There is something about the farming of truffles that really excites the senses. The Staffolani family have one of the most successful Truffle businesses in Ascoli Piceno, which is the southernmost Province in The Marches. We are guided by Pierpaolo Staffolani from our hotel to their “laboratory” to meet the family and see the production plant. All members of the extended family play a part in this paddock to plate business.
The introduction goes something like this “Set among the Sibilline Mountains not too far from Ascoli Piceno there is a surface mine, where a wise man patriarch of Truffles, Gilberto, works with his son Pierpaulo, who learns the art, and exports it to the world…. his wife Paula & his daughter in law Daniela who develop their kitchen secrets … ”
Entering the building in Ascoli, the amazing aroma of truffles is quite incredible. We meet some more of the family, before being taken on a thorough inspection and to see how their range of truffle products are prepared. This is just a teaser, and forerunner for what we are going to be tasting later in the day. First, we have to see where it all starts under the oaks in a fortified and secure hillside grove.
We are taken in convoy out into the foothills to spend the day being educated, in every form, about the noble truffle. We go from Paddock to plate literally.
We are greeted by Gilberto, the main man, who will be showing us through the grove, and giving a thorough rundown on how these tubers grow, how they diverted a Roman stream to get the right water into the dam that serves the irrigation to the trees. We learn about how the ground shows when the tubers are there, and how dogs are used to ferret the tubers out. There is the Precious Black Truffle, the Summer Black, then the White Truffle that we will taste from the ground today. Bring it on!
After an hour in the fields, we work our way around to the trees that will be searched by the cutest little dog, and the build-up has everyone salivating. Dogs are used by the Trifolau (truffle hunters) and are trained from a young age to locate the magical tuber, which when ripe gives off an amazing pheromone.
This little critter homed in on a couple of trees and bingo, we had our truffles for lunch!
Congratulations all around. Then we watched the cleaning these little golden nuggets, before focusing on a lunch that would last four hours with truffles to be consumed in every dish. This is the Italian lifestyle that comes naturally. Everyone gets involved. For them, it’s not a special event. It’s a way of life, and it’s so easy to feel like part of the family.
A long table is prepared with all the family pitching in to compile this feast for us. I hope these pics show just how much truffle was used. In some cases, you couldn’t see the meat amid all of the truffles. This feast was shared with the whole family, which was just amazing, with the kitchen working overtime preparing platters of local meats and pasta dishes laden with truffle.
Wines were a part of the meal– many of them– but I must say the star, the focus, the entertainer was the truffle. This was a celebration and the proof of just how amazing this little tuber is. It’s no wonder that there is armed security around these farms during the season. People go to extraordinary lengths to steal the ugly little tubers under the cover of darkness.
The day spent at Bosco D’Oro with Gilberto and Pierpaulo Staffolani (and their extended family) was one of the most memorable days on a wonderful tour through Marche and Tuscany that included many special visits to local producers across the regions.
About the author: Since 1999, Bruce White has been traveling Italy, returning every year to a different region with pre-planned wine and food experiences. Some have been with food and wine tour operators in small groups, some planned directly with local specialists to ensure something very local and very special. With this network of contacts and a desire to return as often as possible, Bruce launched Wine and Food Traveller to share experiences with those who share the same passion for the Italian Lifestyle. All 2017 tours are now available for travel to Italy at www.wineandfoodtraveller.com.