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Fellow foodies, if you are serious about trying all the things in Italy, then a healthy dose of truffle must be on your wish list. These decadent morsels are found throughout the country and are an important feature of regional Italian cuisine.
In this episode our guests, Chantelle and Giovanni from small group tour specialists the Italian on Tour, share with us the unique culture, tastes and traditions of truffles in Italy.
Truffles are one of the world’s most expensive and unique ingredients to cook and eat with. And you’ll find many varieties including the rare white truffle in Italy. But what do they taste like? And how do you eat them? In this episode we delve into the traditions, and tastes of the amazing truffle and explain why finding and eating them are some of the must have experiences for those interested in Italian food.
While the city of Alba in the Piedmont region is most famous for truffles, you can find them all over Italy. Closer to Rome in Le Marche and Abruzzo, a variety of truffles are found in both fall and summer in the Apennine foothills.
Our guests Chantelle and Giovanni from small group tour specialists The Italian on Tour, have a wealth of international experience when in comes to truffles. They share with us what it is like to go searching for them, what the truffle hunters are looking for and the best ways to eat delicious truffle when you are in Italy.
What you’ll learn in this episode
- What truffles are and what they taste like
- The types of truffles in Italy
- Italian regions where you can find truffles
- Truffle dishes to try
- Wines that pair well with truffles
- What to expect on a truffle hunt in the Le Marche region
- What to wear on a truffle hunt
About our guests – Chantelle and Giovanni from The Italian on Tour
The Italian on Tour is run by Chantelle Kern and Giovanni D’Agostino. Originally from Canada, Chantelle traveled extensively throughout Europe before attending university in Perugia. She fell in love with Le Marche and Ascoli Piceno on a weekend break from her studies and has never looked back. Chantelle now lives in the city and, with her husband and business partner Giovanni. They host guests on immersive multi-day tours to discover authentic Italy.
The Italian on Tour offers you insight on the regions of Le Marche and Abruzzo from Chantelle and Giovanni’s local, yet international perspective of these regions. Deeply passionate about their home, they help visitors uncover their own love of this lesser known part of Italy.
Get a sneak peek into how to travel Italy The Italian on Tour style with their free Italy Travel guide
You can find Chantelle and Giovanni on these channels:
Places mentioned in the show
- Ascoli Piceno – main town in Le Marche and the base for the Italian on Tour
- Urbino – birthplace of artist Raffaello and a popular place to visit in Le Marche for truffles too
- Acqualagna – town in Le Marche that hosts truffle festivals
- Amandola – another town in Le Marche’s truffle region
- Campoli – town in Abruzzo famous for truffles and porchetta
- Alba – town famous for truffles in the northern Piedmont region
Truffle, food and wine terms
- Magnatum Pico – famous Italian white truffle
- Nero pregiato – black winter truffle
- Scorzone – black summer truffle
- Tartufaia – area where truffles grow
- Castagne – chestnuts
- Tortino d’orzo – specialty tart made with truffles
- Wine varieties – Barolo, Nebbiolo, Barbaresco, Pecorino (white), Rosso Piceno (red), Montepulciano D’Abruzzo
- Article: A food lover’s guide to Italian truffles
- Podcast: Episode #016: Visit Italy’s Le Marche region with local Chantelle Kern
- Best time to visit Italy
- How to plan a trip to Italy – our article that takes you step by step through trip planning so you can avoid our mistakes
- Driving in Italy – a practical guide
- Italy Travel Planning – the FREE Facebook group where you can ask questions and get inspiration for planning your trip
- Travel shop where you’ll find items mentioned in the show
Prefer to read along as you listen? Below is a full transcript of our episode conversation. Unfortunately it does not pick up our lovely Australian accents however!
Buon giorno, Ciao, everyone, hope you’re all doing well wherever you are in the world. It’s Katy here with another foodie edition of Untold Italy. But before we get started on that, I wanted to do a big shout out to one of our listeners, Debindi on iTunes, who sent us some lovely, lovely feedback.
[00:01:17.530] – Katy
They wrote, Thanks, ladies, love your stories, guest speakers and practical advice. Sadly, we, like many others, couldn’t visit Italy this year. But listening to your podcast brings beautiful images of Italy. Just listening to your episode on Brescia, one of our favorite places. Looking forward to every episode. We appreciate you Debindi. Thank you so much. It’s been a pleasure to record and research the podcast as it transports us to Italy a few hours a week. We are so glad you enjoy it.
[00:01:47.720] – Katy
Now on to this week’s episode. Today, I’m welcoming back my friends Chantelle and Giovanni to chat to us about all things truffle. This delicious ingredient pairs wonderfully with pasta, and they are some of the decadent must try dishes when you visit Italy. And they are best eaten fresh out of the ground. Chantelle and Giovanni lived in beautiful Le Marche, a region to the east of Rome where you can find amazing truffle experiences almost all year round. But as we are coming into the main white truffle season, which is fall or autumn in Italy, I thought I would invite them onto the show to tell us what it is like to go truffle hunting, what these truffles taste like and how to eat them, and much, much more.
[00:02:06.470] – Katy
Chantelle and Giovanni run the Italian on Tour company, which organizes amazing immersive small group tours in the Marche and Abruzzo regions. They have just launched their truffle tours, which are available for this year if you are in Europe or twenty twenty one for the rest of us. We’ll tell you a little bit more about that later. But for now, let’s get talking about those truffles.
