One of the most famous Tuscany treasures is the highly sought-after truffle that grows in the region. In the town of San Miniato, there are annual festival celebrations where visitors can sample the delights of both truffle-based produce and freshly picked white and black truffles.
These Italian delicacies, albeit abundant, prove difficult to find and can trade in excess of $4,000 a pound in the food markets. Truffles, which look rather like a small, bumpy potato, are frequently found snuggled in more than a foot of soil, which acts to hide their fiercely powerful tang. Connoisseurs compare the aroma to over-ripened cheese. Unearthing a truffle is a unique craft and requires a lot of perseverance, not forgetting good fortune.
In Alba, which is the truffle capital of Italy, the demand for this delicacy has created thriving tourism, packaged truffle-hunting tours, gourmet food festivals and also truffle-themed boutiques selling such delights as truffle-scented ice cream.
Truffle seasons run for 11 months of the year starting in June. Black truffles can be found on menus in early summer, whereas the most sought-after white truffles often referred to as the white diamond of Italy can be found from September to December.
Areas such as San Giovanni d’Asso are proving more popular with truffle traders due to its less-polluted soils and lower prices compared to other Tuscan suppliers. On the edge of a rocky hilltop, San Giovanni d’Asso is oozing such charm. There are no craft boutiques to be found here and only a butcher, a tobacconist and café, the latter offering half-day truffle tours.