One foot follows the other up the steep, loamy slopes of Sicily’s Monti Sicani mountains. The fresh scent of pine and wet dirt overwhelms the air in an intoxicating combination. We pull our jackets closer hoping that it might miraculously begin to combat the crisp autumn air. A pair of dogs weave through the party, their legs miraculously nimble as their noses remain pressed to the ground. Angelo murmurs to them, gesturing with his left hand that they spread their search wider and higher up the mountain slopes.
After 30 minutes of climbing, the sounds of heavy breathing are broken by an excited yelp from Angelo. The dogs have found something. They paw at the wet earth, their white noses turning instantly brown as they lead the hunt with their nostrils. One comes up for air, his tail wagging so fiercely it might whip right off his back. Angelo’s hand darts quickly into the dog’s mouth, a golf ball-sized clump of dirt gripped between his fingers. The truffle hunt has been a success.
Costing up to $5,000 a pound, fresh truffles are synonymous with elegance, fine-dining, and above all exclusivity. Grown under very special conditions, truffles are extremely hard to come by. Like all rare goods, their exclusivity has kept them in high demand in the culinary scene, not to mention their unique and pungent flavor profile. Truffles grow underground on the roots of certain trees, helping the trees to absorb water and nutrients while the trees provide sugars for the truffle to feed on.
Largely found in parts of central Tuscany, Umbria, northern Piedmont, Le Marche, Abruzzo and Molise, Italy is well known for its white and black truffles. While certain varieties are harvested between November and March, others are hunted between May and October. What many don’t realize is that Sicily is also home to numerous varieties of the beloved tuber. Thanks to the island’s Mediterranean climate, rich soil, and unique microclimates, both white and black truffles grow in abundance across Sicily. In fact, the combination of its calcareous soils and proximity to the sea, Sicilian truffles have unique flavor and aroma profiles that you won’t find anywhere else. So, if you’re planning a trip to Sicily, you might just want to go for a truffle hunt. It’s well worth the experience.