[00:02:54.150] – Katy
Ciao Chantelle and Giovanni, welcome back to the Untold Italy podcast. I can’t wait to talk to you about tartufi or truffles with you both and hear, what’s been happening in Le Marche.
[00:03:04.290] – Giovanni D’Agostino
[00:03:05.310] – Chantelle Kern
Ciao Katy. Thanks for having us back again.
[00:03:08.570] – Katy
It’s great to hear your voices. So just in case our listeners missed our first episode that we recorded with you, Chantelle, could you give us a quick introduction about yourselves and your company, the Italian on tour?
[00:03:21.320] – Chantelle Kern
Yes, the Italian on tour – we give people a backstage pass to experiencing Italy’s hidden regions. And our focus is Le Marche. It’s run by Giovanni and I. And we host every single tour, which takes you based in Ascoli Piceno, which is a beautiful city of travertine. And we travel throughout the Le Marche region and we focus on authentic food, wine and culinary experiences of our region while connecting you to the locals.
[00:03:55.700] – Katy
Amazing. Thanks Chantelle. Can you just tell us a bit about how you two met? Because I know that’s one of my favorite stories.
[00:04:01.460] – Chantelle Kern
We actually met at university when we were 19. We met through a friend because I had traveled to Italy and I was not really interested in Italian men because, you know, blonde haired, blue eyed girl I was always catcalled. You know, when I first met him, I told him, well, you know, I don’t really like Italians.
[00:04:25.640] – Giovanni D’Agostino
In 16 years we’ve been together that’s true.
[00:04:29.930] – Chantelle Kern
So that didn’t last very long. Giovanni changed my mind and I went from thinking I was going to marry a Spanish man to marry an Italian.
[00:04:39.220] – Katy
Awww, I’ve heard that a few times now, but I love hearing that story. And I also love hearing about how much you love food and the Le Marche region. And so today we’re going to talk about something that I love to eat and that’s truffles. And I believe the truffles from Marche are some of the best in the world, and extremely delicious. And perhaps people might not have tried truffles before. So can you explain what they are and what they taste like?
[00:05:07.610] – Chantelle Kern
I’ll have Giovanni explain, because he has just years of experience with truffles. He used to sell fresh truffles to the top restaurants in Vancouver. One of his top clients was Hawksworth. So he knows all about truffles
[00:05:25.010] – Giovanni D’Agostino
So that’s funny you ask because I had that question when I first tried them. I mean, a lot of Italian truffles obviously growing up, if you’re in the region. But when I started working with the restaurants in Canada, my good friend was a restaurant owner. He used to tell me Truffle, Truffle, tastes like truffle. So it’s one of those things that if you never had it or never smelled it, it’s very difficult to describe because it’s basically it’s own food group. It’s not a mushroom, it’s not a tuber. It’s kind of something so unique that you really have to smell it first and then taste it on something or even by itself, and then it stays with you forever.
[00:06:06.560] – Giovanni D’Agostino
Kind of like when you try a wine and if you do a sommelier course, or if you’re into wines and you try a wine or a whiskey and you hear “oh I feel like I smell leather or fresh lime” or whatever you smell in it, but you have to have that stored in your in your brain in a sense. So you have to have smelled it before. That’s the same thing with truffle. And then you’ll kind of recognize the truffle smell immediately.
[00:06:30.950] – Giovanni D’Agostino
If you see it come up to your mind, if you were reading about it or looking at it on the Internet or something and you see a picture of it, it’ll come back to your mind what it tastes like because it’s so unique. So it’s very earthy. The first thing that comes to mind is that earthy experience and there are different kinds of truffle. I’m sure we’ll get to mention them. But the one everybody knows and you probably read about, it’s the white truffle, which they call Magnatum Pico. That’s a lot of name. And that’s the King of truffles. And that’s another category within the category.
[00:07:07.550] – Giovanni D’Agostino
And that has a very, very potent smell. I mean, Chantelle is smiling here next to me because I used to bring them home from work sometimes because I used to go to a restaurant owners and they come in on the plane and basically I would have dogs follow me home animals follow me home because they’d smell it like a mile or two miles away. And if we put it in the fridge, even if it was just overnight, even if it was perfectly stored, everything, even stuff that was bagged like salad, would taste like truffle because the smell is so strong and it’s so intense for about a few days. Five, to seven days.
[00:07:48.260] – Chantelle Kern
Like I would wake up and I want to make breakfast in the morning. And literally the milk could be like truffle infused milk. It’s very, very intense when it comes to like white truffle. And that’s also like one of the things that make it more prestigious or more expensive.
[00:08:08.480] – Giovanni D’Agostino
It’s the aroma. Just like anything else. If it tastes that good or smells that good, then it’s more expensive. I find that as a general rule in food, too, you can look at other niche products and you realize, yeah, there’s a reason why. I don’t know caviar, if you’ve ever had caviar, tastes like kind of some people don’t like it, of course, but it’s very unique if you eat caviar, especially some some kinds of caviar. And it’s the same with truffle, but it’s a lot more it’s a lot more intense in that sense. And you can also do more with it. It doesn’t have to just be in one way.
[00:08:49.130] – Chantelle Kern
It’s really quite versatile. I’d have to say, like for me, one of, one of the nicest memories I have is actually the first time I had truffle. And it was the morning after we got married at this beautiful villa and we had fresh truffle shaved over scrambled eggs for the brunch. And it was just something so unique and so good.
