Selecting Italian Truffles

Are you interested in buying some Italian truffles? Perhaps you want to know what the best truffles in Italy are and where to get them? Our guide to Italian truffles gives you the facts & information you’ll want to know

Truffles are a delicacy used in Italian and French cooking that are highly prized due to their rarity and their believed power as an aphrodisiac. Truffles are a fungus like mushrooms although they look nothing like mushrooms and bear a closer resemblance to potatoes. Unlike mushrooms, truffles grow under ground often as deep as five or six inches. Traditionally, people have believed that the cultivation of truffles was impossible and merely relied on searching for them ever year. However, it has been proven that truffles grow in symbiosis with certain plants which is why they are likely to be found near these plants.   Every year around autumn time mushroom picking season begins and this is when truffles are found.

Truffle Varieties

There are believed to be a total of around nine or ten varieties of truffle that grow in Italy. These truffle species all differ in their colour, texture, aroma, taste and average size; however, all are used in the Italian kitchen. The most famous varieties of Italian truffle are the black truffle and the white truffle. These are discussed below.

Black Truffles

Black truffles are probably the most popular and widely used truffles in Italian food. Black truffles provide a rich aroma and taste and are found mainly in the Umbria region of Italy near the city of Perugia.  The size of a black truffle varies between about the size of a grape to the size of a small or medium potato. The outer texture of Italian black truffles is quite rough and the surface is irregular although in a generally round shape.  Because black truffles grow underground, dogs are often used when searching for truffles as they will be able to smell them and identify the spot that should be dug. This prevents people from needlessly digging up the soil which will decrease the chances of black truffle cultivation in subsequent years.

White Truffles

White truffles are rarer than Black truffles and consequently more expensive. Apart from the obvious colour difference, white truffles are known to have a more pungent aroma which is highly prized in Italian food. White truffles are generally harvested between the months of October and January and are believed to grow primarily in the Piedmont region in North West Italy. Both black and white truffles grow at high altitudes, usually between 300-1000 metres above sea level.

Truffle festivals in Italy

Italy plays host to its own annual festivals dedicated to truffles. Every year in the Italian town of Alba in the Piedmont region of Italy there is an annual truffle festival. This festival plays out every weekend for a month and centres around truffle trading at the local market and an accompanying auction.  In the Italian town of Norcia in the Umbria region of Italy there is a similar festival dedicated to the black truffle. Festivities begin in February and involve music and stalls selling various Italian truffle recipes.

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