Truffle hunting dog

The most expensive and precious truffle is the White Truffle: in addition to Alba and the province of Asti, in Piedmont, this truffle can also be found in Tuscany, in the San Miniato area, in Acqualagna in the province of Pesaro-Urbino, in San Pietro Avellana in the province of Isernia and in Ateleta, in the province of Aquila.

The Marzuolo truffle can be easily found in Tuscany, in the area of the Sienese Crete, in the Marches, and in central Italy.  The Italian Black Truffle is one of the more common species and is mainly found in Umbria.