[00:09:18.860] – Chantelle Kern
When it’s fresh, it’s just doesn’t compare to something that even… You know, obviously it’s great truffles when you have them and you have white truffle or black truffle when they fly them over. But having it fresh, you know, that’s been picked that morning or that day is a whole other experience.
[00:09:43.040] – Giovanni D’Agostino
Yeah. I’d like to give you an idea. I’m sure in Australia as well, people can buy the truffles, like in the specialty shops. They can buy those little black truffles that are inside there only in a glass jar. And they put a special liquid that they make to to keep it. And that’s still potent. So you can imagine what something is like, you know, when it comes out of the ground. A lot of people I’ve seen that smelled it the first time. Again, it’s like I’ve never smelled anything that smells like this. It’s not like, oh, this smells like this thing. It doesn’t. It’s very unique. And some of the books that talk about truffles that you might say it’s kind of, you know, it literally is its own category. So if you’re thinking of smells like truffle would be one of the one of the categories.
[00:10:33.230] – Chantelle Kern
I know this might sound weird, but I think the first time I ever smelled truffles, white truffle, it reminded me of petrol.
[00:10:41.510] – Giovanni D’Agostino
Yeah, because we don’t want to turn people off. Of course,
[00:10:45.680] – Chantelle Kern
it doesn’t taste like that, but it had that intensity.
[00:10:49.580] – Giovanni D’Agostino
What happens is when truffles.. And that’s one of the reasons why it’s so good to have truffle fresh one if you can once in your life is. With travel, things change. It’s not a bottle of wine that gets better, it just has to be stored at temperature with travel and air pressure and other things of temperature. Things do change. So sometimes when the truffle is inside just twenty four hours inside a piece of paper, it’s being stored improperly. You’ll give out this kind of slightly ammonia, almost like ammonia smell, and then as soon as you open it, it loses it. And that’s just just what happens when the truffle basically thinks it’s back underground. That’s part of why dogs can smell it so far.
[00:11:36.080] – Katy
The smell of the truffle is very important because it’s how they get found, right?
[00:11:42.470] – Giovanni D’Agostino
Yes. The smell is the most important and it’s why it’s so it’s very difficult for dogs to have been trained for those kind of smells and only certain kind of dogs. And also, it’s it’s the kind of smell that dogs love to smell if that makes sense. So it’s food, of course, but it’s so intense they can feel it in the air. And it’s very obvious when you go truffle hunting like we have in past, that it’s a very innate ability of some dogs to find truffles.
[00:12:17.510] – Chantelle Kern
It’s a really fun and exciting experience. And that’s why we decided we had to do include it on our tours. And it’s really like the synergy between man and his best friend and the dogs, like, they get so excited. There’s three dogs where we go, one named Ghianda “Acorns”. Because actually acorn trees help truffles grow. Like they aid in helping that. And then there’s Trilli and Elettra and they they get so excited. And it’s really interesting to see, like, they they go after it, they search around. They go find.. you know oh this could be where it is. And then when they find it, they just like dig, dig, dig. And they’re so excited for it. And the truffle hunter gets them really excited and encourages them. But the important thing is like you can’t let them actually get right down to the truffle because if they do that, they’ll eat it.
[00:13:26.060] – Giovanni D’Agostino
They’ll have eaten pieces of it. They’ll just grab it so quick that even though he says no one tries to take it away, they’ll have chewed half of it and they can’t use it, of course. So, yeah, it’s very difficult like that. We’ve seen it and I’ve seen it many times. And even the best dogs and the best truffle hunters, they have to kind of factor that in – a small loss literally on the truffle. Which, you know, obviously if you can’t sell it, but if it’s broken in pieces, you can use it for other things.
[00:13:58.550] – Giovanni D’Agostino
But the whole idea is to see the truffle and to be able to shave the truffle. If you go to a restaurant, nobody wants to see these these little pieces. They want to see a big kind of nugget. They want to see something in your hand and you’re shaving it. That’s a whole point of the experience and you can smell it. So it’s very important for the truffles to be entire. And when you come truffle hunting with us, for example, then, you know, it’s it’s obvious when the dog has gone too far because the the level of of the I want to say the yelling, but of course it just goes higher and higher. And then you just hear. No, no, no, no, no, no, no. And then they stop.
[00:14:40.670] – Chantelle Kern
So basically when we go, well I swear that every single truffle hunter looks like the Italian version of Crocodile Dundee. They’ve got like their vest and they got their knife and their truffle tools. And so when we go, like, basically the dogs dig for it and then at the end, he pushes the dog away and he has to use his tools to get it out because you don’t want to break the truffle because then it’s not a viable product to be sold anymore, because as Giovanni was saying people want to see a whole truffle.
[00:15:19.220] – Chantelle Kern
And like the pictures, many of the pictures on our website, those are pictures like that. We took on our truffle experiences. So you can kind of see like in your hand, your whole hand is covered with this massive truffle.So it’s it’s pretty cool to be able to see that, especially when, you know, like there’s a lot of times you go to restaurants and you see a small truffle. So to be able to, like, get these big truffles, it’s it’s a cool experience.
[00:15:48.600] – Katy
Wow. And is there an advantage for it to be big rather than small? Is there an intensity flavour that comes with it as well?
[00:15:55.980] – Giovanni D’Agostino
Yeah. So the way it works is it’s actually like that and some other foods, like I can give you an example. People eat fish, tuna, you know, so the bigger a tuna or the fattier the tuna if you eat tuna or swordfish, the higher the price of the tuna because it means it’s an older, it’s an older fish. And it would … Truffle is the same. As the larger it is the price of the truffle per kilo, let’s say, or per pound is much higher as it goes up. So they have little categories like 10 grams, 20 grams. I don’t know if you work with ounces like an ounce is around 30 grams. So something around an ounce or twenty five, 30 grams is kind of a good mix between not too expensive but still very good.
