SEEKING TRUFFLE

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Truffle hunting, if taken as a sport, is an extremely pleasant activity that can offer great satisfaction, irrespective of the quantity of truffles one manages to find. The real truffle hunter enjoys the solitude, the silence, the contact with nature, with the sole companionship of the four-legged friend. When man and dog go out to the “pastura” (as the terrain where truffles are found is called), they merge completely with the environment to the point of becoming a part of it and being almost invisible.

I should like to take over a definition employed by Dr. G. Morsiani in his book on the Lagotto. He is not a truffle hunter, but has obviously grasped the right spirit: “The world of the truffle hunter is made of hearsay and old stories handed down orally, often by a select few in absolute secrecy so as never to reveal to the uninitiated the value of a dog or of a bloodline, or how good a pastura with truffles is, except to those who know the secret, no one else.”

I think going after truffles is an art one has to approach gradually, without ever rushing things, if possible under the guidance of an expert truffle hunter and with the aid of a good dog. It is no coincidence that in the past this activity was handed down from father to son.

Today many things have changed, unfortunately almost all of them for the worst. The economic interests associated with truffles have led to an exaggerated situation where there is no longer any room for respect for the environment, people or the animals. Consider, for instance, the increasingly widespread use of poisoned bait, something almost unknown ten years ago, or the progressive destruction of the pasturas by people digging indiscriminately, or taking a mattock to whole tracts of ground. The areas where one can freely go after truffles are steadily contracting, and the number of truffle hunters is rising. All this entails increasing difficulties to find the right spirit, in an activity which, to be enjoyed to the full, would take great tranquillity and peace.

Our experience comes from Lower Romagna, where the passion for truffle hunting has been handed down for many generations. When the countryside was typified by “piantate” (rows of vines with a live support consisting mainly of poplars and willows), and there were rows of poplars everywhere along the canals, there was a great abundance of excellent-quality white truffles. Today, alas, the truffle’s symbiotic plants have almost disappeared, the fields are dominated by cement posts and the banks of the canals have been desertified in the name of misunderstood progress. Truffle hunters are left with no option but to move up into the woods in the hills.

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