The ridge between northern and southern Umbrian forests grows the magical black truffles famous in many Italian dishes.
On our hike to the ‘ecotourism’ Bartoli Farm, it begins to rain as fog rolls in and covers the mountains with mist. ( Patrico sul Monteluco, firstname.lastname@example.org)
The farm is a working farm and is available for dining tourists and as a Bed and Breakfast. The Agriturisimo Bartoli has 9 rooms, homemade sausages, and horses for riding. They have rabbits, pigs, cows, donkeys and goats and grow much of the food they serve their guests.
Each will say, ‘I am not a prophet. I am a farmer; the land has been my livelihood since my youth. Zechariah 13:5 NIV
Fierce sheep dogs protect the sheep along our road. Barking dogs greet us in large kennels near the farmhouse destination.
The blue heeler was the friendly family dog as long as you do not mind being licked, and your hand and wrist being grabbed in its teeth for petting. This one also boarded our bus to go home with us!
The hikers are welcomed into the picturesque bar for a hot cappuccino. Awww, I love Italy. The living room was huge and the smells from the kitchen enticing, but first we go on a truffle hunt.
What is a truffle? It is NOT a mushroom. It is an underground fungus found closely to a tree. The black truffles we hunted grow near oak and hazelnut trees and are normally harvested in autumn. White truffles are smaller and more rare. In one day during white truffle season, they can make $1500-1700 dollars for the truffles they find.
Pigs have been prohibited from hunting truffles in Italy since 1985 due to the damage to the truffles from their digging with their snouts. Production had decreased in many areas.
“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces. Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Matthew 7:6-7 NIV
Truffle dogs are specially trained for years to sniff out the delicious ‘ground’ growing truffle and bring it to the keeper’s hand uncrushed and complete. The truffle dogs are also trained to be silent so they will not give away the truffle hunter’s position.
Luka, our hunter, trains them first with cheese, then meat, and then how to drop the truffle with a “soft mouth” into the hunter’s hand. Truffle dogs are no special breeds; their nose for truffles and their dull coats identifies the good ones.
I dutifully took to the hunter two truffles I found following the dirt-digging dog.
We returned to the huge tables in the dining room for a late lunch. The homemade meal was amazing with homemade pecorino cheese, sausage, spaghetti with truffles and warm gluten free cake as well as wine. Lots of wine. They have farmed this mountaintop land for centuries, even providing ice to Spoleto from the frozen streams.
Their history is long – my life is short. Go meet the Bartoli family in your lifetime.
What is your favorite expensive delicacy to eat? What do you like about working dogs? Where do you like to hunt?