[00:16:45.120] – Giovanni D’Agostino
And then when it goes over 50 grams is a different price and then over one hundred is the last jump and then there is a jump that’s like for the massive ones, you see the pictures of and those it’s just based on what is somebody willing to pay for it basically because there’s no there’s no more per kilo per pound price. It is just I want to have it in the restaurant or I want to have a show or whatever it is. We had people that weren’t even in the restaurant business call us for truffles when I worked in the business because they were having a special dinner or an event or an anniversary and they just buy the biggest truffle they could get their hand on and then the price can go up significantly.
[00:17:25.290] – Giovanni D’Agostino
It could be two or three times higher or even higher, ten times higher for the really large ones. So it really … The size does affect the aroma, but it doesn’t mean that a very large truffle is going to be the most aromatic. It’s not like there’s a direct rule, but certainly the general rule generally. Yeah, something larger would be more fragrant and and better.
[00:17:53.400] – Katy
Wow. So what would be the price of one of these mega big truffles?
[00:17:59.040] – Giovanni D’Agostino
Well, it depends. Like, obviously it’s tough though I can tell you, like, things that I’ve sold, for example, like that I’ve actually seen because every year the price is different because it’s just like wine. You’ll see the same wine. One year it is more expensive than others, like in Australia, for example, they have some exceptional years. And then, for example, Penfold’s sells their top of the line wines, the most expensive wines, very high that year because it was a very dry year, perfect year, no rain, whatever they were looking for.
[00:18:28.650] – Giovanni D’Agostino
So for truffles it is the same. If it’s too hot, it’s not good. If it’s too rainy, no good. So when it’s perfect, maybe every five years, like in 2013, I think we had a very good year. And, you know, some of the large truffles, like a truffle that could kind of fit in your hand. Something around a pound could be six thousand dollars, five, six thousand dollars Canadian. So and then something bigger would be much higher.
[00:18:58.800] – Chantelle Kern
But that would be like the restaurant costs?
[00:19:02.000] – Giovanni D’Agostino
No, that’s what the basic cost is. So the cost per kilo. So one kilo would be three thousand dollars. But if it’s an exceptional year, there’s a lot of truffles, the price goes down, but the big truffles get more expensive. So it’s opposite of what you think. There’s a lot of truffles. It does get cheaper in that year, but a large truffle is still even more expensive because it’s an exceptional year because they’re still so difficult to be found.
[00:19:25.530] – Katy
So what are the perfect conditions for truffles?
[00:19:28.290] – Giovanni D’Agostino
And I would say probably the right answer would be there are no perfect conditions in the sense that, like weather wise, it could be… It doesn’t matter. I mean, the perfect conditions is more about if the right trees are there. So not just the weather, but there has to be the right trees. There has to be the right brush or brushes. There has to be the right..
[00:19:48.950] – Chantelle Kern
the right microclimate, basically.
[00:19:50.920] Yeah, they’re microclimates. So ideally though, like weather wise… If you think a very dry year and then some rain I’ve heard and seen could be very good. Hot here with no rain. It could be very bad. The worst years I’ve seen are the years where Italy didn’t get rain for four to six months. So it does need the temperature to cool down a little bit. And that’s part of the reason why also, where we are with the truffle tours. We’re trying to do that.
[00:20:20.240] – Chantelle Kern
Yeah, we do them in November because that’s kind of the height of the.. We do a tour specifically around truffles, because that’s one of the main.. Like height of the season is like November to say January. But generally November is really nice still here to travel. So that’s when we do those. We have two exclusive dates a year where we just do it all about truffles in the market.
[00:20:45.330] – Chantelle Kern
So Le Marche, we’re really blessed. We have white and we also have the called the Nero Pregiato, really close to Ascoli, which is like the prestigious black truffle. And that truffle, and same with the white, requires the colder weather to be produced. So there’s so many different types of truffles, but the most prestigious ones require cool weather and generally the terrain is more mountainous now.
[00:21:11.790] – Giovanni D’Agostino
[00:21:12.770] – Chantelle Kern
Yeah, rugged terrain. Like when we go to the truffle hunt, it’s on a steep hill there. And that’s another thing like truffles are expensive because they’re not easy to find and they can’t be, say, cultivated. They can be helped by planting certain trees and these areas that they do that are called tartufaia. So you can like do this anywhere the truffles could grow. You could plant some trees that you read about and then you can wait 15 to 20 years and maybe something comes out. It’s a very long term investment for people to do that. But it doesn’t mean it will. It doesn’t mean things will grow or it will be good. So it’s a very risky thing. And that’s part of the cost of truffles.
[00:21:58.980] – Chantelle Kern
When you think about whether expensive, like I think a lot of people who get into the truffles here is because they’ve had the land like where we go. He had the land for many years. And before he even started as an agriterrorism, he actually used to go to the market in London and sell some of his top clients where Jamie Oliver’s restaurants, Gordon Ramsay. And so there are chefs that have really been valuing like the quality of LeMarcus truffles for many years.
