White truffles are a top Italian culinary item and in the fall, are celebrated with truffle fairs and festivals in central and northern Italy. Going to a truffle fair is a must for foodies visiting Italy.
White truffles are found primarily in the regions of Piedmont, Molise, Tuscany, Umbria, Emilia Romagna, and Le Marche. During October and November, there are many white truffle fairs held in these regions, and fall dishes made with the white truffle, tartufo bianco, are plentiful in this part of Italy. What could be more romantic than feasting on a meal made with the sensuous truffle?
Going to a truffle fair is worthwhile even if you don't want to buy truffles. The pungent scent of fresh truffles fills the air, and there are locally made white truffle dishes to try (usually for much less than you'd pay in a restaurant). There are also entertainment and concession stands, which sell local foods such as cheese, salami, honey, and wine.
Fall White Truffle Fairs
- Alba White Truffle Fair and Market: One of the most famous in Italy, this fair and market takes place on weekends from the beginning of October through the end of November. Besides the truffle market and fair, there is lots of entertainment. Events start with a night of concerts and gastronomic stands and end with the truffle world auction and a white truffle walk for tourists. There's even a donkey race.
- Moncalvo, in the Monferrato area of Piedmont, also has a white truffle fair for the last two weekends of October.
- San Miniato Truffle Fair, La Sagra del Tartufo Bianco: Held in the medieval hill town of San Miniato on the second, third, and fourth weekends in November, this fair is a great way to sample fresh truffles. A large percentage of Italy's white truffles are produced in this territory, and November is the heart of truffle gathering season. There are food and craft stands and entertainment and restaurants will feature reasonably priced truffle menus. If you haven't had truffles, this is a great place to get an introduction.
- San Giovanni d'Asso, near Siena, has a good truffle festival the second and third weekends of November and a truffle museum open on weekends.
- Volterra holds its white truffle fair, called Volterragusto, in late October and early November.
- Savigno, in the hills southwest of Bologna, holds the Savigno Sagra del Tartufo the first three weekends of November.
- Sasso Marconi, in the province of Bologna, holds a truffle sagra the last weekend of October and the first weekend of November.
- Calestano, in a pretty setting in the mountains south of Parma, holds a Black Truffle Fair every Sunday from mid-October through mid-November.
Truffle Hunting and Truffle Excursions
Want to try truffle hunting yourself? There are plenty of places to go foraging with a tartufaio (a truffle hunter) and his trusty truffle dogs. Here are just a few:
- Wild Foods Italy, near Spoleto in Umbria, offers a black or white truffle hunting experience capped off by a home-cooked lunch with truffles (of course) and local wines. They also run the luxury Black Truffle Lodge.
- Truffle Hunting Alba offers a menu of white truffle hunting tours that can be combined with winery visits, cooking classes and, of course, meals based on white truffles.
- Truffle Hunting in Le Marche: Le Marche Holiday offers single- or multi-day truffle hunting tours for white or black truffles, depending on the season. Day trips include lunch in a local trattoria.
- The Truffle Hunter offers year-round group and private truffle hunting tours near the Tuscan hill town of San Miniato, which can be followed by lunch, wine tastings or a cooking class.
Several hotels also offer truffle hunting experiences at an additional cost. In the hills above Forli' in Emilia Romagna, guests at Al Vecchio Convento can sign up for a truffle hunt as well as other activities. In Tuscany, the luxury Castelfalfi Resort offers truffle hunting.