[00:22:29.280] – Chantelle Kern
But people abroad don’t hear a lot about Le Marche because we’re not hugely promoted in that way. A lot of people hear about Alba, but the fact is, is Alba doesn’t necessarily produce that amount of truffles that people are saying are from Alba. So a lot of times you may be thinking, oh, you got a truffle, you’re eating a truffle in Alba, but maybe they bought it from Le Marche or Abruzzo, which we also visit. Abruzzo also has the mountain range that goes, the Appenines and then you have the Grand Sasso. There they have the truffles where it’s cooler.
[00:23:10.190] Hmmm, yeah, it comes down to marketing a lot of the times, doesn’t it? How well they position themselves.
[00:23:18.280] – Giovanni D’Agostino
Yes, I mean, the production, you can look at the production, but generally the most famous truffles are here are from the region, the Alba. They have festivals they’ve been promoting for over 60 years. There are all these famous wines of Barolo, Nebbiolo and Barbaresco that go with that. So, but all of Italy produces truffle. Basically, almost every region has some truffle, some few regions have white truffle. But the ones that do have white truffle are about four or five regions. So there’s kind of split amongst themselves. And it is not just Piemonte, that produces truffles
[00:23:54.390] – Chantelle Kern
Like the area. So people who are interested in visiting Urbino. Urbino, which was on the two places to visit this year for The New York Times, it’s the birthplace of Raphael, I believe I mentioned it on our previous podcast. But outside of Urbino, there is a town called Acqualagna, and there they produce lots of white truffle. They also every year have, at the like the first two weeks of November. They have basically have a truffle auction. So it’s a big truffle festival where people can come by truffles, everything from white to black truffles. So it is become, I believe actually it is the third largest in Italy at this point. So it’s a very big truffle festival that is known while around Italy and in London for people looking to buy truffles from the market.
[00:24:50.950] – Katy
Well, that sounds like fun. I bet there’s a lot of eating that goes on there, too.
[00:24:56.400] – Giovanni D’Agostino
Yes, they do. And because it’s direct selling for a lot of the ..I don’t you cant call them farmers, but some of them are farmers that also have truffle tartufaia. And it’s all direct selling. So you can try things at a reasonable price. Well they’re very reasonable for what white truffle is. So you can do menus and stuff.
[00:25:20.740] – Chantelle Kern
yes. Actually in our region we’ve been really fortunate. We have had some great chefs here. We have this one chap called Enrico Mazzaroni and he’s been able to bring Massimo Bottura here quite a few times. He comes and he does like a tasting menu, which is very affordable. And he does it in Amandola, which is right nearby, which is in the truffle region, that we visit and take people on tours. And it’s all about the black truffle. So it’s if it’s good enough for Massimo Bottura, it’s good enough for me.
[00:25:57.890] – Katy
I agree. Absolutely. So for those of you who don’t know who Massimo Bottura is, he’s the man or the head chef of one of the restaurants that’s been voted the best in the world several times, actually. Yes.
[00:26:13.890] – Giovanni D’Agostino
Now he has other restaurants, too, like smaller restaurants and not a three star Michelin. Like he has other things that he’s invested in as well the last few years to kind of trickle down the research that they’ve done in the Osteria Francescana. Kind of the restaurant, the kitchen for everybody to try. But, yeah, he comes here and then they call this “Diamonds on the table, thats the name of the event, and they do that. So that’s that’s not very far from us. That’s maybe about forty minutes from where we live, it is our base for everything. So and that’s about as well. Yeah.
[00:26:48.900] – Chantelle Kern
So as you can see, November is really like a great time to come if you’re wanting to just indulge in truffles.
[00:26:56.510] – Katy
Sign me up!
[00:26:56.620] – Chantelle Kern
So that for me the time that, the time for truffles and we personally always get truffles in November.
[00:27:05.490] – Giovanni D’Agostino
Another thing that’s interesting, I mean, we’re no, we’re talking about truffle, but November is a big month in Italy for other things. Like there are other vegetables that come out in the winter, obviously, and there’s a wines that are open for the first time from the previous year. So a lot of the reds are being opened. So if you do come to Italy in the fall, like end of October to kind of January, there are a lot of different things that you’ll be eating versus what you’re eating in the summer when most people visit. So it’s a cool experience.
[00:27:35.010] – Chantelle Kern
Yeah, that’s something I really love about Italy, is the cuisine is very seasonal and it just seems to fit. Like Giovanni’s talking about different things that come out so like porcini mushrooms and chestnuts. So you’ll find like dishes like ravioli stuffed with chestnuts or gnocchi with chestnuts in Italy is castagne in Italian and so you’ll find lots of dishes around that. And even around Christmas you’ll find that the sweets are like stuffed with this cream of chestnuts because that’s what’s very popular and that’s growing in season that time of year.
[00:28:13.720] – Katy
Ahhh delicious, delicious, delicious and but what do you.. apart from scrambled eggs with truffles, which sounds extremely decadent and I would love to try that, especially with the white truffle. But what other dishes do they make with truffles?
[00:28:29.560] – Chantelle Kern
Like one of the things that’s really just simple and beautiful is handmade egg pasta. And actually, when you come on tour with us, Paulo’s Zia comes out and you get to watch her make the handmade pasta and you get to have fresh truffle that you that you found that morning, shaved over your handmade pasta, your egg pasta,
[00:28:52.190] – Giovanni D’Agostino
The eggs are their eggs
[00:28:53.650] – Chantelle Kern
Yeah, they have their own chickens.
[00:28:55.410] – Giovanni D’Agostino
So it’s it’s just egg and pasta. There’s no water. There’s nothing else. So it’s it’s a really nice hearty meal. Yeah. And that’s, I’d say that’s the quintessential one even for restaurants is a fresh egg pasta like tagliatelle, taglioni something long and then truffle on it. And if you really want to be daring butter but some people don’t want to do that. Well oil or butter a little bit and delicate. And then there are obviously many other dishes, but one of the places that we bring you too
[00:29:31.480] – Chantelle Kern
One of the places we go, that’s family run and they only like, they only have truffle when it’s fresh like black truffle. They will not serve anything because, you know, there are places that obviously try and store truffles are they use frozen truffles. We’ve we’ve heard it all.
[00:29:49.150] – Chantelle Kern
But he’s always uses fresh and one of the favorite dishes that our guests always love on tour. And it’s one of Giovanni’s. It’s called tortino d’orzo. So so it’s like made of orzo.
[00:30:02.470] – Giovanni D’Agostino
So barley flan, basically. It’s a flan. So it’s something, you know, that looks like a little mini cake, basically. But I didn’t want to say a cake because then people think it’s a dessert but it’s not that
[00:30:14.110] – Chantelle Kern
It is very hard to explain. It’s not… Like it’s done. Like, I guess when you think of like a little like personal flan, it’s done in the same shape. And then he puts like a pecorino sauce. Pecorino is very typical cheese around here. And there’s truffles inside and then on top, there are shavings of black truffle. It’s really, like it’s simple ingredients, but decadent.
[00:30:38.590] – Giovanni D’Agostino
Yeah. And that’s an appetizer or we’ve had people that had it for dessert, basically because they want to get one right.
[00:30:48.170] – Chantelle Kern
Because, you know, how many times you come to Italy during truffle season and you get to have, you know, the dishes that are here that are seasonal. So you might as well enjoy it while you can.
[00:30:58.740] – Giovanni D’Agostino
And then we have gelato with truffles. We get to finish everything off gelato with truffle.
[00:31:04.910] – Katy
Wow. That’s a little bit outrageous in a good way.
[00:31:10.230] – Chantelle Kern
Well, you know, you’ve got to do it once, right?
[00:31:13.170] – Giovanni D’Agostino
They mix it in. It’s not normally put on top like you would imagine.
[00:31:16.930] – Chantelle Kern
No, it’s done very well and it’s not done in a way that’s overwhelming. It’s amazing, actually, when you think like the different uses for truffle and also like for me and also for people who don’t know. But I’m celiac, so I have to be gluten free. And risotto with truffle is something that you’ll find often. And it’s just so simple. It’s kind of the idea of like the egg pasta. It’s simple, but you just add truffle and that’s what decadent.
[00:31:47.900] – Giovanni D’Agostino
That’s what I cook at home. That’s what we make once a year with my little truffle. And that’s what we make for a couple of days. Yeah, just risotto with truffle. So
[00:31:56.860] – Chantelle Kern
we love it. Yeah.
[00:31:58.430] – Katy
Yeah, I love it too. But it’s something that you’re going to remember for the rest of your life, isn’t it? When you make the pasta and you shave the truffle over that you that you went on the hunt to find yourself. I can’t imagine a more interesting and sort of emotional experience, actually, especially if you’re really into food to have that experience.
[00:32:22.860] – Chantelle Kern
Absolutely. And if you’re a dog lover, even more because like, I’m a dog lover and it’s just a lot of fun to do this experience and it’s also tied in to food. And so you have this full memory you cultivated, well, not cultivated, but you found the truffle. You’ve gone out there, you’ve done something with the locals, and then you’ve got to try the local dishes. So it’s like this, you know, you get to come home with these amazing memories from the food to the people to the dogs to the place. It’s something you’ll never forget.
[00:32:57.260] – Katy
No, I don’t think you ever would. I think it’s extremely, very, very special. And so you can find the truffles throughout the year, not just in November and fall, right?
[00:33:08.060] – Chantelle Kern
That is true. Here we have the summer truffle as well and summer truffle. I was actually first hesitant to try summer travel because I heard people say, oh, it tastes like nothing. Well, it tastes like nothing if it’s traveled too far. But if you just picked that truffle out of the ground and, you know, 30 minutes later, you’re shaving it over the top of handmade egg pasta. It tastes absolutely delicious. And, you know, it’s it’s not something to be frowned upon like I originally thought, because so many people had said that they weren’t fragrant. But when they’re fresh, that’s the only way to have summer truffle.
[00:33:53.910] – Giovanni D’Agostino
Yeah. And summer goes from May to mid-September, end of September, and then there is a little break and then a few weeks later, the black and the white truffles. The black truffle, that’s in the winter, it’s got a different name, but that one comes out and that peaks around mid-November to mid-January. And then it just it’s nothing until April, May again.
[00:34:23.090] – Giovanni D’Agostino
So there’s about, I would say, four months of the year. There’s absolutely nothing coming out of the ground. And maybe two months you have white and four to five months you have the summer. So some of that overlap, but they’re not obviously long seasons. And that contributes to the whole thing and the experience and also the price of truffles, because it’s not something that just grows continuously.
[00:34:47.960] Yeah, so like the summer truffle is definitely a more cost effective way to try truffle. But I would always recommend if you’re going to try summer truffle, it needs to be picked that day to actually have a good experience. But because it’s available throughout the year and it can grow in hot weather, it’s less less prestigious per se because it’s not as difficult to find.
[00:35:19.700] – Giovanni D’Agostino
The quantities are also higher. That that really is a big thing. When people are curious on why it’s more or less expensive, it’s just like anything else. There’s a lot of it coming out of the ground. And I mean, a lot in terms of truffle is still nothing because it’s still very difficult to find them. But with with black in some cases, like the summer, the summer is ten times higher than it is for winter black. That’s just to give you an idea.
[00:35:47.030] – Giovanni D’Agostino
And the winter black, which we also try and we have protected region here near Ascoli by the government where they they find it. That one is also special. And it’s it’s basically a lot more potent. And that you can only have from again in November to the end of January. But it’s not the same as summer truffle, of course, but it’s just darker. Like when you open it, it looks dark inside as well. It’s not whitish, so it’s just more fragrant.
[00:36:16.520] – Chantelle Kern
Yeah. And then it’s basically the things that make truffle expensive, how hard it is to find the level of the aroma and then the size which comes into play.
[00:36:27.890] – Katy
Yeah. And so I know every time we talk about food in Italy, we also need to talk about wine. So what are the wines from your region Ascoli, that go really well with truffles.
[00:36:42.400] – Giovanni D’Agostino
Well, I mean, obviously, it depends the kind of truffle. I would say we’re talking let’s say summer truffle, then all the DOC wines. So we have Rosso Piceno, which is a Montepulciano based wine. There’s even pecorino, which is a white. You can have anything. With a white it becomes more about also obviously personal taste because you already have an evolved palate in a sense to mix the two. The white is so overwhelming some people choose not to drink wine with it, believe it or not.
[00:37:19.870] – Giovanni D’Agostino
So they just said to me, yeah, I’ve seen it where they do a wine pairing, of course. But some people, it’s just so much for them. But it would be more structured, more structured wine. So still in the same area, which is also Rosso Piceno. But maybe you want to get like something that’s five or 10 year old – a vintage because you’re going to get a lot of those incredible things like we were talking before in your palate when you have the truffle and you want you want something to match.
[00:37:48.070] – Giovanni D’Agostino
So definitely a red and a mid red, even a Montepulciano D’Abruzzo, which we produce here at the border of where we are basically between Marche and Abruzzo. But even in Le Marche and in general, I would say an older wine, a more structured wine would be would be best or nothing. Beer, and I don’t know, people ask me about beer, too. You can have like these nice strong red artisan beers and whatnot. I would do I would do wine overall, though.
[00:38:25.720] – Chantelle Kern
I think wine’s more Italian now, though we do have a lot of artisan beer makers popping up recently.
[00:38:32.830] – Katy
OK, so now walk me through exactly what’s going to happen if we come on one of your truffle tours.
[00:38:39.100] – Chantelle Kern
Well, our truffle tour is basically not just truffle hunting. So it’s also about the whole overall experience of coming during the truffle season. And so the food on tour and the towns that we visit are based on the fact that they’re in the truffle country and we also go to Abruzzo. So on our truffle tour, we’ve also mixed in some history as well because our region has that. So there’ll be some lovely walking tours to really get to know some of the most beautiful medieval villages that we have. One of them that specializes in truffles is Campoli in Abruzzo, and it also is known for its porchetta.
[00:39:28.240] – Chantelle Kern
But more specifically, on the day where we actually go for truffle hunting, we go in the morning normally because that’s the coolest time. And for the dogs, it’s a lot of work. So we take a beautiful drive from Ascoli to the nero pregiato region – the protected area for our black truffle here. And we go to an agriturismo. And there you will meet the dogs and you will meet the truffle hunter, Paulo, and he’ll take you to his Tartufaia where you will go with the dogs and the dogs will search for the truffle.
[00:40:06.070] – Chantelle Kern
Now, the experience is really cool because, you know, like when the dogs find the truffle, it’s real. It’s real. Like the truffle. The earth is so impacted they have there’s no way they could have been planted. So that’s something for us. We always try the experiences because we want something authentic. And we, before going into truffles, had heard so much about, oh, there’s all these fake experiences. People plant them to guarantee the truffles.
[00:40:35.890] – Chantelle Kern
So Paulo has a tartufaia, which means it helps the truffles grow. And so he goes in there and the dogs go after it and they dig and they get all excited and he encourages them. And then you get to help dig the truffle out of the ground,
[00:40:53.380] – Giovanni D’Agostino
literally, and you dig them out. You dig them out. Something I wanted to say is that he knows we’re coming. So he doesn’t go out for truffles for a few days. So I’m really proud to say it’s the real thing. I’ve done many experiences and we want it to be as authentic as it can. Obviously, truffle, like we said before, you can’t just plant it and grow it. So you’re not always guaranteed to find a lot or a certain size. But generally it’s very, very authentic experience. And that’s what we want. And that’s what we only do it during the months where we know the truffle is going to be there. And he has a very large area of a few hectares that we walk on.
[00:41:34.480] – Giovanni D’Agostino
So obviously, if you have a larger area, the chances of you finding more are higher. So, yeah, it’s it’s a beautiful experience and you literally dig it out of the ground and he gives you tools. Yeah. And he shows you what to do and then you kind of clean it and, you know, a couple hours later you’re eating it.
[00:41:51.320] – Chantelle Kern
So yeah, a couple hours later his Zia’s making the pasta and then you get to enjoy it under the pergola and you have a beautiful view of Le Marche’s rolling hills. And it’s really just, it’s like that beautiful experience. You have the food, the people, the dogs, and you actually get to take part in it. You’re not just watching. You can actually dig the truffle out. I mean, of course, if you want to watch, it’s your vacation. You can do whatever you want.
[00:42:20.350] – Giovanni D’Agostino
And people that want to partake, they can.
[00:42:23.270] – Chantelle Kern
Yeah, which is really nice.
[00:42:24.430] – Giovanni D’Agostino
You can if you want to be there with the dogs, you can. So that’s that’s what we wanted to be something real and special. And we hope, you know, anybody that comes will feel the same way.
[00:42:40.200] – Katy
Oh, sounds good. I reckon they might be a lot of truffles this year. What are you going to do?
[00:42:45.080] – Chantelle Kern
Eat them! Eat them!
[00:42:50.000] – Giovanni D’Agostino
The truffles can travel, even though people can’t right now. So a lot of truffles will go abroad to the restaurants and people that want to buy it, they’ll still travel.
[00:43:02.340] – Chantelle Kern
Yes. People can travel through their senses by having truffle, you know, flown abroad. And hopefully that helps people keep dreaming of Italy. I also should mention that the experience, if you have a family, it’s a really great experience for families and the kids really love it.
[00:43:21.410] – Chantelle Kern
It’s a lot of fun. I know people, like always worry about, well, what am I, are my kid going to like it? Are they going to enjoy it? I think children will love it. Children love dogs. And it’s a really fun experience for kids.
[00:43:36.230] – Katy
Yeah, my kids would definitely love it. They would be so excited
[00:43:45.770] – Chantelle Kern
We were hoping to see you this year, but we’ll be waiting for you right now.
[00:43:49.730] – Giovanni D’Agostino
We’ll bring you if you’re here.
[00:43:52.070] – Katy
Oh, we can’t wait. And I’m already thinking about what outfit I’m going to wear. You know, the hat, the right boots I think
[00:43:59.600] – Chantelle Kern
I know you have to have the right shoes. You definitely have to have boots. We always warn people, make sure you have some sturdy shoes so you can you know, it’s a little bit hilly here in the area where the truffles are. So you got to have…
[00:44:12.290] – Giovanni D’Agostino
It’s not that intense if you have a pair of a pair of I did it in sneakers, but Chantelle had beautiful ballerinas so that was a little more difficult.
[00:44:23.480] – Chantelle Kern
I had Supergas and let’s just say the grip on your Supergas, they’re not very good.
[00:44:33.190] – Katy
And they’re no longer white?
[00:44:34.250] – Chantelle Kern
No, they’re not white.
[00:44:37.610] – Katy
And I guess you’d have to bring your stretchy pants, too, because you’re eating a bit of pasta
[00:44:42.980] – Chantelle Kern
I always go with dresses, dresses, you can eat whatever you want in flowing dress.
[00:44:48.020] – Giovanni D’Agostino
It’s not overwhelming, though. It’s not like a six course. Like it’s not an overwhelming or sitting for four hours. Just want to see that because people think it’s all the meals are like that.
[00:44:58.880] – Chantelle Kern
But we we always try to find balance.
[00:45:01.160] – Giovanni D’Agostino
We find a good mix. Yeah. We realize it’s yeah. It’s great you’re in Italy but you also want to be able to get up from the table.
[00:45:12.830] – Katy
So I’d just like to see another table at this point. But anyway Oh wow. Well that doesn’t make everyone want to go hunting and eating truffles, i don’t know what will. And Chantelle and Giovanni, can you please remind our listeners how they can stay in touch with you and learn more about your tours?
[00:45:34.730] – Chantelle Kern
Absolutely. They can go to our website, which is www.TheItalianontour.Com. And if they’re looking for a Little Italy inspiration while they can’t travel, they can also follow us on Instagram. Our at is the Italian on tour. So I post all kinds of fun stuff there. And you know, everything from trips to the Dolomites, all over Le Marche, Abruzzo. And this weekend we’re also heading to Abruzzo to the olive oil region. So that kind of stuff is where you can find real time Italy inspiration.
[00:46:18.920] – Katy
It’s so much fun. And I always love talking to you. Grazie Chantelle and Giovanni. It’s been fantastic learning about truffles and the culture and traditions and history behind this delicious ingredient. I’d love to be there next year to experience the truffle season myself. So fingers crossed we can make that happen.
[00:46:37.830] – Chantelle Kern
[00:46:38.240] – Giovanni D’Agostino
Thank you for having us.
[00:46:39.940] – Chantelle Kern
Thank you so much.
[00:46:41.990] – Katy
Oh, goodness, recording these episodes always makes me so hungry and as someone who is very committed to food experiences, going truffle hunting is really one of those things that I feel like I need to do as soon as possible. A big, big thanks to Chantelle and Giovanni for telling us all about truffles in Italy and in particular the Le Marche region. If you would like to learn more about their tours, do head on over to the Italianontour.Com.
[00:47:09.830] – Katy
We’ve also provided all their details on the episode, show notes at untolditaly.Com/37. There’s a link in your podcast app too that will take you straight there. Now, if anyone is interested in joining a truffle tour or any of the amazing Italian on tour experiences with Chantelle and Giovanni in 2021, they have a special offer for you, our listeners. Anyone booking before September 23 gets a discount on their 2021 tours that you can book with confidence thanks to very generous cancellation terms.
[00:47:42.320] – Katy
Once again, you’ll find all the details about the offer on our show Notes and untolditaly.com/37. So that’s all for Untold Italy this week, Grazie. And thank you for joining us. If you’re enjoying the show, make sure to subscribe to Untold Italy on iTunes or your favorite podcast player so you don’t miss an episode. Ciao, for now.